MD2602 World Car Free Day 2020

Type of decision: 
Mayoral decision
Date signed: 
18 March 2020
Decision by: 
Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London

Executive summary

World Car Free Day is celebrated around the world annually on 22 September. The event encourages drivers to give up their cars for the day and, in some cities, organised activities take place to celebrate streets that are normally dominated by cars. On 22 September 2019, London’s biggest ever car free day event ‘Reimagine’ was delivered by Transport for London (TfL) on behalf of the Mayor of London and in partnership with the City of London Corporation and the boroughs of Southwark and Tower Hamlets. Following on from the success of this event, the Mayor wishes to again host a World Car Free Day event in central London to allow Londoners to take over streets ordinarily dominated by motor vehicles.

It is proposed that Transport for London (TfL) deliver the event on behalf of the Mayor due to its experience of delivering the ‘Reimagine’ event in 2019 as well as similar large-scale closed road events such as RideLondon. The World Car Free Day event will promote walking, cycling, improvements to air quality and a reduction in car use, in line with the Mayor’s Transport Strategy, Healthy Streets Approach and London Environment Strategy.

A delegation to TfL of the Mayor’s general and subsidiary powers under the GLA Act 1999 is required to enable TfL to deliver a World Car Free Day event on 20 September 2020 (or other date if postponed) as some aspects of delivery of the event may exceed TfL’s normal statutory functions as a highway authority and traffic authority in respect of the TfL Road Network (TLRN).


The Mayor authorises Transport for London under section 38(1) of the Greater London Authority Act 1999 (“the GLA Act”, as amended) to exercise the Greater London Authority’s powers under sections 30(1) and 34(1) of the GLA Act for the purposes of coordinating, supporting, preparing and delivering a World Car Free Day event on Sunday 20 September 2020 (or other date if postponed) and connected initiatives in accordance with the Delegation set out at the Appendix.

Part 1: Non-confidential facts and advice

Introduction and background

World Car Free Day is a decentralised event held annually on 22 September. No single organisation has global oversight of all activities but, since 1994, countries and cities have celebrated the day on, or close to, 22 September and activities have included: races for alternative-energy powered vehicles in Budapest, horse-riding in São Paulo, street picnics in Vienna, and running in Jakarta. Some cities celebrate the initiative more frequently than just the annual World Car Free Day, including Bogota which closes roads every Sunday for street games and celebrations, walking, and cycling.

On 22 September 2019, London’s biggest ever car free day event ‘Reimagine’ was delivered by TfL on behalf of the Mayor of London and in partnership with the City of London Corporation and the boroughs of Southwark and Tower Hamlets. For the first time, a strategic partnership and coordinated marketing and communications approach was created, with a flagship central London event to catalyse the World Car Free Day movement across London.

Following the success of the 2019 event, the Mayor wishes to again host a World Car Free Day event in central London to allow Londoners to take over streets ordinarily dominated by motor vehicles. The World Car Free Day 2020 event will promote walking, cycling, improvements to air quality and a reduction in car use, in line with the Mayor’s Transport Strategy, Healthy Streets Approach and London Environment Strategy (see section 4).

London has proved its expertise in hosting major world class sporting and cultural events with TfL working with multiple delivery partners and stakeholders to successfully deliver high profile road cycling events amongst other similar initiatives. In addition to the 2019 ‘Reimagine’ event, this has included the annual London Marathon and RideLondon events, the Tour de France Grand Départ in 2007, the Tour of Britain 2004-2011, Hovis Freeride and Skyride from 2007 to 2011, and cycling events for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

London already provides a number of car free events such as New Year’s Eve and Lumiere in addition to the aforementioned sport-related events. For World Car Free Day 2019 TfL worked with 27 boroughs to facilitate and support local car free day events and play streets, with 625 streets closed across London. This collaboration will continue and expand in 2020 and the central London car free day event will provide greater profile to these more local events.

