An online petition has been launched urging Nicosia municipality to declare one Sunday a month a car free day.
Launched by Bicycle Mayor of Nicosia, Streets4All Cyprus, Urban Gorillas and Battle of the Pedestrians, the petition notes that the coronavirus epidemic, despite the difficulties, has had positive aspects — seeing our city free of car traffic, quiet streets, fresher air and bluer skies.
Through the lockdown we have been able to experience this new atmosphere and enjoy the pleasure of walking and cycling unhindered by car traffic and noise, exploring our neighbourhoods and noticing its blooming trees and flowers, cherishing from a distance the sight of other pedestrians and cyclists on the streets, with children enthusiastic of waiving at unknown passers-by and even discovering acquaintances who had been our neighbours for years, the petition reads.
Nicosia has hidden treasures in every neighbourhood, and our short outdoor escapes gave us a feeling of longing for a more human city. At the same time, because of the lockdown, we had little opportunity to enjoy this newly found atmosphere – one which is much nearer to a liveable city, that we should be able to enjoy on a daily basis.
“We believe that, as things return to normal, we should not forget and put aside the benefits that we have discovered, but rather that we should learn from them and aim to retain the positive aspects that the unforeseen circumstances imposed by the COVID-19 epidemic have brought to us,” it adds.
“We therefore put this petition to the Mayor of Nicosia Constantinos Yiorkadjis: when the lockdown has ended and the COVID-19 epidemic is safely under control, implement a car free day in Nicosia one Sunday every month. An event day without cars should take place within central Nicosia one Sunday per month from 10am to 6pm, so as to enable loading and unloading and ensure time to initiate and complete long-distance travel during the day. Circulation on this day should only be permitted to buses (with enhanced service to enable movement), taxis, emergency vehicles and designated necessary trips (assistance to ill and vulnerable people, hospital visits, transport for people with disabilities).”
As benefits of such an initiative, the petition cites:
• Health. Encouraging and fostering walking and cycling on a regular basis will have long-term benefits for the health (both physical and mental) of the population. This will be coupled with a reduction in pollution levels and their negative health effects.
• Climate Change. The reduction in CO₂ emissions and air pollution will contribute to mitigating climate change and the urban heat island effect, which also have negative health impacts and reduce the sustainability of our city.
• Economy. Research has shown that pedestrian movement, rather than car traffic, is highly beneficial to retail trade. While long-distance movement may be more limited on such days, it will foster local economic activities across different areas of the city rather than concentrating them in a few hotspots, thus creating opportunities for local business to thrive and develop.
• Urban Life and Governance. The quality of urban life will increase greatly, providing opportunities to enjoy the environment, socialise, enhance our neighbourhoods and innovate the way we experience and use the city. It will show strong leadership towards long-term goals for sustainable urban governance and economy.
• Environmental Culture. It will initiate and foster environmental awareness and a culture of movement through active modes of transport as well as a habit to use public transport. This will support the development of an effective public transport system in the city by ensuring that residents have the knowledge, experience and confidence to use public transport.
• Road safety. The increase in numbers of pedestrians and cyclists will foster greater respect and attention to different road users and will encourage improvement of the current street infrastructure and pavement network, increasing road safety of all citizens – children, elderly and people with disabilities – creating a more inclusive mobility network in the capital.