There had been an extraordinary increase in fuel prices in the world market due to political disturbances in many regions of the Middle East and the world economic crisis; as a result the lifestyle of people has changed. People have moved to public transport facilities as it reduces their travelling expenses. Consequently the car traffic [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka can easily enforce a car-free day


There had been an extraordinary increase in fuel prices in the world market due to political disturbances in many regions of the Middle East and the world economic crisis; as a result the lifestyle of people has changed.

People have moved to public transport facilities as it reduces their travelling expenses. Consequently the car traffic volumes have reduced with the fuel hike. Since the vehicle ownership will be high in the next few years, the demand for fuel will increase.

Today, the cost of a fuel barrel is increasing sharply due to an unsteady situation in the world market and as a consequence there will be a further increase in price. During peak hours the demand for road space increases which in turn results in severe traffic congestion.

The number of vehicles entering Colombo is reducing as a result of high fuel consumption with increased fuel cost. As an economic factor the city depends on its own transport systems as a way of managing the financial crisis. As the volume of cargo and passenger traffic system increases, the demand for the capacity for the required infrastructure also increases.

With the lack of capacity to meet the increased demand, the resulting congestion will have an impact on our lives, as there would be more economic losses and less attraction to the city centres. Why Car-Free Days? Today the usage of vehicles is at its peak and this contributes to pollution.
As a result we face serious problems such as peak oil, global warming, noise pollution, acid rains, bad traffic, etc. And also during the construction of transport infrastructures, a number of biodiversity impacts occur.

We have to stop it, or else we will have to face serious consequences in the future. It isn’t practical for everyone to give up on vehicles completely, but we can drive less. Currently there is a record of around 8000 miles/year of people driving. But one way to overcome this problem is to have “car-free days.” This is done by parking the car and get around on bikes, feet, train, bus, carpool, subway or by managing work through the computer at home.
We can identify five important tasks in a car-free day:

1.To spend one carefully prepared day without cars.
2.To study and observe closely what exactly goes on during that day.
3.Demonstrate what needs to be done to make a car-less society.
4.Demonstrate factors contributing to environmental disasters because of car movements.
5.Demonstrate mitigation measures that could reduce impact through vehicle emissions.
6.And to reflect publicly and collectively on the lessons of this experience.

A Car-Free Day encourages motorists to give up their car for a day. World Car Free Day is an international event which was celebrated yesterday – September 22nd. Car Free-Day was organized in various cities throughout the world in different ways, but with the common goal of taking cars off the streets.

The benefits to society are a day with less traffic congestion, a greener environment and reduced gasoline demand. Car-Free Day included celebrations in 1,500 cities in 40 countries. Car-Free Day was open to all people in the entire world. The event promoted improvement of mass transit, cycling and walking, and the development of communities where jobs are closer to home and where shopping is within walking distance.

An existing city can be made a car-free city area by strategic closure of streets to car traffic and by opening streets and squares to exclusive pedestrian use. A pedestrian and bicycle network gradually emerges and joins several parts of the city. Similarly, prompted by the same need to avoid conflicts with car traffic and enhance pedestrian movement, pedestrian networks have emerged below street level (underground city) or above road-level to connect large downtown areas. For new areas on the fringe of cities or new towns, two new complementary ideas have recently emerged. This is a concept of Filtered Permeability and a model for planning towns and subdivisions.

Both focus on shifting the balance of network design in favour of pedestrian and bicycle mobility. Car-free places means a sizeable fraction of a city, town, or island which have public transport connections and not depend on themselves constitute a car-free area. Car-less days are another exception to the car- free days; the owners of all private petrol-powered motor vehicles and motorcycles were required to refrain from using their vehicle on one day of the week, that day being designated by the owner.

Car-free days- Implementation in Sri Lanka

A large number of vehicles enter the Colombo city on weekdays. People have to waste their valuable time spent on heavy traffic congestion every day. According to an analysis of the Motor Traffic Department (RMV), the registration of vehicles is improving rapidly. As a result, road space availability reduces and the congestion will increase unfortunately. There are specific locations which are the common spots for this issue such as Kaduwela to Malabe, Battaramulla, Rajagiriya, Borella, Maradana, Pettah, Peliyagoda, Wattala, Dehiwala, Nugegoda, Thunmulla, Baseline Road, etc. In these locations the commuters have to spend more time and more fuel. Two years ago in 2010 there was a rapid increase in both ownership of cars and other private vehicles because of the tax cut by government. According to the RMV, vehicle registration rose by 10 % (in 2010) to 31 % (in 2011), because of this tax reduction. Registration of three wheelers increased by 39.96% from 83,114 in 2010 to 138,436 in 2011, motor cycles by 11.72% from 204,811 to 232,120, motor car registrations rose by 60.14% from 23,072 to 57,887. Normally European countries use car-free days to reduce emission, traffic congestion and fuel consumption. As Sri Lankans we can also organize our own car-free days.

Way forward

First, we need to organize some surveys to find out the most congested areas. From these we can find out areas where we can implement car-free days successfully. We have to organize them successfully because if one car- free day gives a wrong impression, people will definitely restrict the change towards a car-free society. A government body should be there to govern all these steps, because there should be legal authority to organize these kinds of events. When implementing this concept, it is important to give some ‘moral boosters’ to the people who are normally reluctant to change. We can arrange some shops and cafeterias in the area, where this car-free day takes place. In some locations, we can design children parks or flower gardens, where people can move leisurely. Advertising is another important activity in implementing the car-free days in Sri Lanka. It is an effective way of informing people. TV advertisements, banners, handouts can spread this concept in the society. We can organize special campaigns to educate young crowd including university students, about this new concept. This way we can make this a success.

Some issues

The car-free day is a concept aimed at emphasizing on the importance of public transport rather than using the private means of transportation. It raises the awareness of issues in the transport sector and promoting the active participation of citizens is utterly important. Well organized traffic management and cooperation between the government and residents on car-free days will contribute significantly in the development of public transport. A car-free day per month, implemented at different locations can improve sustainable and green transportation in urban areas. If we can implement this car-free days in Sri Lanka, we can easily move towards a greener society, where environmental pollution could be minimized.

Intelligent transport system

On the car-free day the road transport sector and the buses can earn a lot of money and it will help to make profits to the bus and rail transport sectors. The rail sector will gain profits.


Car-free days/car-free zones will increase accessibility by reducing the travelling time and also fuel costs. It would result in a drop in the number of accidents and reduce traffic congestion. In an economy having rising fuel prices, public transport can get the optimum benefit at a lesser cost/lesser travel time. This will reduce the environmental pollution as well. This car- free day is an easy method to implement with the government interference. Car-free days and pedestrian zones can improve the efficiency of the transportation system.

Infrastructure in congested areas can be improved because we have to think strategically to implement these proposals. We can use extra trains and buses to cater to the increasing demand. A single bus can carry 42, 49 passengers (seated) when fully loaded. We can supply buses in many categories – luxury, semi luxury and standard buses. The railway sector also carries 300,000 passengers daily. We can use extra trains to meet increasing demand for transport on the car-free day. Integration of rail is an important part of the road transportation system to which little attention is given. The improvement of bus and rail transportation on a car-free day can reduce traffic and reduce the cost of transportation.

(The writer is studying international transportation and logistics management. He could be reached at

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