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UK drivers could save over €150 and win prizes for giving up their cars next month - here’s how

12 drivers took part in a car free challenge in Oxford earlier this year.
12 drivers took part in a car free challenge in Oxford earlier this year. Copyright AP Photo/Caroline Spiezio
Copyright AP Photo/Caroline Spiezio
By Lottie Limb
Published on
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The campaign from Possible highlights practical ways that the British public can tackle climate change.

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Drivers in the UK who give up their car next month could save around €150 for their effort and even win a prize.

The initiative comes from Possible, a climate action charity based in London, which is seeking to prise motorists away from their vehicles with its ‘Going Car Free Challenge’ in June.

It might seem like a small step, but transport produces over a quarter of the UK’s carbon emissions, with private cars the biggest contributor.

“This challenge aims to show people across the country (or even the world) that going without a car is already possible with a little initiative in places that already have decent public transport and walking and cycling routes,” Izzy Romilly, sustainable transport campaign manager at Possible tells Euronews Green.

Transport is a “problem child” across the continent, as a recent analysis from EU campaign group Transport & Environment (T&E) shows. Cars burning petrol and diesel make up 40 per cent of transport emissions, which are on track to comprise almost half of Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

European cities have been tackling the issue in various ways, making public transport more accessible while rewarding citizens with the perks of cleaner air and clearer roads.

What does the UK car free scheme involve?

If you’re looking to cut down on car use, Possible’s challenge provides a supportive and incentivising framework in which to do so.

And you don’t have to lock up your car keys at the end of May, either, with the emphasis on reducing car travel rather than having to stop altogether. A month of climate-friendly travel could entail swapping your daily commute or school run by car to bus or bicycle or making a car-free day or week commitment.

It’s intended to be a conversation starter too. Possible suggests talking to friends and family about the importance of active travel or writing to your local council about the need for people-friendly streets.

Milestones like these are built into the Going Car Free Challenge, which interested people can sign up to online. If you do so before 24 June, you’ll also be in with a chance of winning (currently) mystery prizes from Possible, with the winners announced at the end of July.

A similar Car Free trial organised by the charity in 2022 saw participants save up to £30 (€35) a week on average.

How hard is it to give up your car?

12 drivers took part in a more localised challenge in Oxford, England in March - fully giving up their cars for three weeks.

“The problem of cars, in terms of pollution, in terms of congestion, is becoming so big,” said Louise, a physiotherapist living in the city. “It was really nice being able to cycle to work, rather than sitting in the road, watching the traffic.”

As a mum of three children under six, she did find some aspects tricky - such as planning and taking longer bus journeys to get to swimming lessons. But her children loved the experience since they didn’t like being stuck inside the car anyway.

It revealed to her where sustainable travel could be improved for children in the city; she thinks policymakers should focus on making public transport more accessible and providing off-road cycle paths.

“I was surprised by how I didn’t miss the car,” said Katherine, an artist and garden designer in her 70s. “Having a proficiency cycling session was really useful because I’ve never properly learnt to cycle."

By braving two wheels, and using the bus and car shares when she had bulkier items, Katherine managed to cut the carbon emissions from her journeys by 73 per cent.

“It was easy, I really enjoyed it. Meeting people especially… If you walk, by saying good morning you start conversations,” recalled mental health nurse Elizabeth, who spends £2,331 (€2,738) a year on her car.

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Of the dozen people who took part in the trial, 10 said they are planning to keep their car use down.

Where else in Europe is experimenting with car-free time?

“Going car-free is not a new concept and the UK only needs to look at our counterparts in Europe to see that it is possible,” says Romilly.

She points to several cities which have pioneered schemes to reduce the cost of public transport, led a widespread launch of bikes and e-bikes coupled with increased cycle routes, and clamped down on cars in the city centres.

“Pontevedra in Spain banned cars from its city centre in the early 2000s, while low-traffic neighbourhoods and 20mph (32kmph) streets are common in many cities in Germany,” she adds.

“Several European cities, including Paris, Brussels, Copenhagen, Berlin, and Amsterdam have an annual car-free day, allowing pedestrians and cyclists to travel at leisure throughout the capitals without worrying about cars.”

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Under the green vision of Mayor Anne Hidalgo, Paris also introduced a Paris Respire (Paris Breathes) scheme in 2016, whereby parts of the capital are closed to motorised traffic for one Sunday a month.

Romilly says that Possible’s car-free campaign aims to “bridge the gap” between the UK and more progressive European countries, at least “until politicians do what needs to be done” in removing existing barriers to reduce car use.

Hundreds of people have signed up for the June challenge so far, she says, and for UK citizens it’s not too late to join them here.

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