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A Year in Review - The Best of 2023

Justin Hyatt, Debra Efroymson, Pooja Tanna,

26 jan. 2024

The Best of the Year 2023 - Carfree Cities Alliance

Dear reader,

In this article you can take a look back at 2023 and take stock of what happened throughout the CCA network. Our many members and allies have been active in working towards healthier and saner cities. They - and all of us - are committed to creating environments and neighborhoods that are less cluttered by cars and transportation, and given back to people, to social life, to plants and animals, and to a new generation of youngsters, who want and need abundant and safe places to explore and grow.

We thank all of our allies for submitting great materials!

India - Auroville

Auroville Cycle Ride - fortnightly on wheels!

During the last seven months of 2023, a rhythmic pulse of cycling joy has coursed through every second Saturday in Auroville, Tamil Nadu. Each ride unfolds like a tapestry, adorned with 20 to 30 passionate cyclists, with the crescendo of riders reaching a jubilant 60 in August.

The grand unveiling of the inaugural Cyclothon in Auroville is approaching on the 10th of March 2024. An orchestrated celebration of pedal-powered harmony, it aims to ignite the flame of cycling zeal among all as we set forth on a journey of communal cycling bliss. 

Under the “Green Ride Cycles” initiative, Krishnaraju, a part of CCA's Indian network, has been organising cycling events in Auroville every month.

Botswana - gaborone

Recognition, progress, and steady strides, Updates from the Cycling Embassy Botswana

Our partners in Botswana have had a successful year. Here we share some glimpses captured through photos. Among other highlights, they gained informal support for the 2024 World Bicycle Day event during a meeting with the UN Resident Coordinator. 

The Cycling Embassy Botswana was invited to attend a workshop at Baisago University on climate change, and a presentation was made on the “Bicycle Friendly Initiative” that mentions the “Cycle-to-work” initiative.

The Cycling Embassy Botswana also celebrated the Fancy Women Bike Ride on September 22, 2023. Their hopes are to continue to grow the cycling culture and get an even larger following in 2024.

India - pune

During the UN Global Road Safety Week, themed ‘Rethink Mobility’ and ‘Streets for All’, CCA ally Parisar actively participated. The week, organised under the hashtags  #RethinkMobility and #StreetsForAll, saw Parisar engaging in the #RethinkMobility Twitterstorm organised by the Global Alliance of Road Safety for NGOs.

As a vital member of the Road Safety Network, Parisar in collaboration with Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group (CAG) and Consumer VOICE, orchestrated an Instagram Live session on May 16. The session, tailored to spotlight cycling as a sustainable mobility transport, featured insightful discussions with Firoza, Mumbai’s first bicycle mayor, and Sarika Panda Bhatt, the co-founder of Raahgiri Foundation, bicycle mayor of Gurugram. The conversation was skillfully moderated by Sumana Narayanan, Senior Researcher at CAG. Participants delved into factors influencing willingness to cycle, individual choices, barriers, infrastructural needs, and strategies to bridge these gaps. (Link to recording)

Key points derived from the entire segment include:

  • The focus is not on inadequate budget allocation for urban cyclists but rather on the imperative need for robust political will and public support to propel progress.

  • A thoroughly planned road design serves as a solution to numerous challenges faced by daily cycling commuters.

  • Introducing cycling stands is an effective strategy to encourage individuals concerned about last-mile connectivity in long-distance public transport journeys.

World Bicycle Day event - #RecycleACycle

On June 3rd, 2023, Parisar organised a cycle distribution event to promote cycling as a transportation mode and empower young girls from Patil Estate informal settlement. With the support of donors, 18 refurbished bicycles, helmets, locks, and chains were provided to girls aged 12-18 years from the vasti (slum). The donation was intended to grant these girls the experience of independence and empowerment associated with bicycle ownership. By repurposing cycles and transforming them into a community project, Parisar promoted sustainability and the cultivation of shared responsibility within the community. In the days leading up to the cycle distribution event, Parisar collaborated with Curious Wheels to instruct the girls in cycling, utilizing rented bicycles.

