Campaigns Wikia

The carfree movement is a global movement whos position is that the automobile and its associated infrastructure has gained too much dominance in our lives and that it is doing more harm than good to society.

A common misuderstanding is that the carfree movement is categorically opposed to car usage. In fact, the majority of car opponents only wish to see a reduction in car use, particularty in cities, not a complete ban. Many automobile-aware urbanists and environmentalists view the distinction between appropriate automobile use and inappropriate automobile use as important, if not fundamental.


The anti-car movement is a diverse and fragmented crowd, both in scope and scale.


The biggest group, environmentalists believe that cars consume unsustainable amounts of energy and land, that local pollution from cars is contributing to massive health problems, that global pollution from cars is causing climate change, and that cars make cities unsafe and unappealing.

Urban planners[]

Carfree and car-light urban planners, such as the New Urbanism movement, promote human-friendly, walkable urban design.

Oppose the abuse of the automobile[]

Those are people who have nothing against cars, perhaps they even own several and love driving, but think that car usage has spun out of control.

Oppose automoblie technology itself[]

Some simply see cars as an inefficient and ill-designed technology, and think superior transport technologies are capable of replacing it. Alternative technologies to the car infrastructure include traditional public transport, human-powered vehicles, personal rapid transit, and arcologies .

Oppose car culture[]

Think that the car culture has contributed to a rise in selfish and incosiderate behaviour and increasing levels of isolation. Road Rage is an increasing problem.

Safety campaigners[]

Sometimes victims or friends of victims of traffic accidents, but often people who feel threatened by dangerous drivers, safety campaigners wish to impose safety measures such as traffic calming.

Socialists and anti-consumerists[]

Some socialists see the automobile as a manifestation of class oppression, while anti-consumerists view the automobile as one of the biggest symbols of conspicuous consumption.

Public figures associated with the carfree movement[]

  • Goerge Monbiot is a political campaigner and columnist from the UK who has frequently expressed skepticism about the virtues of the car economy.
  • Hans Monderman is a traffic engineer who has developed the Shared Space concept, improving the harmonious co-existence of cars, pedestrians, and cyclists.
  • Ken Livingstone is the current mayor of London who has pioneered congestion charging in Europe.
  • Bertrand Delanoe is the current mayor of Paris. He has taken drastic steps to make central Paris more pedestrian-friendly, and plans to impose a complete ban on motor vehicles in the inner districts, with exemptions only for residents, businesses, and the disabled.


  • Change city-planning regulations to encourage walkable, high density urban environments.
  • Ensure that new homes and new workplaces are within reasonable distance of a public transport stop and that they are safely reachable by bicycle.
  • Stop granting legal immunity to motorists. It has become common practice that if a driver kills a person through negligent driving, the driver receives a small fine. If anyone else kills a person through a negligent activity other than driving, they receive a prison sentence. This is discriminatory, unfair, and does nothing to discourage the rise in dangerous driving on our streets.
  • Change legislation that treats all road users as equal. It is unfair that highly unequal road users, such as motor vehicles and cyclists, are not distinguished under the law. Cyclists are orders of magnitude more vulnerable than cars, so they require a level playing field, otherwise people will refrain from cycling. In a car-cycle collision, negligent behaviour by a driver often results in death of the cyclist. Negligent behaviour by a cyclist almost never kills or injures a driver. Therefore, different laws should apply to drivers and cyclists. Driver punishment for hitting cyclists and pedestrians should be harsher than for hitting other cars, to deter inconsiderate attitudes. Presumption of cyclist or pedestrain no-fault, where the motor vehicle driver is by default held responsible for a vehicle/cyclist or vehicle/pedestrain accident would seem a good step to encouraging more care on the part of drivers.
  • No free parking in cities. Public land is scarce and if people wish to use a disproportionate share of it, they must pay for it.

The debate[]

Arguments against cars in cities[]

Land use and capacity[]

Cars require high land use and have low carrying capacity. Land in cities is a limited resouce, and there is demand for large numbers of journeys. Therefore, cities that encourage car use often suffer from congestion. High land requirements for roads and parking also mean that there is less land available for other more benefitial uses such as parks. In some big cities up to 50% of the free space is devoted to the car, even if only a minority of residents use this means of transport.


