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CCA Guide to Getting Active

"Be the change you want to see"

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Dear reader, dear change agent,

In this guide, we offer a whole range of ideas for you to get active, where you are, with the skills that you have, and with however much time you want to spend.

We also provide a number of suggestions and links to further resources.

Please enjoy this guide – and put it to practical use! We welcome all feedback. You can write to us at downtown@carfreealliance.org.

Section 1

Get informed

There is a lot of mind-changing and world-changing information at your fingertips.

Are you eager to see change and real progress where you live? Are you frustrated that more of the world around you doesn’t embrace the ideals of an attractive carfree city, or at least one that prioritizes walking and cycling, lots of parks and public spaces rather than car parking and lots dangerous roads?

Inform yourself with good ideas and information. There is a wide range of literature that supports carfree and liveable cities. We have already compiled much of it in our We Recommend web page. There you can find links to books, articles, publications, films, and podcasts.

If you are an avid reader, here is an excellent place to start:

  • Carfree Cities by Joel Crawford

  • Mobility: A New Urban Design and Transport Planning Philosophy for a Sustainable Future by John Whitelegg

  • Curbing Traffic by Melissa Bruntlett and Chris Bruntlett

  • Unlocking Sustainable Cities: A Manifesto for Real Change by Paul Chatterton

 

Extra resources → https://www.carfreealliance.org/we-recommend

Section 2   

Question the status quo

Do we really need six lanes of motorized traffic running through our downtown?

Once it dawns on you that there is a better way, nothing will look the same anymore. With a heightened sense of the craziness of existing cities, you start to notice and question the status quo in ways you didn’t earlier.

You start asking fundamental questions like: Do we really need all these cars in our neighborhood? Can’t the space in front of the nearby school be turned into a place for children to run around in, instead of car parking? What if we converted the road next to the river into a scenic pedestrian and cycle street, as a new popular gathering spot for our city?

If we are serious about changing the status quo, then training our imaginative powers will be of immense value. Start by imagining a very different look and feel, in terms of our public places, streets, neighborhoods, and the city overall. Imagine different areas filled with nature such as urban forests, ponds, or open fields. Imagine attractive places to walk and cycle. That visioning is vital to do the work suggested in this guide.

Extra resource → https://www.carfreealliance.org/toolkit Download Go! Sheet #1 Big Time Impact

Extra resource → https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNv8kkC_r3w&t=02s TEDx talk Imagining a Car-free City

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Speak up!

People who are excited about an idea won’t shut up about it.

If you’ve ever been passionate about an idea, you’ve probably brought it up in numerous conversations.

So speak up! Everyone has the opportunity to make their voice heard. If you are already animated by a sense of enthusiasm for carfree streets, bicycle-friendly cities, and better public transport, parks, and public spaces, why not write a letter to your local newspaper? Or call up city hall and tell them your concerns, ask them if they are paying attention to this area, and find out if you can start a meaningful dialogue.

Post your thoughts on social media. Rave about how amazing your city could be with far fewer cars or even none at all. Find opportunities to speak at different events, even if it means just asking a pointed question at a workshop, seminar, or webinar.

Write to the local newspaper demanding better conditions for walking, cycling, and public transit and controls rather than subsidies for cars. (Free parking, for example, is a massive subsidy.)

Check out our full guide to speaking up and getting your voice heard. It’s called Debra’s Guide to Speaking Out and was created by Debra Efroymson, who has many years of experience working on these topics in Bangladesh, Vietnam, and elsewhere.

Extra resource → Debra’s Guide to Speaking Out

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Section 4 

Join a local group

If you’re a lone warrior, more power to you. But there’s nothing quite like having comrades around to share the adventure (and the blood, sweat, and tears) of fighting together for a better world.

Everyone has skills to share. If you would like to volunteer some of your time to an organization in your area, there will almost certainly be opportunities for you to contribute your skills. Have a good look around – if you’re volunteering online, you can also reach out to organizations elsewhere in your country or around the world.

If you can’t find an organization or local association that shares your interests, start your own group! The first step is talking to a few friends whom you think might be interested, and advertising a first meeting.

If you are looking for existing organizations in your area, check the Allies listing on the CCA website, as well as the Regional Pages.

Extra resource → https://www.carfreealliance.org/our-allies

Extra resource → https://www.carfreealliance.org/regional-pages

If you would like any help connecting you to the right person or organization, feel free to reach out to CCA: send us an email at downtown@carfreealliance.org.

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Section 5 

Organize activities

For the curious, the creative, or just the ordinary person who wants to make a difference, there is always an initiative to be taken!

Whether on your own or with a local group, there are many types of meaningful activities that you can organize. Some you might be able to pull off on short notice, while others may need to be planned in advance. We have prepared several action ideas in our toolkit, which is freely available. Here are a few highlights:

  • Street festivals: local groups often run their own festivals and hold events, especially on World Carfree Day (Sept.22) and other thematic days.

  • Art, theater, films: artistic expression is a meaningful way to communicate ideas and reach out to others, to inspire people, and create waves.

  • Maquette: create a mockup of a neighborhood or community project.

  • Webinars and online events: host or take part in online gatherings where you can discuss important subjects.

  • Mobility justice/carfree campaigns: create your own campaign for a carfree street, a new playground, or the reduction of traffic in your neighborhood.

  • Join in relevant demonstrations. If you can’t find any, gather some friends, colleagues, and family members, and organize your own. Make creative signs, inform the media about it, and later provide images and newspaper coverage to city officials.

