The Colombo Municipal Council is partnering with The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Sri Lanka to pilot Colombo’s first ever car-free day.
‘CarFreeCMB’ will take place on Sunday, 14 July from 6 am to 12 noon. Join in on foot, bicycle, skateboard - anything goes, as long as it's not motored, say the organizers who encourage the public to explore, exercise and play on their streets. The initiative aims to reduce the public’s dependence on motor vehicles while promoting a healthier and more sustainable urban lifestyle.
The city will open the following streets exclusively to pedestrians and cyclists to facilitate this experience; Green Path up to the Public Library roundabout, part of Dr C.W.W Kannangara Mawatha and Independence Avenue. Clear signage will direct Sunday morning motorists to alternative routes including Dharmapala Mawatha, Horton Place, CWW Kannangara Mawatha, Stanley Wijesundera Mawatha and Bauddhaloka Mawatha. However, arrangements have been made for bus routes to function as usual, say the organizers.
CarFreeCMB is a free event, open to all, where participants can support local businesses by visiting stalls including those by the Good Market, listen to live music and browse for art on Green Path. UNICEF will facilitate a session for university art students to conduct an art session for children where they will be provided with supplies to create their paintings. Exercise, yoga and other fitness sessions will also take place alongside other activities at the event. The open streets will be a plastic-free zone and offer healthy food and organic produce in keeping with the event’s sustainability theme.
With this event, the Municipal Council is taking the first step towards reducing the congestion on its streets and improving the lifestyles of its people. "On Sunday morning we’ll be rerouting traffic away from selected roads, so we can open them up for the people of this city. I encourage everyone to come and enjoy their Sunday morning- there will be activities for adults and kids as well as healthy food and drink stalls," says Rosy Senanayake, Mayor of Colombo.
The idea of CarFreeCMB is to promote a healthy lifestyle, says Joanne Doornewaard, Ambassador of the Netherlands to Sri Lanka. "Us Dutch are very well known for embracing cycling as the preferred method of transport in our cities, and we are seeing the results in our national figures for health and contentment- and in reduced rates for road accidents as well. The event on Sunday is a great way to bring families together to walk or cycle down these open streets without having to worry about traffic or oncoming vehicles. They can enjoy clean air, and we’ll have many fun activities and no plastic on this day. I’m really looking forward to enjoying the beauty of these areas in Colombo, car free."
People in Amsterdam currently cycle more often than they drive their cars, according to a report by the Dutch Cycling Embassy. This is the result of several measures introduced by government to encourage cycling, including car-free areas, reducing vehicle access to city centers, constructing wide cycling paths, and by facilitating cycling through city planning and road design. Aside from its economic, environmental and health benefits, the use of cycling for transport has resulted in increasing happiness and quality of life, creating safer and more pleasant cities and enabling social equity.
Car-Free Day (CFD) is a global movement held in many countries and across many cities with the primary objective of increasing public awareness on the importance of reducing the use of fossil fuels through the adoption of alternative means of transportation.
Amidst an announcement by the Copernicus Climate Change Service (the European Union’s satellite agency) that last month was the hottest June ever recorded on Earth, the onus falls on everyone to do their part in making the planet continue to be livable. 200 other cities around the world including some of the busiest such as Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur practice car-free Sundays every month. In Sri Lanka, the success of this pilot event could mean residents and tourists can look forward to more open streets in the future to enjoy with their families and friends.