Cardiff car-free day is just the recipe for Cook

People throng the Champs Elysees to enjoy the pollution-free peace and quiet of Paris during the French capital's recent car-free day
Cardiff County Councillor and CTC member Richard Cook is calling for the Welsh capital to follow in Paris’s footsteps by hosting a car-free day.

With pollution increasing in Cardiff and car-free days already proving a success in much larger cities around the world, Councillor Cook is hoping for a ‘yes’ vote when he puts his motion before the next full council meeting on Thursday, 22 October.

Happy cyclists and pedestrians thronged the eight lanes of the Champs Elysees on Sunday, 27 September as cars were banned from the centre of Paris for the first time.

Similar schemes have proved popular in Bogota and Jakarta – and now Mr Cook, Cardiff County Councillor for Canton Ward, wants his city to follow suit.

He said: “The idea is to have no vehicles from the River Taff in the west to past the castle up Kingsway to the Civic Centre. Having one day a year when traffic is banned from the city centre will encourage residents to come into the city centre to shop, eat, and enjoy the castle and parks – all in a pollution-free environment.

Having one day a year when traffic is banned from the city centre will encourage residents to come into the city centre to shop, eat, and enjoy the castle and parks – all in a pollution-free environment."

Richard Cook, Cardiff County Councillor and CTC member

“Hopefully this will encourage people to demand more car-free days and maybe eventually lead to fewer vehicles in the city centre, leading to a reduction in pollution and making it easier to re-designate road space from vehicles to walking/cycling.

“Paris has recently had a successful car-free day, so why not Cardiff?”

Cllr Cook’s motion states: “Cardiff Council has an ambition to move to a 50:50 modal split between cars and public transport, walking or cycling. The Corporate Plan states our vision for Cardiff is to become ‘Europe’s most liveable capital city’.

“Many cities in the UK and around the world have traffic-free days where the city centre streets are closed to vehicles allowing local residents to enjoy the city centre in a pollution-free, peaceful and family friendly way. This Council therefore agrees that Cardiff will hold a traffic-free day in 2016 with the major city centre streets closed to traffic and that a traffic-free day is then held every subsequent year.”

Speaking to WalesOnline Cllr Cook said: “Traffic-free days encourage people to cycle and walk. Seeing the streets as not so dangerous for cycling will help us move towards the 50:50 modal split we desire.

“I think there will be some grumbles from people but you can’t deny it’s more pleasant to walk in a city with no vehicles than one with vehicles. This is something for citizens to claim back the streets of Cardiff.

“Pollution is increasing in Cardiff. Nitrogen Dioxide, which is released into the atmosphere through vehicle emissions, is the worst pollutant in the city.”

Four Air Quality Management Areas – Ely Bridge, Stephenson Court, Cardiff City Centre and Llandaff – have been declared by Cardiff County Council in respect of NO2 resulting from road-traffic emissions.  AQMAs are areas declared by UK local authorities where air quality objectives are not likely to be achieved, with plans put in place to improve that.

CTC Cymru councillor Gwenda Owen is a big supporter of a car-free day. She said: “Cities become what they should be – for people rather than cars. That’s why we set up Cardiff Cycle City. We want it to be the best cycling city in the UK.

“It could make Cardiff an even more attractive city to come to. People visit Amsterdam and Copenhagen to travel by bike. It’s allowing people to see the alternatives.”

Paris, which hosts the United Nations climate change conference from 30 November to 11 December, was briefly the most polluted city in the world in March this year.

The smog was so bad it almost obscured the Eiffel Tower – and, ironically, it even affected Cardiff and other parts of Wales after blowing across the Channel, with high atmospheric pressure leading to “very high” air pollution levels being monitored in the capital as well as Newport and Chepstow.

It was a different story on Sunday, 27 September when Paris held its first car-free day, promoted by Mayor Anne Hidalgo at the suggestion of the collective Paris Sans Voiture – Paris Without Cars.

It applied to 30% of the French capital and Airparif, which measures pollution levels, said levels of Nitrogen Dioxide dropped by up to 40% in parts of the city. The mayor’s office now plans more car-free events.

Bogota held its FIFTEENTH annual car-free day in February this year  – and Colombia’s capital city has a population of more than 7 million, compared with Cardiff’s 350,000.

The Indonesian capital Jakarta, with a population of 10 million, has also held successful car-free events, with the city centre’s main roads closed off to vehicles on Sunday mornings.

Gareth Clubb, Director of Friends of the Earth Cymru, told WalesOnline: “It’s a question of will rather than scale. If Bogota can manage it, there’s no reason Cardiff can’t.”