Feature on VCS Car-free Shopping Day

Copyright: VCS Verkehrs-Club Schweiz

Here at Pedestrian Space, we currently live in the middle of a city, haven’t used a car for years and do all of our grocery shopping on foot.

However, it wasn’t always that way. We have many experiences and memories of living in other places where we relied on the car for nearly all errands. We have memories of living in rural areas where walking to a grocery store was convenient due to small village life but also memories of living in rural and suburban areas where it was neither safe nor convenient to walk to any store.

Mobility choices are naturally often a result of issues of practicality, safety and convenience but also psychology of movment and habit. So we value discussions about influencing the psychology of choice and the nuts and bolts of changing our habits.

With this in mind, it was great to have a moment to connect with VCS Verkehrs-Club der Schweiz, who recently hosted the first “Car Free Shopping Day” in Switzerland.

Committed to environmentally and climate-friendly transport since it was founded, VCS Verkehrs-Club der Schweiz advocates in multiple ways for mobility without the use of a private car. Their vision includes a commitment to advocating for efficient and affordable public transport, car-free settlements, sustainable transport policies, speed reductions and safe, attractive bike and footpaths.

Source: VCS Car-Free Shopping Day photo gallery

Another of their initiatives focuses on advocating for car-free shopping. On May 8th, 2021, VCS organized the 1st Car-Free Shopping day. This month we engaged with the VCS team to learn more.

Pedestrian Space: How was the Car-free shopping day initiative conceptualized? 

VCS: The idea for the day has several components:

• People and the Environment (Quality of Life): Reduce motorized traffic

• Because shopping is 3rd place car use: give positive examples of shopping and leisure mobility

• History: Car-free Sundays in Switzerland during the oil crisis of the 1970s – a common experience

• To offer people the opportunity to become active with VCS, raising attention, awareness and commitment

• One day to point out the importance of shopping without a car, to make a difference for less Co2 consumption.

Copyright: VCS Verkehrs-Club Schweiz

Pedestrian Space: How did VCS work to engage citizens to participate in the Car-free shopping day?

VCS: Through different channels including partners and VCS divisions, information stands with give-aways to the public, a challenge related to Covid measures and encouragement via internet and social media. We also advocated for the day via our website, a web-based quiz, a photo competition and a media release.

Pedestrian Space: Is the Car-Free shopping day a Switzerland-wide initiative?

VCS: Yes, in all parts of the country, in three languages (De, Fr, It) – and despite the pandemic.

Copyright: VCS Verkehrs-Club Schweiz

Pedestrian Space: What are the various shifts that VCS envisions that need to happen at both the micro and macro level to allow for people to shop more sustainably?

VCS: On the macro-level, spatial planning so that distances between work, home, leisure, shopping are short (15-minute, walkable city). On the micro-level, more cargo bikes, protected bike parking, infrastructures – there is a lot of potential here.

Also, better development of cycle paths- there is a lot of potential here, to have cycle infrastructure as exists in the Netherlands and Denmark, for example.

Pedestrian Space: What does VCS perceive as the obstacles in shifting to more sustainable urban mobility, as well as potentials for significant change over coming years?

VCS: Obstacles include the political situation, too few guard rails or incentives. Opportunities include that we are very active in low-car / car-free webinars and activities and there is a great deal of potential in spatial planning.

Copyright: VCS Verkehrs-Club Schweiz

“It is important to the VCS – ATE Swiss Association for transport and environment – to make the population aware of the issue of shopping trips. We at the VCS can and want to make as many people as possible think about their shopping trips and their climate compatibility for one day a year. We have a lot of potential for improvement here. After all, the aim of car-free shopping day is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as noise and other sources of pollution. Statistics show how important the issue of shopping trips is for the climate and the environment:

– Shopping traffic ranks 3rd in terms of traffic causes (after work and leisure traffic).

– 40 percent of all shopping trips are made by car

– To transport relatively small amounts of shopping (5-20), a car of around 3 tonnes is set in motion disproportionately.

– Stress factor: Even if the waiting time for a free parking space at the shopping centre is longer than the journey from home to the destination, the car dominates shopping traffic.

-VCS Media Release
Source: VCS Car-Free Shopping Day photo gallery

Visit VCS online at https://www.vcs-carfree.ch/