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Philadelphia has created a car-free holiday
Posted on 17/07/2016

SocietyUnited States of America

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A visit from the Pope has inspired Philadelphians to succesfully campaign for the introduction of a holiday which bans the use of cars in the city centre's streets.

Last year, Philadelphia welcomed the Pope and experienced something really strange. As a result of heightened security and huge crowds, the city's authorities closed off the streets in the centre of the city and people loved it.

'The coolest, hippiest event in the country'

'The coolest, hippiest event in the country'
sean pavone/123rf

They were able to walk in the road, ride a bike and chat with neighbours - all without worrying about traffic. In fact, they liked it so much that some even campaigned to make it into a regular holiday.

This year, on September 24, Philadelphia will shut off nine miles of its inner city streets to cars. There are plans for a whole festival around it, with only cyclists and pedestrians able to use the streets.

'Philly Free Streets' came about in a unique way but isn't the first of its kind. New York City already runs an event called 'Summer Streets', where it opens up seven miles of its road networks to more sustainable and eco-friendly modes of transport. Around 300,000 people took part in the event last year and Philadelphia is hoping to mirror its success.

Philadelphia's deputy manager for transportation and infrastructure, Clarena Tolson, wants the rest of the country to follow suit and embrace the idea. "We think ultimately this is going to be the coolest, hippest event in the country," she said.

As well as being a fun way for pedestrians to reclaim their city, Philly Free Streets also addresses the much larger issues of obesity, public health and climate change. Most US cities are designed first for cars and pedestrians can often seem like an afterthought.

Worldwide, over 70% of global emissions are emitted by cars. As a result of this more and more of these kinds of initiatives are breaking new ground and could spread across the country and the world if they are successful.

If Philly Free Streets doesn't catch on then let's hope the Pope makes his way through a few more major cities in the coming years!

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