The Colombo Municipal Council is partnering with the Embassy of the Netherlands in Sri Lanka to pilot Colombo’s first car-free day – ‘CarFreeCMB’ on Sunday, July 14 from 6 am to 12noon.
“Although car-free city concept is quite common in many countries, this is the first time that this concept is going to be tested in Sri Lanka. We selected a few areas in the heart of Colombo to have the pilot run of the event. We hope to continue the activity every month and to expand the project on a weekly basis according to the feedback of the public. However, it is not an easy task to convert the city into CarFreeCMB overnight but it’s worthwhile to give it a try,” Colombo Mayor Rosy Senanayake told the media at the Colombo Municipal Council on Friday.
The organizers called on the people to join in on foot, bicycles, skateboards – anything goes as long as it’s not motored to explore, exercise and play on the 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 the initiative; Green Path up to the Public Library roundabout, part of Dr. C.W.W. Kannangara Mawatha and Independence Avenue. Signage will direct Sunday morning motorists to alternative routes, including Dharmapala Mawatha, Horton Place, C.W.W. Kannangara Mawatha, Stanley Wijesundera Mawatha, and Bauddhaloka Mawatha. However, arrangements have been made for bus routes to function, as usual, the organizers said.
Netherlands Ambassador to Sri Lanka Joanne Doornewaard said the idea of CarFreeCMB is to promote a healthy lifestyle.
“Colombo is one of the beautiful cities that I have lived in. Although it is the busiest city in the country, its greenery has never faded away. I enjoy riding my bicycle to work in Colombo streets. However, it is sometimes risky as this culture is not familiar to the riders in Colombo streets. CarFreeCMB is a progressive initiative by the CMC,” she said. 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 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 congestion on its streets and improving the lifestyles of its people.
“On Sunday morning, we will reroute traffic away from selected roads, so we open them up for the people of the city. I call upon everyone to come and enjoy Sunday morning in the CarFreeCMB area. There will be activities for adults and children as well as healthy food and drinks stalls,” Mayor Senanayake said. “The Dutch are 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.
The event on Sunday will be a great way to bring families together to walk or cycle down the open streets without having to worry about traffic or oncoming vehicles. I’m looking forward to enjoying the beauty of these areas in Colombo,” Ambassador Doornewaard said.
People in Amsterdam 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 the 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. Apart 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) has become a global movement with events held in many countries and across many cities to raise public awareness on the importance of reducing the use of fossil fuel through the adoption of alternative means of transportation. Although traveling from one place to another was supposed to be easy and quick with the invention of automobiles, it has created tremendous air pollution and led people astray from their roots. To become car-free at least for once a month can make a difference in our day-to-day lifestyle. Around the world, the busiest streets are on the way to be completely transformed to pedestrian-only parks, which restrict the accessibility of cars and provide more space for the people to move around freely and enjoy the public spaces more effectively.
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 liveable.
About 200 other cities around the world, including some of the busiest, such as Jakarta, 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.