Car Free Days and Britain’s poisoned air

ETA Going Green magazine

A collapse in the number of British towns supporting World Car Free Day – the annual event that encourages motorists around the globe to leave their cars at home in favour of bicycles, trains and buses – reflects our country’s inability to tackle serious air pollution.

The article above describes Car Free Day 2001, an event that drew support from over 1,000 cities and towns. However, over recent years, the number of British towns staging events to highlight alternatives to car travel has collapsed.

As the organisation that first coordinated the event in Britain, we wrote to over 400 local authorities around Britain in 2012 to ask if they were planning to support World Car Free Day; only two councils replied. At the time of writing, and with three months to go before the 2018 event, not a single British city or town has signed up.

National health emergency

Britain’s poisonous air causes 40,000 early deaths a year, with almost one in four of those occurring in London. The problem is so acute that the city is considering car-free days in each London borough this year, with the potential for city-wide car-free days in 2019.

Many cities around the world have turned to car-free days in a bid to improve air quality and demonstrate to motorists that they need not be housebound without their car.

A joint inquiry by four committees of MPs earlier this year described Britain’s air pollution as a “national health emergency”, which is hardly surprising given the government’s inability to tackle it. After all, the government’s clean air plans have been judged illegal three times in the high court. And the latest proposal, rejected by the high court earlier this year, was condemned as ‘inexcusable’ by doctors.

Car-free days are by no means a panacea, but our country’s seeming refusal to stage them speaks volumes.

Ethical  insurance

Not only are we Britain’s most ethical insurance company, we campaign for sustainable transport. Sometimes that means protesting until a school gets the zebra crossing they’ve been refused or running 60 roadshows this year to encourage people out of their cars, or fixing bicycles for free. We also launched Green Transport Week and helped establish Car Free Day and Twenty’s Plenty to name just a few.

We’ve been campaigning for sustainable transport in this way for over 27 years with the help of people like you. Supporting this work is easy – you simply have to take out home insurance, cycle insurance, travel insurance and breakdown cover and we take care of the rest. We provide an excellent level of cover while putting concern for the environment at the heart of all we do.

ETA home insurance


  1. Philip


    The aims of ETA, and indeed this article, are laudable.

    However, the idea that the UK is set to become a cycle-friendly nation is laughable.
    Any article about cycling and cyclists in the mainstream media attracts a stream of abuse from people who appear to think cyclists are the biggest threat facing the UK!

    I cycle (and drive I might add so yes I do pay “road tax”) in spite of the many downsides (poor roads, aggressive drivers, winter weather etc)

    However, the motor vehicle has become omnipotent during the past half a century and putting the genie back into the bottle is a pipe dream.

  2. edmund white


    It does say a lot though for UK motorists obsession with cars. No matter the numbers of people that die or are maimed every year by what they class as ” accidents”, now even more, mainly the very young an the old are killed by the crap they produce

  3. Wayne Smith


    I was in Cologne last month and it was a public holiday the city was awash with bikes families young and old only the children had helmets and no hi vis coats the air was fresh because they put the cyclist first and everyone benefits. This country should be ashamed how it has allowed cyclists to be betrayed Has red light jumpping Maniacs when cyclists take risk we sometimes die when motorists take risk cyclists die, pot holes damage cars pot holesInjure cyclists when a cyclists gets to close to a car he knocks there wing mirror when a car gets to near a cyclists he knocks off the person. It’s easier to fix a pot hole or a car than a person

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