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Car Free and Loving It at European Mobility Week

LONDON, UK, September 15, 2005 (ENS) - Millions of citizens in over 930 towns and cities across Europe and in other parts of the world will be taking part in sustainable transport initiatives with the theme of Clever Commuting as part of the annual European Mobility Week, which officially starts Friday. Pre-conference events start today with an exhibition about urban mobility and clean air, walking, bicycle and fuel cell bus tours, workshops and a dinner.

European Mobility Week, now in its fourth year, seeks to promote a lasting shift towards use of environmentally benign modes of transport and to encourage citizens to consider alternatives to private cars wherever possible.

European Mobility Week 2005 will be launched on September 16 at a high-level conference at London’s City Hall, organized with the UK Presidency of the European Union, which will bring together representatives of all levels f government to share their visions for urban mobility and clean air.

commuters

Londoners hurry to work by bus, bicycle, auto and on foot. (Photo by Ian Britton courtesy FreeFoto.com)
Both Commission Vice-President and Commissioner for Transport Jacques Barrot and Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas will participate.

As in previous years, a highlight of the week in many participating towns and cities will be a Car-Free Day.

“Europe promotes environment friendly alternatives to the private car. Commuting and getting around town on foot, by bicycle or by public transport should be made more convenient and safe," Commissioner Barrot said. "European Mobility Week calls on local authorities to create the rights conditions and infrastructure to this end."

Commissioner Dimas said, “European Mobility Week shows how there are alternatives to the car and how we can all contribute to cleaner air.

"Even if EU legislation has improved air quality, hundreds of thousands of Europeans still suffer every year from the consequences of air pollution," he said. "The responsibility to take action lies with all of us, at EU, national and local level. We can make a difference."

Municipalities in most of the 25 European Union member states, the European Free Trade Association states, Croatia and Romania, as well as in Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Japan, Taiwan and Venezuela, plan to hold a Car-Free Day or take other initiatives this week to promote clever commuting through the use of low pollution or zero pollution forms of transport.

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Nighttime traffic along Oxford St. in London. (Photo courtesy FreeFoto)
To date 937 towns and cities have registered their participation and the number is still rising. Local initiatives planned include the introduction of new or improved public transport services, city center pedestrian zones, bicycle lanes and rental facilities, zones with a 30 km/h (20 mph) speed limit, new park and ride services between the city center and suburbs, and car sharing databases.

The London conference, titled In Motion! Visions for Urban Mobility and Clean Air, is being organized by the Commission and the UK Presidency in cooperation with Transport for London, the body responsible for London’s public transport system.

Besides Commisssioners Barrot and Dimas, speakers include Ben Bradshaw, UK minister for local environment, London Mayor Ken Livingstone, the mayors of Budapest and Stockholm, and Wang Guangtao, Chinese minister of construction and president of the Chinese mayors’ association.

At a ceremony during the conference, Commissioner Dimas will announce the winner of the European Mobility Week Award for initiatives taken by towns and cities last year. The three finalists are Kromeriz in the Czech Republic, Nantes in France and Donostia-San Sebastián in Spain. Representatives from the three municipalities will be present.

traffic

One person per automobile equals traffic congestion in London. (Photo courtesy FreeFoto)
At the end of the conference the European Mobility Week Pledge will be opened for signature by organizations. The pledge commits signatories to promote the aims of Mobility Week among their members and customers. The first organization to announce its intention to sign the pledge at the conference is the Business Leaders Initiative on Climate Change.

Friends of the Earth UK says petrol prices will have to rise still further before drivers get serious about slowing climate change. The group said Tuesday that cutting fuel taxes, as some have asked the government to do, would be the wrong move.

Friends of the Earth’s Head of Campaigns Mike Childs, said, “Fossil fuel prices will have to rise if we are to tackle the terrible threat from global climate change. This will encourage innovation in fuel efficiency and the development of sustainable alternatives to oil."

Childs says Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown has an important role to play to encourage this move. "He must stand firm on fuel tax, and take action in his next budget to make it cheaper and easier for people to use greener transport."

commuters

Commuters walk across London Bridge on their way to work. (Photo courtesy FreeFoto)
Despite recent rises in oil prices, the cost of driving is still cheaper in real terms than it was in 1997 when Labour came to power, and also cheaper than it was 30 years ago, the campaign group said, relying on government figures.

Road transport is responsible for around 22 percent of UK carbon dioxide emissions, and that level is expected to rise.

Friends of the Earth is calling on the government to do more to encourage people to buy greener cars by increasing road tax, known as the Vehicle Excise Duty, on gas-guzzlers and cutting it for greener cars.

The government must co more to encourage people to use their cars less and use alternatives instead.

"Fuel companies should be forced to ensure that at least 5.75 per cent of their fuel comes from bio-fuels by 2010," Friends of the Earth said.

Learn more about European Mobility Week at: http://www.mobilityweek-europe.org/index.php?lang=en



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