Putting Car Free Events to a Greater Purpose

Kuala Lumpur Car Free Morning (KLCFM)

The mayor of Kuala Lumpur, Datuk Seri Ahmad Phesal Talib, is engaged in an interesting experiment which got underway in January this year with the announcement by the city of a “Cycling Sunday”, to take place on the first Sunday of each month from 7:30 to 9:30 during which time a six kilometer stretch of streets in the central area is made (car) traffic free and reserved for cycling. On the first Sunday more than 1000 people came out to take advantage of the traffic free stretch: adults and children, cyclists, pedestrians, skateboarders and online skaters among them.

malaysia KL green loop

 Kuala Lumpur to celebrate Monthly ‘Cycling Day’

The event was considered a popular success and has been continued since regularly, with a reported 10,000 participants on June 1st.   On June 5th Mayor Ahmad Phesal announced that from now on the first Sunday of the month will be ‘Cycling Day’ in the city of Kuala Lumpur. The continued support of the public, the Mayor said, may just be the thing to push the event to the next level.

To be sure, this is still a small step, but it is part of a broader program, the ‘River of Life’ under the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) aimed at transforming the Klang River into a vibrant and liveable waterfront with high economic value. “We have started identifying bicycle lanes to connect one sector to another in the city. This will be realised soon,” the mayor is reported to have said on several occasions.

Making KL a Bike City?

No quite there yet, In fact far from it. But a process has now gotten underway with public and political support, and from a New Mobility Agenda perspective its potential is considerable. For now it is limited just to a couple of early morning hours on a convenient day (i.e., no morning rush hour traffic) once a week, and is in fact really a festive event and not an example of a new mobility approach in itself. But, as the Car Free Day program is often put it, we now have a situation in KL in which “the nose of the camel is under the tent”. Interesting things could now be about to happen.

World Streets on Car Free Days

The basic strategies for ways to put Car Free Days and similar car-free or less-car events to work for greater purposes is spelled out in some detail in the initial document defining this approach which you can find under the title: “Thursday: A breakthrough strategy for reducing car dependence in cities” at http://wp.me/psKUY-9c. Another good reference from this end is the series of articles and references which you can find at http://worldstreets.wordpress.com/category/car-free-cities/.

Let us keep our eyes on Kuala Lumpur and Mayor Ahmad Phesal and his team.

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About the author:

Eric Britton
9, rue Gabillot, 69003 Lyon France

Bio: Educated as an international development economist, Eric Britton is an American political scientist, teacher and sustainability activist who has worked on missions and advisory assignments on all continents. Professor of Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy at the Institut Supérieur de Gestion (Paris), he is also MD of EcoPlan Association, an independent advisory network providing strategic counsel for government and business on policy and decision issues involving complex systems, social-technical change, civil society and sustainable development. Founding editor of World Streets: The Politics of Transport in Cities | See Britton online at https://goo.gl/9CJXTh and @ericbritton

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