The potential of a Car Free Day in Chichester is ‘limitless’ according to city councillor Sarah Sharp, who has responded to reservations about the idea.
‘Car Free’, set up by campaigner Mark Record and supported by councillor Sharp, plans to trial a scheme inside the city walls one Sunday a month to make the city more safe and a ‘fun place to walk and cycle’.
The idea was put to Chichester District Council as well as West Sussex County Council, but not to much success so far.
Councillor Sharp said she is 'disappointed in the rather negative take-up the idea has had so far' but is 'determined to build this idea'.
She said: "Our main aims are to help promote clean air and walking and cycling and public transport as great ways to get around. We would like people to be able to enjoy more places without having to worry about pollution and crossing the road.
“We have been inspired by Paris, Oslo, New York, Vancouver, Los Angeles and Bogata that are all trying to increase their residents’ health and well being by creating car free areas or days.
“We know that it will be difficult to bring the councils on board with this despite the fact that their own vision document states; 'We must act now to reduce traffic, encourage better lifestyle choices for our citizens and become a greener, better connected city where the needs of all generations are catered for. We need to challenge the ‘car is king’ mindset, as well as providing an environment where independent businesses and shops can thrive'."
Sarah said the group is working towards having a Car Free Day on September 22 — International Car Free Day.
She added: "We want people to imagine the positives of this idea. There are tremendous positives. I have a friend who lives in Paris and she think's it's amazing. She cycles to work on a Sunday.
"It would bring the community together. The potential is limitless."
'More details on proposals needed'
Mayor Martyn Bell said he is ‘in favour of the idea in principle’ but said we need to see ‘more detail’ on the proposals.
He added: “I am concerned about how it will affect disabled access. In principle, it’s a good idea. We can try it once and see how it goes. We don’t want to discourage people coming to the city centre but maybe this would encourage people. Let’s see how it goes.
"We also need to make sure city residents have access to garages and so on."
Responding to concerns over disabled access, councillor Sharp clarified: "Disabled drivers would still be able to drive on car free day. We would not stop people who actually have a need and rely on cars. That would be respected. We are not anti-disabled or anti-carers. It would not be a complete ban."
'Some issues need to be resolved'
Parklands resident Mark Record said the vision of the idea is to allow city road space 'to be used for community activities and commerce'.
He added: "Motor vehicle use would be restricted within the walls of the city from 7:30 am to 6pm on the first Sunday of each month
"We hope the additional public space freed up from traffic will attract more people into our beautiful city and boost Chichester's economy.
"Car free Sunday events will also promote the use of healthy, sustainable transport like walking and cycling. Moving away from motor vehicle dependency is an essential step to take if we are to avoid global climate change."
Mark acknowledged there are 'some issues' that need to be resolved before the idea could become a reality.
"It seems likely concessions will be necessary for city residents to access their properties, for shop deliveries and to allow disabled parking. Re-routing of bus services would be necessary to allow South Street to become traffic free," he said.
"However, Paris holds popular monthly car free events that extend across large areas of the city. If the Parisians can do this surly we can do something similar in Chichester?
"There are more campaign details on our website and our next meeting is on February 25, 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm at the Park Tavern. Anyone interested in promoting car free Sundays in Chichester is very welcome to join us."
Read more: Car free campaign launched in Chichester