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Re: Short report on Earth Car Free Day 2001

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  • Theo Schmidt
    Carfreeday Flop of the Year April 19th (EarthCarFreeDay) was the start of the Defie Solaire Saone-Seine, a trip right across France by two solar boats and one
    Message 1 of 1 , May 10, 2001
      Carfreeday Flop of the Year

      April 19th (EarthCarFreeDay) was the start of the Defie Solaire
      Saone-Seine, a trip right across France by two solar boats and one
      human-powered boat 850 km on the rivers Saone and Seine and the Canal
      de Bourgogne, from Port-sur-Saone to Le Havre, including 240 locks
      and 3 tunnels. Originally the organisation chartering the boats
      wanted them for an event in Rouen and normally they would have been
      towed there on the road. However the owner of the boats, the firm
      Eco-Inventions, refused to do this and thought that it would be more
      ecological to go the whole way on the water. Naively, I also thought
      that this could be a kind of carfreeday project. How wrong I was:

      A total of ten to fifteen people travelled on the boats. Almost all
      came down in various cars and indeed there were always 2-3 cars
      accompanying us the whole time. Indeed, they did several times the
      distance, going sightseeing and shopping en route. Those sleeping in
      hotels hadn't chosen them in the places the boats stayed over night
      and drove long distances to a late bed and an early rise. There was
      considerable interest by the media and various reporters and TV crews
      kept coming, all by car. Also spectators and politicians drove along
      with us. Schoolclasses came along for rides in the boats or on canal
      paths by bike. They didn't cycle back home in the evening, being
      picked up by their parents in cars. Once we had a motor failure and
      lacking the proper spare part, a friendly Frenchman drove me miles to
      his workshop to rig something up, going at 100 km/h on roads 3 m wide
      (this is normal in France, a country with very many people killed on
      roads). On the stretches with locks, almost none of the lock keepers
      lived in the pretty lockside houses now let out to other people, but
      rather appeared by car, and often came with us from lock to lock,
      often three cars at once. Very few of the crews stayed for the whole
      trip and so there was a constant coming and going. Some went home
      from time to time, driving hundreds of miles to do this. All this
      even though we had well functioning railways and ideal cycling
      conditions alongside most of the way.

      All in all, I guess this trip generated 10-20 times the car traffic
      it "replaced". It was sad to see the extent of car-addiction in
      France. Thankfully, the cars are still small and not much of a status
      symbol. I don't think I saw a single "Sports and Utility Vehicle".

      On a more positive note, it was a good trip PR-wise and showed that
      it is entirely feasible to travel long distances by solar and human
      power even in poor conditions (we had awful weather).

      Theo Schmidt, Switzerland
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