Thousands of people across Ethiopia walked, ran and cycled today, as the country held its first Car-Free Day.
Just 18 days after Ethiopia’s Minister of Health, Dr Amir Aman, announced that 9 December would see Ethiopia go car-free, major roads usually clogged with traffic in seven cities were closed to vehicles.
Residents were led on walks and mass exercises, and participants were offered free medical screening in tents set up along the routes.
Generally, city-dwellers in Ethiopia are not in the habit of exercising, according to the BBC’s Amensisa Negera, in Addis Ababa.
Ethiopia’s effort follows that of fellow east African nation Rwanda, which launched its first Car-Free Day in May 2016, banning driving in certain parts of the capital, an event that has since become a bi-monthly feature on the city’s calendar.
Yet another major city in the region, Kenyan capital Nairobi, is also mulling instituting the concept, which is catching on around the world.
Globally, outdoor air pollution caused 4.2 million deaths in 2016, and transport is responsible for a large proportion of air pollution in cities around the world.
Car-free days are a powerful way to raise overall awareness of the harm caused by air pollution, factors affecting air quality and the multiple health benefits gained by other forms of transport; UN Environment describes car-free days as “a massive opportunity for cities to realize how much pollution affects our lives”.
“Most cities have been designed around mobility for cars, and it is high time we change this and start designing cities around human mobility,” said Head of UN Environment’s Air Quality and Mobility Unit, Rob de Jong, whose unit leads UN Environment efforts– through the Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles— to help countries improve their cities’ air quality by adopting cleaner fuels and more efficient vehicle technologies and standards.
Related article: World Car-Free Day on 22 September a great opportunity to reduce air pollution
Banner photo by David Samuel Santos/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.