On 4th February 2000, at a conference in Brussels, the Commission and 9 EU countries launched the European Car Free Day initiative. European Commissioner for Environment Margot WallstrÃ¶m, Ministers and high-level representatives signed the "European Car Free Day" pledge committing themselves to facilitate the organisation by local authorities of a car free day event on 22 September 2000. The [European Car Free Day] initiative aims to raise awareness of the need to change mobility patterns. It enables citizens to see the benefits of a 'car free' environment whilst representing a platform for dialogue on the development of transport and urban planning. It also allows city councils to test new transport concepts in situ (gas buses, pedestrian areas, electric vehicles for goods delivery, cycle network etc.).
"In town without my car" days were held in 1998 in 35 French cities and in 1999, when, with the support of the LIFE programme, 66 French cities were joined by 92 Italian cities. On 22 September 1999, car-free areas were established in large parts of city centres, enabling citizens to discover their hometown on foot, by bicycle or public transport, and to test new low emission vehicles. Conventional goods vehicles were replaced by electric or zero emission alternatives and public transport fares were discounted for the day. In 1999 22 million people participated in the campaign, with more than 80 % wishing to see the operation repeated regularly in the future. The Car Free Cities is a network of some 70 European cities which was created in 1994 by Eurocities and the Directorate General for Environment to study, to develop and to exchange good practices in the field of sustainable mobility by local authorities.