Vision for Pune: Taking it to the street, celebrating World Car-Free Day

On September 22nd, on-ground activities were orchestrated to generate enthusiasm for the idea of carfree cities. The event facilitated numerous one-on-one engagements with passersby, fostering collective efforts toward a cleaner, brighter future for Pune.

Featuring a compelling street play, the initiative also showcased a 'Vision Board.' Residents from all walks of life—whether Punekars, old or new, migrants or natives, The local authority, PMPML, is urged to acknowledge commuter issues arising from a lack of robust information infrastructure. Initiated through consultative workshops in Pune, the campaign has become a platform for discussing obstacles hindering the uptake of low-carbon mobility. A critical concern highlighted is the pressing need for a dedicated bus app in Pune. Real-life stories and challenges faced by commuters are being shared to emphasize issues, from long waiting times to route uncertainties, demanding immediate attention and resolution. Students or workers—all took a moment to inscribe their visions for a pollution-free, traffic congestion-free, and more livable Pune. The outcome? A compelling visual depiction of shared aspirations. Relive the day's festivities in our video recap and witness the vibrancy of the celebrations.

Exploring Low Carbon Mobility through City Case Studies

Three meticulously crafted city case studies (or compendiums) have been released by Parisar. These case studies serve as a testament to collaborative efforts, stemming from in-depth stakeholder consultations with vibrant local civil society networks for low-carbon mobility solutions in each city.  Click to download the compendiums of Nagpur, Pune, and Mumbai.

The #AppKaraBusKara Campaign

Pune Pedestrian Day 3.0 - 11th December 2023

In collaboration with the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), ITDP, and Save Pune Traffic Movement, the recent Pedestrian Day event on December 11, 2023, witnessed active participation from Parisar. Laxmi Road, a core city stretch from Nagarkar Taleem Chowk to Garud Ganpati Chowk, was transformed into a pedestrian-friendly zone, thriving with pedestrians, commerce, and exhibitions from 10 am to 7 pm. Parisar’s exhibition, featuring a captivating photo gallery showcasing successful street transformations across India, inspired Punekars to reimagine and revive their city streets.

Interactive activities, such as a snakes and ladders game and a street art session reclaiming road spaces with vibrant expressions, engaged people with enthusiasm and creativity. The voices of Punekars underscored the importance of preserving heritage, envisioning well-planned streets accessible to all, and enhancing public transport to discourage the use of private vehicles.

Read a detailed update here.

Bangladesh - dhaka

Promoting Carfree Cities in Bangladesh

At the Institute of Wellbeing Bangladesh (IWB), staff dare to dream of transforming car-free cities into a wonderful reality. Instead of our current polluted, congested, and dangerous cities, we would love to have cities where everyone can thrive. Due to that strong belief and passion for car-free cities, IWB carried out several programs in 2023 to promote the concept. Youth are the main protagonists of social change. Thus, IWB arranged three brief residential training programs, known as Camp Cool, to educate university students about car-free cities and give them some of the skills to advocate for them. In 2023 we had around 40 participants, from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cameroon, Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Nepal, Nigeria, India, Ivory Coast, Uganda, and Sierra Leone. 

In addition to Camp Cool, IWB incorporates the topic of carfree cities into its fantastic internship programs. In 2023 we had 47 interns who were encouraged to watch Debra Efroymson’s TEDx talk on carfree cities, listen to a presentation about it, and engage in the “carfree tree” activity, where they imagined the benefits of living in a carfree city. The interns also made videos on the topic (see below). IWB is concerned about the high price of bicycles and the high tax on them. Thus, IWB organized a bicycle rally to ask the government to reduce the tax on bicycles so that they will become affordable. 

IWB’s staff wrote several articles that were published in leading English and Bengali newspapers, portraying the relationship between cars, traffic congestion, air, and noise pollution, and road crashes, and how carfree cities could be a great solution to these and other problems. 