TfL’s participation in similar events to date has been enabled by arranging delegations of the Mayor’s general powers to further the promotion of economic development, environmental improvement and social development under section 30 of the GLA Act 1999, together with his subsidiary powers under section 34 of that Act. This is because many of the activities involved are likely to go beyond TfL’s normal statutory functions as a highway and traffic authority for the TLRN. The Mayor is asked to delegate to TfL these powers to be exercised as it considers necessary or expedient for the purposes of co-ordinating, supporting, preparing and delivering all or any aspects of the proposed World Car Free Day event.

The staging of the event is likely to cost TfL £800,000; this has been included in TfL’s 2020-21 budget and is earmarked to support the Car Free Day event.

Objectives and expected outcomes

The event will be a celebration of London’s Healthy Streets Approach in line with the Mayor’s Transport Strategy objective for 80 per cent of trips to be made on foot, by cycle or using public transport by 2040.

The Healthy Streets Approach provides a framework for putting human health and experience at the heart of planning the city. It uses evidence-based indicators to assess the experience of being on our streets. Good performance against the indicators means that individual streets are appealing places to walk, cycle and spend time. Improvements against all the indicators across the city will radically transform the day-to-day experience of living in London, helping to fulfil the Mayor’s Transport Strategy’s overall aim of creating a better city for more people to live and work in.

The 2019 ‘Reimagine’ central London event attracted over 70,000 people with further participation across the 27 boroughs that hosted complementary World Car Free Day events and Play Streets. Higher attendance (up to 150,000 people) is expected this year as the event builds on last year’s success. In 2019, concentrations of nitrogen dioxide in the central event area were 40% lower on the day of the event compared to the day before, and there was a 10% reduction in traffic in central London. It is expected that there will be an even greater improvement in air quality and reduction in car journeys, as well as wider positive social, economic and environmental impacts in line with Healthy Streets.

A YouGov poll immediately following the 2019 ‘Reimagine’ event found 65% of Londoners saying they were inspired by Car Free Day events to use a car less. It is hoped another World Car Free Day event will inspire even more Londoners of all ages to get active as part of their daily lives by attracting people to walk or cycle including those who do not walk or cycle regularly.

Further insights from the YouGov poll found that 57% of Londoners think a Car Free Day event in London is a good idea. Hosting the event again will help embed World Car Free Day in London’s calendar of high-profile events, showcasing London’s iconic assets through a focus on sport, recreation and healthy living.

A World Car Free Day event on 20 September 2020 will tie in with other London-wide festivals including Open House London. It will provide an opportunity for Londoners to experience a considerable area of the city, usually blighted by motor vehicle dominance and poor air quality, in a positive way.

The central London event footprint will host a cycling loop and a walking route along the river and include Open House weekend locations. Accessible, fun and family friendly activities will be part of themed journeys aligning to Healthy Streets around the event area. Educational content will be shared and participation as well as spectating activities will be encouraged. Local stakeholders and TfL’s current active travel partners will be involved in the scoping of content.

Equality comments

Under section 149 of the Equality Act 2010, as public authorities, the Mayor and TfL are subject to the public sector equality duty and must have due regard to the need to (i) eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation; (ii) advance equality of opportunity between people who share a relevant protected characteristic and those who do not; and (iii) foster good relations between people who share a relevant protected characteristic and those who do not. Relevant protected characteristics under section 149 of the Equality Act are age, disability, gender re-assignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.

In developing and implementing the planned World Car Free Day event, TfL has systems and processes designed to highlight potentially adverse impacts on protected groups. The TfL Diversity and Inclusion team will be informed and consulted with as part of the Delivery Working Group for the event and consulted on an Equality Impact Assessment on the proposed plans.

Access requirements will be considered for the agreed event footprint, ensuring access to and around the event for all participants, including those with mobility impairments, as part of the planning process. Information about GLA and TfL requirements to ensure an accessible event has been included in the Invitation to Tender for the event supplier and the appointed supplier will be expected to adhere to this at every stage of event delivery. TfL will develop its event plans in consultation with the Independent Disability Advisory Group (IDAG) and the City of London Corporation Accessibility Group. TfL will work closely with these groups, the City of London and other event stakeholders to ensure businesses, residents and visitors are made aware of provisions for access to and within the event footprint.

