carfree_day_logoToday is World Car-Free Day. Street closures and events promoting independence from the automobile are taking place in several cities around the world.

In Shanghai, almost three square miles around the city’s 2010 Expo area will be closed to traffic for 12 hours. In Vienna, they’ll be holding street parties. And in the United States, both Washington, D.C., and Chicago are encouraging citizens to “take the car-free pledge” and leave their wheels at home for a day. More listings can be found here.

If you haven’t heard about the event before, that might be because it’s on a pretty small scale and completely decentralized. The World Car-Free Network (WCN) encourages groups and municipalities to organize their own observations, but there is no one high authority prepackaging car-free events.

And while the WCN would like Sept. 22 to be “a showcase for just how our cities might look like, feel like, and sound like without cars … 365 days a year,” there’s obviously no danger of the world’s drivers suddenly abandoning their vehicles in the middle of the road and skipping off to their destinations.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Which is why it’s kind of funny that the right-wing think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute (“Free Markets and Limited Government”) thought it was worth calling for its followers to “Protest Car-Free Day” and “celebrate automobility” by “taking a drive, just because.”

Here’s what the folks at CEI (which has a long history of climate-change denialism) had to say about the threat of World Car-Free Day:

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Walking and biking have health and lifestyle benefits for many people, but the sponsors of World Car-Free Day are going beyond simply advocating lifestyle changes — they are urging politicians to restrict car use and instead promote mass transit systems that will require ever-expanding taxpayer subsidies. In contrast to the photographs on various Car-Free Day websites, which show healthy young people in picture-perfect weather, advocates of car-free living ought to be portray what it would mean in more realistic conditions, such as:

  • When it’s raining
  • When you’re carrying several bags of groceries
  • When you’re carrying a baby, with a toddler alongside you
  • On crutches
  • After midnight
  • Without using a car or cab to get to the train or bus station
  • Any combination of the above

In response, we urge them to look here and here. Or here. Or here. Or here.

We could go on, but we’ll leave it at that.

Bonus: A video from Chicago’s Active Transportation Alliance urging that city’s residents to try leaving the car keys at home.