Air Pollution[]

Internal combustion engines emit nitrous oxides, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, and particulate matter (soot). These can cause severe health problems, such as lung damage, asthma, and cancer.

Measures against pollution such as catalytic converters have improved the situation dramatically, but they are never 100% effective, and the sheer number of cars means that today most big cities suffer from periods of serious air pollution. In many areas, advancements in cleaner automobile technology have been cancelled out by the growth in car traffic.

Catalytic converters are designed to alter the CO (Carbon Monoxide) content of motor vehicle exhausts to CO2 (Carbon Dioxide). CO is a poison to humans, whereas CO2 has many bad effects on the planet as a whole. In summary, catalytic converters are only local benefit.

A further aspect of air pollution that is played-down by the motor industry, is the concentration of harmful gases inside of motor vehicles. Whereas it is well known that the air-quality outside of vehicles is seriously compromised, studies have detected higher levels of certain toxins inside the vehicle that outside.

The report cited above concludes:

Studies conducted over the past two decades conclusively demonstrate that the shell of an automobile does little to protect the passengers inside from the dangerous air pollutants, including respiratory irritants, neurological agents, and carcinogens, commonly found in the exhaust of gasoline and diesel vehicles. In fact, the levels of exposure to most auto pollutants, including potentially deadly particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, and carbon monoxide, are generally much higher for automobile drivers and passengers than at nearby ambient air monitoring stations or even at the side of the road.
Similarly, drivers’ exposures to these pollutants significantly exceed the significant exposures endured by bicyclists, pedestrians, and public transit riders.

Noise Pollution[]

Apart from incovenience and loss of quality of life, noise pollution from car traffic can cause health problems such as insomnia and depression. The chronic nature of noise pollution from traffic makes it particularly hazardous

Urban sprawl[]

Urban sprawl is characterised by low density development, a decentralisation of services, a segregation and homogenisation of land use, and wide, high-capacity roads designed for car traffic.


Urban sprawl blights the landscape with unsightly car parks, strip malls, and fast food restaurants. Residential areas become soulless monocultures with no feel of community or history. The distinction between town and country is lost. The lack of clear town centers adds to a sense of isolation and alienation.

Social Problems[]

Urban sprawl discourages mixing of different socioeconomic classes or cultures and can lead to ghettoisation. The long distances between work, shopping, and leisure mean that people are discouraged from walking and spend a lot of time in the car, which has contributed to obesity and social isolation.


In urban environments, large numbers of pedestrians must share the same space with cars. Drivers routinely accelerate to 30-40 mph in crowded urban areas, even though the average speed of cars in cities is only around 5-10 mph. This creates hazards for pedestrians and turns cities into threatening, unappealing environments.

Alternative forms of transport[]

Alternative forms of transport, such as metro, bus, cycling and walking are superior to the car in high density cities (ie. most cities in the world), both in terms of speed and cost. If the time taken for parking is included, the bicycle is faster than the car for journeys shorter than about 8 km. The intermodal combination of train and cycle is often faster than the car for longer distances. In many cities, residents refrain from cycling because of safety concerns, not because driving is faster.


Urban sprawl[]

Lower density settlement is often correlated with lower land prices; Homes become more affordable

  • How affordable are these home really, when you factor in need to buy a run a private car?

Arguments in favour of cars in cities[]


Some types of journey are only possible by car. Some businesses need motor vehicles to deliver services or goods. Those journeys are vital for a healthy economy.


Emergency services require motorised vehicles and wide, paved roads to work efficiently

  • Is this served by congested city streets?
  • What % of emergency calls is traffic-accident related?

Disabled travellers[]

Many disables travellers rely on a car for their mobility.



The number of journeys that require individual motorised transport is small. The vast majority of car traffic is made up of single occupancy commuters with little or no baggage. This part of the population could easily switch to public transport or bicycle and the economy would feel no effect.

A city that is designed to be car light rather than car-free would still allow the essential motorised traffic, but it would discourage commuters from using cars. Worldwide, there are several examples of areas that have thiving economies even though only a minority of residents travel by car: Manhattan, Tokyo, Hong Kong, central London, Amsterdam.


Paved roads are less use to emergency services if they are full of cars.

