Car Free Day, Sep 22, 2023

Abhijit, 23 September 2023

From the UN Environment Program Website:

Every year on or around 22 September, cities across the globe celebrate World Car-Free Day, encouraging motorists to give up their cars for a day. The event highlights the numerous benefits of going car-free to citizens—including reduced air pollution and the promotion of walking and cycling in a safer environment.

Going car-free is a nice experiment to identify the not-so-obvious ways in which we have dependent on cars; and more importantly, how not being able to have a car can be a big roadblack for many people.

This year, I am going to attempt to be car free for a week - not just a day; and record my observations here.

Day 1: Sep 22
  • Distance to work is 15km one way. Most days I drive. Bus is ok for the morning but there are few/no buses after 5.30pm for the return. Don’t want to ride in the rickety tam-tams that are slow, dirty, overloaded and under-maintained.
  • Biking to work is not too bad as long as I start by 8.30am - mostly downhill and on a good day I can actually average 25kmh. Would have been good to have a separated bike lane.
  • I think non-car infrastructure will only improve if we force our politians and heads of public institutions to ditch their cars. Or at least get rid of incentives for company cars perhaps.
  • Dharwad’s biggest asset for urban mobility is the BRT line. Crazy idea - change one side of the BRT line (currently 2 lanes of car traffic) into a separated bike lane plus walking track. The other side (2 lanes) can serve car traffic in both directions. Put large car + motorbike parking at key points along the BRT, e.g. NBS, Court Circle, Toll Naka, etc. and convert the entire corridor into a commercial + mixed use zone.
  • The “highway” from DIMS to the highway bypass has a major identity crisis. It is built like a major highway (60-80kmh speeds), but the signages are marked 40kmh. This is (I hope) the only stroad in Dharwad
Day 2: Sep 23
  • Just commuting to work and back is fine, but how can one manage all errands? Todays task was grocery shopping and a few other errands. Bike + Pannier + my enormous front bag were more than enough for all the tasks today.
  • Tomorrow I might need to pick up a package that is much larger than will fit in my panniers - will probaly need to take the bus (BRT). I need to figure out the routes and times for Dharwad city buses - there does not seem to be a schedule or timetable anywhere.
  • Not all trips were on bike - I actually did the last round of vegetable shopping by walk.
Day 3: Sep 24
  • Managed to do everything just on foot! Neither car nor bike needed!
Day 4: Sep 25
  • Biked to work and back again. Mornings are fine; evenings traffic is annoying. Maybe I can try to leave outside the peak traffic time?
  • Some statistical analysis shows that my bike commute time is almost constant irrespective of traffic levels (or departure time). Car commute time is slightly sensitive to traffic level (and departure time), but even so - takes about 20 mins extra one way at most.
Day 4: Sep 26
  • End of a good run; had to take the car today to transport a few k$ of equipment between labs. :(
  • Maybe I need to get a folding bike. Will try again next week!