Residents in the South Korean city of Suwon have just spent a month without cars, and the world didn’t end!

Over 4000 residents were forced to leave their vehicles at home and opt for public transport and a variety of ‘ecomobiles’ as Suwon hosted the world’s first ‘EcoMobility World Festival 2013’. A joint initiative between the Germany-based International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) and the city of Suwon, the EcoMobility World Festival as an experiment of sorts, aiming to show the world that you don’t really need a car to survive in a city.

Although local residents were understandably concerned by the prospect, the city worked closely with resident and business representatives to put suitable alternatives in place to keep the city moving.

Away from the tourists, the media attention and transport experts, the Festival’s main focus was the everyday experience of 4,343 residents who undertook the challenge of life without cars for an entire month. In place of driving, residents of all ages from all walks of life made their commute to work, to school, shops and leisure activities on foot, with pedal power, or light electric vehicles. Residents discovered that in a neighbourhood without cars, the spaces between buildings transform from car parks and conduits, to places to gather, linger and enjoy.

Organizers and participants say the project could be a model for city life in the future.

Although the positive response to a city without cars won’t come as a surprise to most urban designers, or even transport planners, it is the sheer enthusiasm that the local council has been able to muster from the initiative which is perhaps a little exciting. South Korea is a car-dominated society which is slowly grinding to a halt as urbanisation and car ownership both skyrocket with their economic growth.

While shifting people out of cars and onto sustainable transport modes in the long term was the central aim of the Festival, residents have begun to notice additional lasting benefits in their community. “What inspired me was seeing not just how the physical neighborhood was altered, but how the residents’ mindsets changed and they came on board,” commented Kyeong-ah Ko, Community Director for Suwon City. “As well as supporting each other during the month, the residents developed new imaginative ideas for public space and a strong social structure which will benefit their community long after the Festival has ended.”

Read more about the event here or check out the Festival Report here and see what you think.


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