‘Car Free Day’ will kick-off week long sustainability festival

It’ll be ‘all-quiet’ on the eastern end of the seafront this weekend as Hastings and St Leonards takes part in Car Free Day for the first time.

Sunday marks the start of ‘Sustainability on Sea’ and to kick things off a stretch of Hastings seafront from Warrior Square gardens to the pier will be closed to traffic on Sunday to mark World Car Free Day.

world-car-free-day-2019-5d410ea81a211The road will be turned into a pedestrianised community space with entertainment and activities devised to encourage local people to reimagine the town without the pollution, noise and stress of car traffic, and promote sustainable transport alternatives.

Traffic will be diverted away from the seafront from 10am until 8pm although access will be maintained for emergency vehicles.

Car Free Day is observed annually around the world to encourage communities to enjoy their environment in new ways and promote the changes in behaviour campaigners say are needed if we are serious about tackling the dangers of air pollution and climate change. It is the first time Car Free Day will be officially recognised in Hastings and St Leonards and marks the beginning of the week-long Sustainability on Sea festival.

Organised by Transition Town Hastings in partnership with Hastings Borough Council (HBC), Car Free Day celebrations will include guerrilla gardening, mini park zones, racing modified bikes, music from local performers, craft workshops, discussion groups, dance troupes, retro games, skate skills demonstrations and a community picnic.

World Car Free Day is recognised by the United Nations for highlighting the long-term impact of road traffic on the environment as well as the immediate health and wellbeing of communities, and this year falls on the eve of the UN Climate Action Summit.

Transport is responsible for more than a fifth of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, believed to be the largest contributor of long-term climate change. Diesel transport is one of the world’s largest producers of black carbon particulate pollution, the second highest contributor towards climate change after CO2, and the air pollutant most closely associated with increased air-pollution related mortality and morbidity.

Screenshot 2019-09-19 10.50.19

While concerns about climate change and air pollution are ever-present, Car Free Day’s organisers are keen to highlight the benefits and enjoyment the day will bring:

Sarah Macbeth of Transition Town said: “Car Free Day is a way to imagine how different urban environments would be if we were all a bit less reliant on our cars; what the town would look like, smell like and sound like with fewer vehicles on the road, and how differently we could use our spaces. By closing roads to traffic we are creating more clean, safe and healthy areas for play, interaction and creativity. And while we can’t expect people to give up their cars altogether the day acts as a prompt for us all to reconsider non-essential car journeys.”

She adds: “Our community is already very engaged with environmental issues and Hastings has a great reputation for getting together for various celebrations so we are thrilled the council has agreed to join prominent cities all around the world in marking Car Free Day, and it’s a fantastic kick-off for the Sustainability on Sea festival.”

Councillor Maya Evans, HBC’s lead councillor for climate change, added: “I am delighted that the council is supporting Car Free Day 2019, for the first time ever.

“We declared a climate emergency this year and know how important the environment is. Closing just a small part of our seafront is symbolic and I do hope it will make people think again about the impact their own cars have on the environment.”

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