By Chisomo Phiri
Roads Safety Alert Foundation (ROSAF) says all is set for Car Free Day Malawi on September 29,2023 where the general public is requested and encouraged to leave their cars home and use walking and/or cycling or public transport as a mode of transport to work, school, businesses and their respective destinations.
Speaking in an interview with 247 Malawi News, ROSAF Executive Director (ED) Joel Jere said the main aim for the day is to reduce air pollution that comes from the vehicles and also promote healthy living through active mobility of walking and cycling and reduce road crashes through decongesting our roads hence reducing the mixture of traffic and people.
He said the initiative which is voluntary excludes emergency vehicles like ambulances and firetruck.
Said Jere :”This Day is very important to Malawi as it highlights the numerous benefits of going car-free to citizens including reduced air pollution through limiting emissions that come from vehicles; promoting healthy living through active mobility of walking and cycling in a safer environment; as well as reducing road crashes through decongesting the roads and minimizing crash risks where traffic mixes with people.
“It is line with efforts towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) for 2030 and 2063.”
According to Jere, the idea of Car Free Day dates back to somewhere around 1994 worldwide, when a paper on reducing dependence on cars was distributed at an international conference.
He said in the late 1990s, several European cities began planning car-free projects.
“In 2000, it was decided to make the day self-standing and held on September 22, and cities worldwide were invited to participate.
“The Environmental Transport Association started Car-Free Day on the first Tuesday of their Green Transport Week.
“But Car Free Day became much more organized around the year 2000, and 2004 to be specific. The day has since been widely embraced worldwide. But in Malawi ROSAF has taken the initiative to hold this Car Free Day for the first time ever now in 2023,” said Jere.
Asked on what made them to introduce the day here in Malawi, the ED said :” ROSAF as road safety body we initiate and domesticate all evidenced based major Global Road Safety agendas that have proved effective in reducing road crashes, promoting climate change, reducing fatalities, and promoting safety for vulnerable road user among other areas. And Car Free Day is one such initiative as it promotes walking and cycling as sustainable transport models that are inclusive and adaptive to modern climate challenges.
“So we have brought the Car Free Day to Malawi to challenge our cities to match other cities worldwide where walking and cycling is model.”
He said the activities on the day include Walking, Cycling, Dancing,Cycling competitions and others.
He explained:”It will be just a place where people can come and enjoy themselves.
“Along the street, there will be Buffalo Bicycles where people will ride for distances as one way of promoting and also the youths will have the opportunity to learn how to assemble Buffalo bicycles and so on.”
Jere then urged the general public to embrace the special day by participating in the activities that have been lined up.
“We as ROSAF are just leading. Car Free Days are celebrated all over the world and it is through our participation as a country that international organizations that promote walking and cycling can become interested to come to Malawi and partner with the government to initiate projects that improves the walking and cycling environment like construction of separate and dedicated walkways for pedestrians and cycle ways for cyclists as well as street lights so that the majority of Malawians who already walk and cycle can do that in a safer and secure environment,” urged Jere.
He added :” We know that this being the first time, nothing will be perfect and we are looking forward to learn a lot of lessons so that we improve it next year. The good thing is we have started and we will scale it up as we go.”
ROSAF is a local non-profit organization that works towards reducing road crashes in Malawi.
Its main objective is to reduce road crashes in Malawi with 50 percent by 2030 in line with the 2021-2030 UN Decade of Action on Road Safety.
The foundation’s interventions include road safety awareness campaigns and civic education, road safety school programs, road safety advocacy, promotion of walking and cycling, speed management and reduction campaigns, climate change, and advocating for a safer road environment for all road users.
Established in 2016, ROSAF is registered with the government of Malawi, NGO Regulatory Authority (NGORA) and is a member of the Global Alliance of NGOs on Road Safety as well as the SADC Alliance of NGOs on road safety.