Car-Free Day promotes eco-friendly transportation in Evanston

Kris Anne Bonifacio

Northwestern students and their neighbors can forgo their cars for buses, trains and even free goody bags by participating in Chicagoland Car-Free Day on Wednesday.

The city has joined efforts with the Active Transportation Alliance for the second annual event, which encourages residents of Chicago and the surrounding suburbs to avoid using their cars for one day and either walk, ride bicycles or use buses and trains. Drivers and those who already use alternate means of transportation on a daily basis, such as students, can take the pledge by signing their names on the ATA’s website, www.activetrans.org/carfree.

“It’s part of our Climate Action Plan,” said Eric Palmer, Evanston’s community information coordinator. “Our goal is to make people aware about the consequences of greenhouse gas emissions and start thinking about walking to their destination or supporting local transportation instead of driving their cars.”

The city planned a special event that will be held Wednesday from 6 to 9 a.m. at 909 Davis St. A rally at 8 a.m. will feature two guest speakers, and the event will include free food, bike check-ups, a bike rodeo for kids, an extra bike corral and valet bike parking. Attendees will also have a chance to win a bike from Turin Bicycle, a bike accessory package, an ATA membership package and Chicago Transit Authority, Metra and Pace Bus passes.

“We will be handing out goody bags at the event, with a lot of educational information, such as rules of the road for bicycles and bike trail maps,” said Rachel Aukeman, interim sustainable programs coordinator for the city. “We’re also going to have a Pace Bus there, and we’ll teach people how to load your bike on public transportation and just give them general information on public transportation services.”

Aside from the events the city has planned, residents can also benefit from the special discounts pledgers will receive after signing up online. These incentives include discounts at Argo Tea, Sports Authority, ING Direct Cafe and more.

Last year, 1,200 Chicagoland residents signed up to take the pledge, said Ethan Spotts, director of marketing for ATA. More than 1,000 people have signed up for the pledge thus far.

“I’m really hoping we’ll get above 1,200,” he said. “We’re really excited about it. We’re anticipating it’ll keep growing every year.”

Representatives from Evanston and ATA said they hope the event, part of the international World Carfree Day effort, will be a stepping stone for residents to decrease their use of personal vehicles on a daily basis in an effort to reduce their carbon footprint. Public transportation outlets, such as the Regional Transit Authority, the CTA, the Metra and the Pace Bus system, have been working in partnership with the ATA to promote the event and look to reap long-term benefits from it, said Patrick Wilmot, spokesman for Pace.

“It’s a good opportunity for us to attract new riders,” Wilmot said.. “There’s a stigma that transit in the suburbs is limited, but more often than not, when people look into the services we offer, there’s a lot more depth than they expect.”

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