Liverpool’s Car Free Day could happen again despite city centre ‘carnage’ and £30,000 loss

World Car Free Day 2022. Image: Emma Dukes/LiverpoolWorld
World Car Free Day 2022. Image: Emma Dukes/LiverpoolWorld

Car Free Day celebrations could happen again in Liverpool, despite last year’s disastrous attempt.

Last September, the city council’s initiative for Car Free Day was branded a failure by locals, despite more than £37,000 being spent on the events on The Strand.

With a line-up of live music, an inflatable obstacle course and a variety of stalls and freebies, Liverpool City Council hoped that Car Free Day would encourage residents to reconsider how they view cars and ponder alternative methods of transport.

Poor footfall due to the rain and limited access to the area. Image: Emma Dukes/LiverpoolWorld
Poor footfall due to the rain and limited access to the area. Image: Emma Dukes/LiverpoolWorld

The Strand, which handles more than 1,000 vehicles per hour on a usual working day and is often congested with traffic, was planned to be closed from 10am to 4pm and a series of diversions were put in place.

The decision to close for six hours, outside of rush hour, aimed to minimise disruption and traffic build up in the city. However, shortly after 11am, heavy rain fell on the city and diverted traffic began to cause congestion - ultimately causing the decision to end the event and reopen the major road at around 2pm.

What went wrong?

The closure ran from Chapel Street to James Street, with traffic being diverted away from The Strand via Leeds Street and Grove Street.

Unfortunately, rather than encouraging less cars in the city centre, the closure and diversions caused more congestion and anger amongst motorists. The live music, due to begin at 11am, wasn’t performed and the variety of stalls had minimal visitors, due to the heavy rainfall.

The idea was great in theory, not so much in practice. Image: Emma Dukes/LiverpoolWorld
The idea was great in theory, not so much in practice. Image: Emma Dukes/LiverpoolWorld

What did locals have to say?

After last year’s event, LiverpoolWorld readers discussed their opinions on Car Free Day, with the majority branding it a bad idea.

  • Steve Moss said: “What an absolute distaster!!!! The city centre was gridlocked from the Birkenhead Tunnel, right along Dale Street and all of the centre of town. A ten minute journey became an hour. Not too sure what it was supposed to have achieved, apart from utter chaos?”

  • Susan Robertson-Cardwell said: “Absolutely ridiclous idea as always, many people struggle with public transport to get to work, myself included. Not everybody who works in Liverpool lives there.”

  • Gary Hardwin said: “Total carnage in the city centre today.”

Future Car Free Day events

A Freedom of Information request revealed that Liverpool Council spent more than £37,000 on last year’s Car Free Day event. The bulk of the fees went towards the events that had been planned for the day – with £21,158 earmarked.

Almost £9,000 was used for traffic management, with an additional £4,800 needed for stewarding. Reflecting on last year’s event, Cllr Liam Robinson said: “A lot of lessons have been learnt and we fully appreciate something that was done with the right intent didn’t work out well.

“Partly the weather didn’t help but we can’t blame the weather alone and I’m not seeking to do that. From our perspective we know there’s a lot we can learn for this year’s car free day and future car free activities. One of the things we’re very conscious of is we don’t just want to do appropriate car free activities solely on Car Free Day.”

Despite the failures, Cllr Robinson said he wouldn’t rule out road closures in future where appropriate. He said: “We do have a plan in place for what we’re going to be doing on Church Road in Old Swan on Friday, but we’re always looking for ways in which we can appropriately close roads in a way that can sort of be really beneficial to the city.

“You look at what we did a few years ago with Wavertree High Street and how we’ve basically pedestrianised Castle Street and how brilliant that has been overall. Last year’s episode is certainly something we’ve learned from because we want to make sure we can show people the benefits of leaving the car behind, not something being the alternative headline.”