Having attracted in the upwards of 50,000 people circa 2009, In Town, Without My Car! used to turn downtown Montreal into one of the largest car-free zones in North America for a day. A sustainable mobility initiative that debuted in downtown Montreal in 2003, En ville, sans ma voiture! changed the downtown landscape dramatically for a few hours. Noise typically went down by eight decibels (a 34% decline in perceived noise by the human ear) and nitric oxide -- a common car exhaust pollutant and lung irritant -- levels dropped by as much as 70%. But all good initiatives come to an end, it seems, and the car-free perimeter that used to characterize the heart of downtown Montreal circa 2009 is a thing of the past.
Car-Free Day Montreal: September 20, 2013: What Part of Downtown is Blocked Off?
A small block on the edge of Old Montreal, in the heart of the city's financial district, will be inaccessible to cars for 24 hours, from midnight to midnight on September 20, 2013. There will also be small-scale street closures in different parts of the city in observance. Scroll to the bottom of this webpage for the map.
Car-Free Day Perimeters From Years Past
The small 2013 and 2011 car-free perimeters arguably reflect driver ire over the annual event. Furthermore, according to the Agence métropolitaine de Montréal (AMT), the organizers behind Montreal's car-free day, downtown businesses claimed financial losses over the closed streets. Here's a map of the 2010 perimeter to give a sense of how much bigger the perimeter used to be, complete with personal diatribe on the subject of the event. In 2011, that same area shrunk significantly. As for 2012, there was no car-free perimeter at all, save a few symbolic street closures outside of the city core.
Why Should Motorists Care About Reducing Car Reliance?
According to AMT, single-occupant car use impacts everyone's quality of life in the city. Here are just a couple of reasons to beat the habit:
- reduce greenhouse gas emissions (transportation is responsible for 47% of Montreal's greenhouse gas emissions and 10% of respiratory diseases are linked, even caused by smog in Montreal)
- reduce noise (road vehicles create about 75% of downtown Montreal's ambient noise, recorded at over 80 decibels in higher traffic zones, which, according to the World Health Organization, is a high enough noise level to make people aggressive as well as cause sleeping, hearing and cardiovascular disorders)
Organized by the Agence Métropolitaine de Montréal along with the city of Montreal, the Société de Transport de Montréal and the Quebec government, In Town Without My Car! is an international event that first started in France in 1998. The initiative caught on, with In Town Without My Car! events spreading across Europe and by 2002, the one-day-a-year sustainable mobility event was super sized by the European Commission to last a full week. Christened the European Mobility Week, 2000 cities and towns around the world participate in the week long event. In 2003, Montreal became the first Canadian city -- and was still the only Canadian and North American city in 2008 -- to participate in the En Ville, Sans Ma Voiture! climate change awareness campaign by imposing traffic blocks. Other cities, including Toronto, a city claiming to be the first in Canada to participate in the car-free day festivities in 2001, do encourage residents to leave vehicles at home, promoting car-free days on the same date as In Town Without My Car! but without actually closing streets. However, Toronto changed that by closing off Yonge Street in 2009, from Dundas to Shuter, a car-free first for the city.
For more information on In Town, Without My Car!, consult the En Ville sans ma voiture website.