Call for car-free Sundays in solidarity with Ukraine in Westport

Bridge Street in Westport.

Bridge Street in Westport.

Community groups and public representatives in Westport have written to Mayo County Council asking for the facilitation of Car-Free Sundays in the town to highlight, and reduce, local dependence on fossil fuels.

The groups have given two main reasons for the proposed the Car-Free Sunday initiative: The invasion of Ukraine, which is financed by Russia’s exports of fossil fuels, and the Climate Crisis, which is a direct result of the burning of fossil fuels.

While there are no calls for the entire town to be closed to motor traffic, the groups are asking for the full or partial closure of some streets in the centre of Westport for a meaningful period of time every Sunday.

The Westport groups have cited the OPEC oil crisis of the 1970s as the inspiration for the initiative, when Car-Free Sundays were introduced in the Netherlands in an attempt to conserve dwindling supplies of oil.

The letter requesting the facilitation of Car-Free Sundays was addressed to Mayo County Council Chief Executive Kevin Kelly and it has been signed by a wide range of community groups and organisations, including Decarbonise Westport, Westport Tidy Towns, Westport Chamber of Commerce, Westport Eco Congregation, Destination Westport, The Quay Community Garden, Westport Library Garden, Leave No Trace, The Edible Landscape Project, and 15-Minute Westport. 15-Minute Westport is a voluntary group advocating for sustainable transport in Westport. It is also a registered Sustainable Energy Community (SEC ) with the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI ). Mayo County Councillors Peter Flynn and Christy Hyland have also signalled their support for the initiative.

"We are horrified by the death and destruction which has been unleashed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” says Kieran Ryan of 15-Minute Westport. “Putin’s war machine is funded by the sale of fossil fuels, so every action we can take to reduce our use of fossil fuels will help in some small way to undermine Russia’s capacity to wage war.

"Car-Free Sundays won’t end this invasion, but it is one method of expressing our solidarity with the Ukrainian people. Car-Free Sundays are a way of highlighting the need to take immediate action on Climate Change,” says Heather O’Reilly of Decarbonise Westport. “We are aiming to reduce our carbon emissions by 51% by 2030 and we cannot achieve that by continuing with business as usual.

"We need to rethink how we travel and how we use public space in our urban areas. Car-free streets will enable and encourage more people to walk and cycle in Westport instead of automatically hopping into the car for short trips within the town."


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