Tomorrow Is the City’s First Car Free Friday


The Expo trains are here. The crosswalks are brightly painted. There are miles and miles of bike paths.

There’s even an app that offers real-time bus schedules to take the guesswork out of using public transit.

Santa Monica offers plenty of ways to go car-free and conveniently move around the city.

And city officials plan to promote all of them, every chance they get.

Riders of the Expo Line into Santa Monica will be presented with pins and small gifts for participating in Car Free Friday. Photo Credit: SadoFoto

It’s a campaign known as GoSaMo, a transit initiative launched in the spring with a strong social media component, including an active Twitter feed, to get the word out about the city’s varied mobility options.

The latest effort in this campaign comes at the end of this week, the city’s first ever Car Free Friday.

The name of the event says it all. Through a barrage of social media posts, the city is challenging car-dependent people to experiment with other means of transportation, from walking to hopping on a Big Blue Bus.

“We want people to dive in and try it out and experience what it’s like to be liberated from the car and to interact with people on the street, or on the bus or train,” said Constance Farrell, a Santa Monica Public Information Officer.

Car Free Friday is not a national event. Scattered other cities have held one, but Farrell said Santa Monica officials weren’t using other models when they developed their own day to promote sustainable transportation options.

Holding the event on a Friday is part of the event strategy, Farrell said. Friday is the last day of the workweek and a time when people seem more open to a break in their routines. Just think Casual Fridays, only in this case it means ditching your formal automobile for a more fun transit mode, such as hopping on a Breeze Bike Share to attend a meeting across town, or walking to a happy hour gathering after work.

To entice people to park their cars for a day, the city is offering rewards. Swag will be handed out to train users as they exit Metro stops in the city, while participating merchants will offer discounts.

Rusty’s Surf Ranch on the pier, for example, is offering 20 percent off food orders if customers bring in a Tap card, bike helmet, or some other kind of proof that they arrived without a car. And the Santa Monica Bike Center is offering 20 percent off all bike rentals.

The city is making suggestions to employers on how they can encourage their workers to go car-free, including offering them incentives such as free coffee or even lunch.

Santa Monica officials are promoting the city’s first ever Car Free Friday hoping that people will choose alternative modes of transport such as walking, public transit and bike riding. Photo Credit: William Short Photography
Santa Monica officials are promoting the city’s first ever Car Free Friday hoping that people will choose alternative modes of transport such as walking, public transit and bike riding. Photo Credit: William Short Photography

Retail shops can also get involved by putting up “wayfinding stickers” in their store windows directing people to the nearest Metro station, Big Blue Bus stop, and Breeze Bike Share location.

Car-Free Friday arrives at the end of “Bike it, Walk it, Bus it Week” for Santa Monica schools, so by Friday, students should have plenty of practice finding their way to school without having to climb into a car.

McKinley Elementary School is handing out nutrition bars to participants as well as providing free bike repairs for students who show up with their ride.

Schools with the highest percentage of students who arrive to campuses car-free will earn $250 for their PTA and be prominently featured in the city’s social media postings.

Still not convinced? The city has mapped out guided tours around the city based on interests such as food, culture, and history, with itineraries that are reachable by either walking, biking or taking public transit. One route curated by Tom Carroll is a walking tour of historical sites from the Sears building to the statue of Saint Monica.

Farrell said participants are encouraged to use the Car Free Friday hashtag and upload posts and selfies about their experience.

“Hopefully they will serve as role models and pioneers for their friends and followers,” Farrell said.

Saul Rubin
Saul Rubin
Saul Rubin is a professional journalist, travel author and media professor who has worked in Sana Monica for a quarter of a century. Saul was a reporter for the Santa Monica Outlook before helping to found the Santa Monica Lookout. He is currently the senior journalism professor at Santa Monica College where he teaches introductory news writing and multimedia story production. He is also the advisor to the student media operation, The Corsair.

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