 

Extra resource → https://www.carfreealliance.org/toolkit Download Go! Sheet #3 Action Ideas

 

Section 6

Volunteer with CCA

Winning back our cities one street at a time

If you are interested in volunteering your time with CCA, we’d be happy to hear from you. We trust you’ve already gone through our website and familiarized yourself with its content. There are many different skill sets that would come in handy. You may be a photographer, graphic designer, writer, community organizer, IT specialist, urban planner, film maker, school teacher, researcher, student, podcaster, or just someone with time and/or ideas to share. Please do get in touch. We’ll be happy to explore ways for you to be a part of our alliance.

Here are some ideas where you could contribute:

  • Create original, colorful content for the CCA website, social media, or special CCA products under development, be they films, posters, etc.;

  • Support outreach in your community/city, creating momentum for local action;

  • Collaborate with us on a webinar, podcast, or other event, like World Carfree Day;

  • Help us with research and creating best arguments and examples for carfree cities;

  • Collaborate with us to design and fundraise an awesome project;

  • Work with us on running a youth outreach program, like Camp Cool;

  • Bring new, fresh ideas to our international team!

 

For students and those entering the work force, if you require an internship format, we’re happy to help design a program that suits you.

 

Interested? Send us an email to downtown@carfreealliance.org, and put I want to volunteer in the subject line.

Section 7

Become an active member of our community

We want a future in which community life is resilient and joyful, and where humans interact with solidarity and lead a dignified existence.

There are a number of ways you can directly get involved with CCA or show your support and get listed as an ally on our website.

  • For individuals and organizations, you can become a member of our network. It’s quick and free, it only involves filling out a form on our website.

  • Partner organizations get listed on the CCA website as an ally. These get listed here: https://www.carfreealliance.org/our-allies.

  • Get your organization featured on one of our regional pages. If your country is not yet included, we’re happy to work with you to add you and integrate your work. See https://www.carfreealliance.org/regional-pages

  • Subscribe to the Carfree Cities News list. This way you’ll receive all of our important announcements as well as our bi-monthly newsletter. Send a blank email to carfree-cities-news-subscribe@lists.riseup.net, and check your spam folder if you don’t see the confirmation email.

  • Individuals can now be listed as experts on the CCA website. This is a new feature of CCA starting in 2024. Experts from within the CCA community stand out as changemakers and leaders in the carfree movement. We think of experts as mentors, who are open to share their knowledge and experience. Let us know if you would like to be considered for this.

  • Join a working group. This is also new in 2024. We are forming thematic working groups and encourage our network to be active in the CCA community, by engaging in dialogue and finding new forms of cooperation.

  • Come to our webinars and network meetings. We hold these regularly, and are always happy for recurring participants and new faces. These are instances of learning, inspiration, and community building. Announcements are made on our news list.

  • Share materials. We encourage the sharing of content and media. We are happy to highlight relevant posts, articles, and content from our allies’ websites and social media, and we’re also ready to provide content that can be re-shared. We can also collaborate to create new materials, such as interviews and feature stories.

Section 8

Convert a friend or colleague

Ask me about carfree cities.

Here’s one thing that everyone can do: take more opportunities to engage with family, friends, or strangers on important topics. Tell them why you support carfree cities, explain that there is nothing to be afraid of, and that virtually everyone will benefit. You might consider wearing an attention-grabbing t-shirt or wear a pin that says Ask me how to ditch your car or something similar. Keep in mind: kindness and listening will go a lot further to convert someone than shouting at them. It also helps to remember that it’s sometimes best not to start at home – strangers can be easier to convert.

Extra resource →https://www.carfreealliance.org/toolkit Download Action! Sheet #2 Talking Points

Section 9

Make a donation

It’s always a good time to help those who are fighting the good fight.

For those with a little money to spare, supporting a good cause is a great way to be a good citizen. And for busy professionals with little spare time, it may be the best way to help good causes to succeed. Look around in your city and community and take stock of the organizations that are putting in impactful work. If you have the chance, engage with them in conversation, find out more about what they do, and if it feels right, go ahead and make a contribution. You could also consider being a regular giver.

While the Carfree Cities Alliance is by no means the only cause worthy of financial support, we would love your support to bring the carfree cities vision to a wider audience. If interested, please send an email to downtown@carfreealliance.org with the subject: Donation request.

Conclusion - what do you really want to do?

Before you run off, take a moment to consider your own motivation and interest. Close your eyes for a second, or better yet, go to your favorite park, make yourself comfortable, and mute all digital distractions. Now think about what you really want to do. What is a way for you to engage with the world and with others that will bring you the most satisfaction?

Do you have big ambitions or would you be satisfied with taking small steps? Do you want to organize something locally, in your home town or in your street? Or are you more keen on supporting efforts on the international level? Do you enjoy writing? Drawing? Graphic design? Do you see yourself as a philanthropist? A teacher? A tutor? Do you want to change your job to become more aligned with your values? And spend more time doing what you believe in, for the planet and your community? Do you want to donate some of your time and/or money? Do you want to organize bicycle rides or discussion groups?

After you’ve spent some time thinking or daydreaming, go ahead and put your ideas down on paper. That will be valuable later on, as your ideas and wishes evolve, and you’ll be able to see where you started this particular journey. Next, you may want to talk with some friends or colleagues about your ideas. Especially if you plan on being active locally, you’ll need people who share your interests and may be able to work with you.

Here is a fun idea: if you have the chance, say one day a week, instead of taking the train, bus, taxi, Uber, bicycle, or bicycle-rickshaw after work, just walk all the way home! Walking is when some of our best ideas come to us, often out of nowhere.

You are always welcome to reach out to us, if you want to share your enthusiasm, have a question, or just want someone to bounce your ideas off of. As always, we can be reached at downtown@carfreealliance.org.

Thanks for reading this guide. We wish you a successful and fulfilling future as a carfree activist!

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