Other considerations

a) Risks and issues

Due to the central London footprint of the event there are unforeseen national or international events that could impact wider traffic management in the area or lead to the event being cancelled or postponed. TfL will work closely with the event supplier to develop contingency and communications plans to respond to this.

Given the high-profile nature of the event and the necessity of closing streets and limiting motor vehicle access to a large area of central London, TfL has identified the need to engage with a broad group of stakeholders to limit exposure to reputational risk to the Mayor/GLA. Further detail on consultations with stakeholder groups is set out below and in section 3.

The event supplier will maintain a risk register that will address key risks to the successful delivery of the event.

b) Links to Mayoral Strategies and priorities

A large-scale World Car Free event in central London will contribute to delivering the Mayor’s Transport Strategy and the London Environment Strategy. Both strategies support a reduction in car dependency and traffic dominance, which have many negative impacts on cities and their residents. These impacts include increasing inactivity and road danger, worsening air pollution and noise, congestion, and creating severance between people and communities. A successful World Car Free Day event will help demonstrate that the only way to tackle all of the problems associated with car dependency and traffic dominance is to reduce car use directly, through mode shift towards walking, cycling and public transport use.

Policy 5 of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy states “The Mayor, through TfL and the boroughs, and working with stakeholders, will prioritise space-efficient modes of transport to tackle congestion and improve the efficiency of streets for the movement of people and goods, with the aim of reducing overall traffic levels by 10-15 per cent by 2041.”

Similarly, Proposal 4.2.1.a of the London Environment Strategy is “The Mayor will promote and prioritise more sustainable travel in London, including walking, cycling and public transport, as part of the Healthy Streets Approach.”

The Environment Strategy encourages more car-free days in central London, town centres, high streets and other locations to enable people to experience their local area from a different perspective, help enhance local communities, and deliver local improvements in air quality.

c) Consultation and impact assessments

Risk assessments and consultations as appropriate will be carried out by TfL in relation to World Car Free Day events prior to TfL participating in them and TfL will draw on its previous experience of participating in similar events and initiatives.

TfL will also ensure that the impact on London’s transport systems, residents and businesses are considered during the planning for the World Car Free Day event and that the correct public engagement is undertaken to mitigate event impacts.

A comprehensive Stakeholder Management Plan, an Event Management Plan to include advanced notices to be approved at the Licencing, Operations, Safety Planning Group (LOSPG), and a Communications Plan using available TfL and GLA channels will be in place. The Project Steering Group will support and approve these plans.

The equality impacts are discussed in section 3 above.

d) Conflicts of interest

There are no known conflicts of interest to note for any of those involved in the drafting or clearance of this decision.

Financial comments

The proposed £800,000 funding for this initiative forms part of retained business rates allocated to TfL as approved through the 2020-21 GLA Group budget.

Planned delivery approach and next steps
  1. The World Car Free Day 2020 event will be delivered by a Project Steering Group and a Project Delivery Working Group. The Project Steering Group will be chaired by TfL’s Head of Customer Information, Design and Partnerships (Customers, Communications and Technology) and attended by the Mayor’s Walking and Cycling Commissioner.
  3. An approved supplier will be appointed by TfL through a competitive tendering process to deliver the event including all traffic management, stakeholder engagement and the activation within the event footprint.
  5. The total budget for the event is £800,000. Of this, approximately £350,000 will be allocated to road closures, traffic management, site management, security and stewarding, and the remainder will be allocated to event delivery including: health and safety, event content and activation, marketing and design, staffing and stakeholder management.
  7. The table below outlines the delivery timetable.




February 2020

Procurement of contract

February 2020

Delivery start date

March 2020

Final evaluation by both internal (Tfl/GLA) and external (supplier) parties

Lessons learned and robust information capture ongoing. To be supplied to TfL after 20/09/20.

Delivery end date


Evaluation and project closure report

Evaluation and project closure report to be shared with the Mayor by November 2020.

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