Interns at IWB made three videos about carfree cities and Justice in Motion – the theme of this year’s World Carfree Day. IWB is working on a music video based on an original song about bicycles that will eventually be posted on YouTube. And IWB regularly posts about car-free cities and the need to reduce taxes on bicycles on social media. 

To spread the importance of a carfree city throughout the year, IWB observes international days like International Noise Awareness Day, International Bicycle Day, World Localization Day, and of course World Carfree Day. For each Day, IWB organizes colorful events and posts on social media, focusing in 2023 on the importance of car-free cities and the necessity to make bicycles a safe, affordable, and convenient option for all.

India - Chennai

Exploring Mobility with UrbanWorks: Fun Videos and Comics!

In 2023, an exciting journey was undertaken by the UrbanWorks Institute to create a series of videos and comics exploring the realms of buses, mobility, and sustainability. And the best part? It wasn't the typical preachy content!

Featured Video: "Mission Mars Visa Interview"

In this entertaining video, a human's journey to quit life on Earth is showcased as they attend a Mars visa interview. Was it successfully navigated? Watch to discover the unexpected twists and turns!

 Other Must-See Videos:

Subscribe, share, and join the conversation on redefining urban mobility and sustainability!

UK - Bristol

BetterPoints targets car drivers to change their behaviour

BetterPoints, an app and platform we heard from in our September webinar, has been using innovative interventions to reduce car journeys.

They removed 741 car journeys to the University of Sheffield by targeting users who arrived by car on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, their peak parking demand days. Users received a message the next Monday or Tuesday evening asking them to leave their car at home the following day in return for a free coffee. Users who then recorded a sustainable journey to campus the following day received the voucher directly to their app timeline. 90% of recipients confirmed that the offer had motivated them to travel sustainably. BetterPoints ran the intervention 13 times during the autumn semester, with an average of 57 vouchers issued each time. The University was able to externally confirm the success of the intervention by cross-checking against the number of car parking charges processed by their management system.

BetterPoints has also piloted a new targeted approach to promoting bus travel. Heathrow Airport workers who recorded car trips along four bus routes from Slough were offered extra rewards for taking the bus, as well as discounted tickets. Weekly average bus trips to the Airport from Slough increased by 308% and when the pilot was extended to include three Rail Air bus routes, a 323% increase was achieved.

By targeting relevant and timely rewards for people who are driving specific journeys, BetterPoints has been able to help users switch from their cars to more sustainable journeys - and towards car-free travel habits in the long term.

If you would like to find out more about BetterPoints, there are case studies on their website and you can subscribe to their LinkedIn newsletter here.

Nepal - kathmandu and beyond

New Towns, Same Old Mistakes?

The Government of Nepal is currently planning to build 54 new towns across the country, with a population of 100,000 people in each town, by 2033. CCA member Digo Bikas Institute (DBI) has been working with other carfree cities activists to ensure that the new towns don’t simply replicate the same mistakes as too many existing cities across South Asia: destroying agricultural land and heritage sites to make ever more space for the car and other private motor vehicles.

DBI continues to promote the potential for people-centric car-free settlements with mixed-use land policy. Part of that work includes regular meetings with officials, experts, and community members to understand people’s connections to the land and traditional architecture, and their thoughts about urban settlements.

An important albeit neglected question is how to combine the desire for modernity with the wish to maintain positive traditions such as the preservation of agricultural land, and urban design that promotes socializing rather than isolation. DBI is working to demonstrate that pollution and destruction are not modern, or at least are not desirable. After all, creating people-centered, carfree settlements would save enormous amounts of space and money that could be better utilized for improving the quality of life of people in the New Town settlements, along with all the other advantages in terms of cleaner air, quiet, safety, sociability, and independent movement of children and the elderly that are intrinsic to carfree cities.

This is an ongoing project of DBI and the outcome is anything but decided.

Please read also the longer article on this subject and watch this space for new and hopefully exciting developments!

Digo Bikas Institute website:

Digo Bikas Institute Facebook page:

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