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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

No-Car Day, European-Style

Air Date: Week of September 22, 2000

Host Laura Knoy talks with Radio Deutsche Welle reporter Sabina Casagrande in Cologne, Germany about Car Free Day in Europe. The European Union sanctioned the event, with over 20 countries participating.

Transcript

KNOY: Sabina Casagrande, a reporter for Radio Deutsche Welle, joined me via cell-phone from the streets of Cologne, Germany. Sabina, how is Car-Free Day being observed in Europe?

CASAGRANDE: All over Europe, in most countries of the European Union and also in Switzerland, major roads in the inner cities are being blocked off so that people can have the chance to share a space that's usually reserved for automobiles and their drivers. There are different activities going on with music and demonstrations and it's a chance for everyone to get out and for people to be able to walk or skate or bike on the street.

KNOY: It sounds like a big deal there.

CASAGRANDE: It is a very big deal actually. What is really important about this day is that it's the first time that it's a EU wide activity, and that the European Union in Brussels has taken the initiative to call for this action.

KNOY: The news here in U.S., Sabina, is all about the European gasoline shortages. We have pictures of motorists protesting high fuel taxes, how does that fuel situation fit in with Car-Free Day?

CASAGRANDE: It's more of a coincidence, actually, because Car-Free Day was already decided on last year and the fuel debates have only erupted in the last few weeks. So, it's a coincidence, but I think it will give critics of these high fuel prices a chance to see what sort of possibilities they have to live without a car.

KNOY: Do you think Europeans are less wedded to their cars than Americans are?

CASAGRANDE: I think they are in a way because they are not as dependent on their cars as Americans are, the countries here are simply smaller. It's easier for you to do your shopping with your bicycle. I do, though, have to add that in Germany, people are very attached to their cars, but that cars are more of a status symbol than they are for practical use.

KNOY: Do you think, Sabina, that Car-Free Day will effect European transportation choices in the long run? After this day is over does everyone just jump back in their car again or do they make changes?

CASAGRANDE: Since this day has been very very successful in other countries such as France, Italy and Spain, which originally started with these movements on a local level. In many of these cities, especially in France and Italy, its now one Sunday a month – car-free. One problem though is that European car drivers will not in the long term change their habits unless the governments change the infrastructure. There are still improvements necessary in public transportation in Europe.

KNOY: Sabina, how did you get to work today?

CASAGRANDE: Well, today I rode my bicycle as I always do. It's not a big problem here, because Germany and Europe offers an infrastructure for people who do want to ride their bike or in-line skates or something to work. There are bicycle paths everywhere, you don't have to risk your life to get to work in an environmentally friendly way.

KNOY: Sabina Casagrande is a reporter for Radio Deutsche Welle in Cologne, Germany. Thanks, Sabina.

CASAGRANDE: You're welcome.

 

 

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