"Put it away. Uncar for a day."
That's the message that local organizers of Car Free Day 2014 are sending to encourage more Washington area commuters and others who usually drive to give up their car for a day and try walking, bicycling, taking transit, carpooling, or teleworking instead.
This year's Car Free Day is set for Monday, September 22, and millions of people in more than 1,500 cities in 40 countries worldwide are expected to participate.
Car Free Day got its start in Europe in the mid-1990s and went global in 2000 as a way to celebrate sustainable mobility options during International Mobility Week.
The event made its debut in the Washington region in 2008, led by Commuter Connections, a program of the Transportation Planning Board that encourages area commuters to use modes other than driving alone to get to and from work each day.
By encouraging fewer trips by automobile, Car Free Day aims to raise awareness of transportation alternatives, reduce congestion and parking demands, improve the region's air quality, and conserve limited energy resources.
One unique way that many cities promote participation in Car Free Day is by closing off main roads or other large areas normally used by cars and reserving those spaces for use by pedestrians, bicyclists, and public transit vehicles.
Though no large-scale closures are planned in the Washington region this year, a number of local events will feature smaller-scale closures, a trend that organizers hope will continue in coming years.
The goal for this year's event is to receive pledges from at least 10,000 people to go car-free, or to go "car-lite" by carpooling or making fewer trips by car. Numerous sponsors, including local transit agencies and private service providers, as well as several local media partners, will help spread the word about the event.
Participation in Car Free Day isn't limited to people who normally drive. Those who already lead mostly car-free lifestyles can also make the pledge.
For more information about this year's Car Free Day event and to pledge to participate, visit www.CarFreeMetroDC.org. You can also follow Car Free Day on Facebook or Twitter. Those who pledge to go car-free or car-lite will be entered to win one of many prizes, including a Kindle Fire, SmarTrip cards loaded with Metro fare, fitness memberships, and more.