#carfreeday Tool Kit
At about 11.00 am on 22nd September 2019 something amazing happened on our stretch of the busy A5200 otherwise known as Leighton Road, Camden NW5. For the first time anyone can remember (and June over the road has – I recently discovered – lived here since 1974) children emerged from their houses to play on a suddenly car-free street. They were seemingly blinking and stretching like mammals at the end of a hibernation, the rain dripping from a recent shower accentuated the feeling of some kind of a ‘thaw’. The kids soon started a game of impromptu street football together. For me it further invoked the iconic images of the German and British soldiers in no man’s land on Christmas Day 1914 and not just because some of the kids were German. This time it wasn’t the guns falling silent that led to this spontaneous act of heart-warming human interaction but simply the sudden absence of any cars.
Twenty-eight local residents were involved on the day and over 200 people attended. All of them said how pleased they were to emerge from their ‘slumber’ to meet people for the first time, enjoy our space together, chat, laugh, eat, play, take part in a bake off, a pet show, drink from an apple press with locally sourced fruit. We already feel like a community.
Yet most of us hadn’t even met two months before. I knew my immediate neighbours and was on nodding terms with a few others. But all of us had some things in common: a shared frustration at watching the emerging climate emergency; the latent sadness that we didn’t know each other and didn’t really feel a sense of community and our determination to do something about it – to affect our own world.
Car free day was the chance for us to begin to solve these problems but it’s only a start. There are bigger ambitions to bring the community together to help us look after our environment. We call the project #greeningleightonroad.
The hardest thing is to stop feeling you can’t do anything and to kick it off so this is intended as a ‘Tool Kit’ to help you start your own local initiative through car free day.
Engage with your local community and create a campaign
It all started for me when I received a note through my door from a fellow resident I didn’t know, Joanna Macrae, asking if anyone would like to get involved as a community and providing her e-mail address asking for any support. I responded along with a few others.
We agreed we wanted to do something about our lack of community and poor environment. We believed a campaign for #greeningleightonroad was a good start and created a petition asking for parking spaces to be given over to plantbeds and cycle hangers. We were able to garner 37 signatures and sent them to the leader of Camden Council cc’ing the relevant councillors and cabinet members. Furthermore, we applied for a Car Free Day and mentioned this as a good way to kick off the campaign in our proposal.