Car-free Sundays return to Flemish cities, fun, chaos and all

Summary

Car-free Sundays are taking place at cities across the region this Sunday, with attendant concerts, bicycle tours and kids' games

Lazy Sunday activities

I’m just old enough to remember the car-free Sundays of 1973, and especially the image of a helicopter flying over the almost empty highways, sporadically dotted with solitary cars whose owners had obtained a permit to drive that day.

Those car-free Sundays were a reaction to the oil crisis that lead to a shortage of petrol: By forcing people out of their cars, the government hoped to economise on the consumption of oil.

When, 20  years ago, the idea of car-free days resurfaced, it was not the shortage of oil that inspired the organisers, but their concern for the state of the planet. Thanks to that environmental side, the enthusiasm for a car-free day now is much greater than in 1973, when it was seen as a  punishment.

You won’t see empty highways, though, because in the 21st century a car-free day happens inside a city’s borders. Those cities seize the opportunity to host all kind of activities: concerts, bicycle tours, kids' games and other kinds of things that typically fill a lazy Sunday.

By the way, the traffic rules still do apply on Car-free Sunday, though you often don’t have that impression. As a matter of fact, in the centre of Brussels – I speak from experience – it’s at times more dangerous for a pedestrian on that day than on your average Sunday because of the number of inexperienced cyclists and because no one is looking out for that bus or stray car with a permit to drive. But don’t let that spoil the fun.

Flemish cities don’t seem to want to agree on a date, so Leuven, Hasselt, Antwerp and Ghent have already had their Car-free Sundays, but most other cities (Brussels, Bruges, Turnhout, Kortrijk…) hold theirs on 21 September. 

Car-free Sundays are taking place at cities across the region this Sunday, with attendant concerts, bicycle tours and kids' games.

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