Arguments against cars and car infrastructure in general[]

High cost[]

According to the RAC the average cost of running a new car in the UK is GBP 5,000 (US$ 9,000) per year, or roughly one third of the average net wage, a situation reflected in most other Western nations. Nevertheless demand for automobiles remains high and inelastic, suggesting that cheaper alternatives are not readily available to the public.


Traffic accidents are one of the top 10 causes of death. Worldwide they kill approximately 1 million people, or one human being in every 6000, every year. The number of seriously injured victims is several times that. Car traffic is especially dangerous in developing nations where it kills a disproportionate number of people who aren't even members of the car owning classes.

Proponents of cars point out that this is a price worth paying, since increased mobility means higher living standards to everyone. This would be true if there was no viable replacement for cars, but a severe reduction of car usage is possibly without harming mobility, if cities are well designed.

Consumption of land[]

Car oriented infrastructure is consuming large quantities of land.

Sparsely populated regions such as North America have been able to cope with rampant land consumption so far, but densely populated parts of the world, particularly East Asia, may suffer from land shortages and other severe economic impacts if private car usage becomes ubiquitous.

Oil consumption[]

A heavy reliance on automobiles currently means a heavy reliance on a single energy source, which can create economic and political instability.

Switching to bio-fuels is also a dangerous path: to meet the motor vehicle needs, it seems likely that food crops will be displaced: [1]

Alternative forms of transport, such as passenger rail, can use the electric grid as a power source, and therefore consume a much greater variety of energy sources, including coal, gas, nuclear, hydroelectric, and wind.

Arguments in favour of cars and car infrastructure in general[]

Freedom of choice[]

The majority has chosen the car as the favoured means of transportation (although even in Europe, average car ownership per household is still less than one - just).

Economic growth[]

Without the cars, a modern economy would not function.


Freedom of choice[]

That the majority has chosen car usage is a flawed argument for two simple reasons. First, majority decisions are not automatically correct. In some cases a majority must be prevented from infringing on the basic rights of a minority. Secondly, this majority is operating in an environment not characterized by free choice. Under current conditions, at least in the US, many people are under the impression that they must have a car to participate in society whether they want to or not. In many cases this impression is false, though housing costs can be difficult to deal with, but people hold to it nonetheless. Many members of the majority also fail to consider all the evidence available to them regarding the consequences of their choice.

Transport Monopolies[]

The trend towards more out-of-town shopping centers, located on orbital roads, seriously limits people's choice: either you choose not to have a car, and must use the (diminishing) neighbourhood stores, or pay for a car and use the out-of-town stores (where it has been shown that the store owners can increase prices unchecked, as they have now a captive market).


Reliance on cars is addictive. Most people are not aware that other viable alternatives exist.

Critical Mass[]

Cars only became commonplace after massive promotion by the government (highway building, subsidies of car manufacture, car-friendly city planning), at a time when a car was still a luxury item. The car was not chosen by a majority to begin with.

Empirical evidence: The Netherlands is one of the few Western governments that have promoted other alternatives than the car enthusiastically, in particular cycling. Only 1/3 of people in the Netherlands have chosen to commute by car. 1/3 has chosen to commute by bicycle.

Collective Prisoner's dillemma problem[]

Because most of our infrastructure is designed for cars, people don't have a real choice not to use one. People who choose to go carfree are heavily penalised. Mutual defection is favoured over mutual cooperation.

Often voiced is the sentiment that a car driver would give up the car and use public transport if it suited my route or use a bike if the roads weren't so dangerous. This is a vicious circle: until demand increases, the public transport network remains sub-optimal, until the number of of cars on the road falls, the roads will be perceived as dangerous.

Economic Growth[]

Without mobility, a modern economy could not function.

  • Alternatives to the car have proven to provide similar mobility at the same cost.
  • Is there any evidence that the modern economy is a thing of great value that must be preserved?
  • A significant portion of traffic is due to goods being moved around from place to place merely to increase the profit, to leverage cheaper wages, savings that are not usually passed on to the consumer and often related to lower quality
  • A significan portion of traffic is made up of commuters, who only choose to travel by car because car-oriented infrastructure (out-of-town business parks, low density settlement, hierarchial network topology) has increased distances beyond the walkable and thus created a need to travel by car.

How to go carless[]

Most people will find the idea of going carless daunting. We are aware that living without a car isn't practicable for all living situations, but believe it is feasible for most of us. Many people who give up their car are surprised by how much their living standard increases, and never look back.

