Car-Free Day Helps Clear the Air in Europe

Citizens in more than 1,000 cities around the world were treated to cleaner air and less congested streets yesterday on the sixth annual car-free day. The event was particularly popular in Europe, where air pollution has had a higher profile since August, when poor air quality accompanied scorching hot temperatures, perhaps contributing to heat-related deaths. In participating cities, the streets were taken over by pedestrians, rollerbladers, and cyclists, and mass transit fees were lowered or dropped altogether. In Paris, police blocked most vehicles from the city center. In Britain, light-hearted phrasebooks were passed out to help car addicts adapt to using the bus, introducing them to helpful sayings such as “Is that seat free?” and “Is this the correct bus stop for … ?” But not everyone warmed to the car-free idea. The mayor of Oporto, Portugal, refused to block auto traffic from his city’s downtown area. “I’m not going to turn people’s lives into hell,” he said.