I manage to somehow forget about this every year, but the Competitive Enterprise Institute reminded me once again that tomorrow is “World Car-Free Day.” (I should remember because I usually get a card or two, have some cake and/or go out to dinner on the same day WCFD is “celebrated.” Yep, 29 again.)
So how did the day which they share with me get selected? Well, like most liberal ideas it comes from Europe, where the date falls within its “European Mobility Week.” Their idea is for “encouraging European cities to promote (public transport, cycling, and walking) and to invest in the new necessary infrastructures.” CEI’s point is that the automobile is among the most liberating inventions ever created, allowing personal transport and freedom of mobility. Try taking a bus to the mall, grocery store, or your place of work on their schedule.
Surprisingly, the state of Maryland (which is led by a notoriously anti-growth, anti-freedom governor in Martin O’Malley) isn’t doing anything special for WCFD, but Montgomery County and the University of Maryland are. Washington, D.C. is also participating, with a mixture of private- and public-sector sponsors. (I’m definitely disappointed in the Washington Nationals’ participation, which makes little sense because they’re playing this week at Philadelphia. Did the players use public transit to get there?)
Certainly if someone wants to participate, well, more power to them. Walking or riding a bicycle presents health benefits, although those can be negated if you don’t follow basic traffic rules (walk outside travel lanes and against traffic but ride a bicycle with traffic. If there’s no dedicated bike lane, bicycles are entitled to the 3 feet of pavement closest to the extreme right-hand shoulder as I recall.) But the idea expressed in the Mobility Week credo is more the true aim of organizers – just read “invest in” as “subsidize” things like bike paths few use or mass transit that not many people ride because it’s not possible to take everyone from their thousands of different origins to thousands of different destinations. Even something which has point A to point B ridership, like Washington’s Metro system, still needs a heavy subsidy to survive.
Again, it all comes down to freedom. Having access to my car makes it possible for me to do my job because I cover a large geographic territory. But it also allows me to drive to a so-called “Smart Growth” meeting where I can say my piece and then come right home to write about it, without having to wait for a bus or traverse dark streets at night for an hour.
We already have restrictions on how fast we can travel and what we do within the car, but we still have that opportunity to get up and go where we need to when we want to. Others can be car-free for a day, a week, or even a lifetime, but don’t force me to do the same.