Some tips

  • Move to a walkable neighbourhood
  • Do all bulk and heavy grocery shopping online, and have it delivered once a week. Sign up with a vegetable box delivery scheme. Sign up with a milkman. Buy specialist items of food in your local deli, which ideally is within walking distance of your house.
  • Don't waste your time in out-of-town superstores. Buy as much as you can online. Use ebay and amazon etc. Only buy something offline if you need to try it before buying.
  • When going on vacations or weekend breaks, take the train or plane and rent a car on arrival.
  • Use public transport and bikes where you can. Where this isn't possible, don't be shy to take taxis. The RAC estimates that the average cost of running a car is £5,000/year, so remember, you've got all that extra cash to spend on alternatives. That's an average of 250 taxi rides every year!
  • Important: A life without a car requires more planning. Don't do chores on impulse. Use a single journey to take care of several tasks. Research train timetables, etc. before you get to the station. Buy coach and rail tickets online. Stock up on supplies before you run out. Once you get into the routine of planning, you'll notice that it's just as convenient as living with a car. Giving your life more structure will also improve your well being in general and reduce stress.
  • Use your bike intermodally. This is usually by far the fastest way of travelling, often much faster than by car. If your journey to work involves three or more bus rides, think about replacing the first and last leg of the journey with a bike. Buy a cheap second hand bike in the classifieds, and keep it locked up on the train/bus station close to your work. Or buy a folding bike and take it on the train/bus.
  • Get into the habit of miniaturisation. Don't clutter your life with bulky, heavy, and rarely used possessions. Use a laptop instead of a PC, an ipod instead of a sound system, desktop speakers instead of freestanding ones. Don't buy a TV or DVD player. Buy a TV card and watch TV on your laptop. Don't buy kitchen tools you rarely use. Buy lightweight, foldable furniture. There are two benefits: a) It will allow you to live in a smaller household, which will allow you to live in a high density development. b) You'll have less stuff to lug around, making you less dependent on a car.

What you can do[]

  • Join a car sharing scheme.
  • Raise the issue with your family and friends. Many people take today's car-dependent lifestyle for granted and rarely question its worth. Get them thinking about it.

List of organisations[]

Organisations that are explicitly opposed to car usage[]

Organisations that aren't explicitly opposed to car usage, but promote alternatives to the car[]


  • Sustrans -- charity promoting off-road recreational cycling



In-Car Air Pollution: The Hidden Threat to Automobile Drivers[]

  • The International Center for Technology Assessment.
  • Washington, DC: July 2000.
  • REPORT NO. 4
  • Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director -- Non-profit association promoting sustainable traffic policies

Related Campaigns[]

What's YOUR perspective?[]

  • I am 28 and have never felt the need to own a car in my life. I'm not a hippie. I simply think that for my purposes a car is an inferior and unnecessary technology, and it's more of a hindrance than benefit. Initially, I lived without a car because I was forced to. Once I got used to the car-free life and enjoyed it, I chose to stay that way. I travel to most places by bike and train, or a combination of the two, and I'm normally faster than my motorised friends! I have nothing against people who love cars, and I don't want to spoil their fun. But what bothers me is that if you have no car, you are treated as a second-class citizen by the government. People who drive everywhere never realise just how discriminatory government policies are against non-car users, from accident legislation to street design. We are given no real choice. What also bothers me is that many people assume that I'm some sort of extremist simply because I ride a bike and think that this is an excuse to treat me with disrespect or even violence. Klafubra 14:56, 14 July 2006 (UTC)
  • I have had many cars and motorbikes in the past, and enjoy riding/driving in the right conditions: but these days, those conditions are very hard to find (except for perhaps the Nürmburgring). Anyone who enjoys the recreational side of cars & motorbikes should support a reduction in general, utility motoring, as it would increase the quality of riding/driving: the increasing restrictions, speed limits, light-controlled junctions, stem purely from the massive number of vehicles in use - reduce the traffic volumes and increase the freedom. Who enjoys sitting in traffic? I think that given the possibility to use a good mass transport system to replace the daily, boring commute but be able to get out at the weekend/evenings and enjoy motoring as it used to be (and still is in the car adverts) would be ideal. Sothach 10:38, 18 July 2006 (CET)

Related wiki[]