Stockholm has previously shunned holding car free days, but this year it is joining 15 other Swedish towns and cities closing off streets as part of European Mobility Week, an annual campaign backed by the European Commission designed to promote sustainable transport measures.
All roads will be closed in Stockholm's Gamla Stan (Old Town), which is already partly pedestrianized, as well as many of the busy shopping streets around the central station and several of the city's major bridges.
The initiative has been named 'I stan utan min bil' ('in town without my car').
Piteå and Lycksele in northern Sweden, Täby, north of Stockholm and Linköping and Jönköping, south of the capital, are among the locations which have also signed up to go car free for a day, either this weekend or on another date during the autumn. Dozens of other municipalities are also organizing green initiatives during the campaign week, which is backed by 1600 local authorities across Europe
Most of this area will go car free. Image: Googlemaps
The Swedish capital already has a global reputation for having cleaner air and fewer vehicles on its streets than most other European cities and was given the first European Green Capital award in 2010 by the European Commission. It has an extensive public transport system including a late-running subway and 24-hour buses.
But earlier this year a global index looking at cycling in urban environments named Malmö in southern Sweden the sixth most bike-friendly city in the world while criticizing Stockholm for not pushing itself far enough in terms of innovation or political will.
The Head of Stockholm's traffic division, local Green Party politician Daniel Helldén told The Local in July that he hoped the car-free day would demonstrate that “a new approach” is needed to make sure the city continues to meet air quality standards, limit carbon emissions and improve accessibility during a time of rapid immigration.
“As the city expands, we need new thinking in order to increase accessibility and reach our climate goals…We have a new governance in Stockholm and we’re pushing the prioritization of walking, cycling and public transport hard,” he explained.
“By closing the streets to cars for one day we can give an idea of how our beautiful city looks with less car traffic. We hope that the citizens of Stockholm will be inspired to choose alternative modes of transport instead of the car.”
Green Party politician Daniel Helldén. Photo: Henrik Montgomery / TT
Parts of central Stockholm have previously been closed to traffic during royal wedding celebrations and when President Obama visited the Swedish capital in 2013. But Saturday's initiative will be the largest of its kind.
Sweden's Metro newspaper reflected on Friday that social media were awash with comments during the US leader's visit from people who said they thought the air felt instantly fresher. It also quoted a study suggesting that nitrogen gas levels in Stockholm fell by 30 percent during Obama's Nordic trip.