On Thursday, Sept. 20, an annual Car Free Day was held to promote a more sustainable Lehigh community. This year, about 200 students have signed the pledge to go car free. (Kangjia Shi/B&W Staff).

Car Free Day promotes sustainability, alternative transportation

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Taking the bus, walking and biking are all sustainable alternatives to driving to and from campus every day.

Lehigh’s third annual Car Free Day was held on Thursday, Sept. 20 to promote a more sustainable Lehigh community. World Car Free Day was celebrated on Saturday, Sept. 22, this year.

Last year’s event shut down Packer Avenue and the university’s electric bus was unveiled. This year, the Office of Sustainability wanted to collaborate with Lehigh’s Transportation and Parking Services because of new parking regulations going into effect in January.

The event included two parts — a VIP breakfast, which was a reward to students, faculty and staff for signing the Car Free Pledge, and a vendor showcase at Butz Plaza in front of E.W. Fairchild- Martindale Library, which is open to the whole community.

Each year, roughly 200 students sign the pledge to be car-free. Alex Almonte, ’20G, said there’s more of an incentive for students to participate since most of them live on or near campus, so they walk anyway.

“They are already participating without even knowing it,” Almonte said.

Almonte said many of the faculty and staff who signed the pledge participated by carpooling.

Al Wurth, a professor of political science, said he signed the pledge to log his participation and get a free breakfast. This day is no different from any other day for him. He rides his bike to campus and owns a hybrid vehicle that he only uses when necessary. If there is severe weather, he takes the bus.

“I can’t understand why everyone else doesn’t ride their bike,” Wurth said.

Wurth said he believes bikes are the most efficient mean of transportation and is a big supporter of public transit. He said providing electric bikes on campus could be one solution to cutting down car usage. The electric component would assist riders in getting up the mountain of Lehigh’s campus.

Almonte said there are many reasons to go car-free, such as decreasing one’s carbon footprint while increasing one’s physical health. There are also long-term advantages such as saving money on gas and improving car maintenance.

“It’s not just about the environment,” Almonte said. “It’s good for your overall well-being.”

Natalie Rosato, ’20, an eco-rep coordinator, does not have a car on campus, so she uses the bus services.

“I’m surprised having to pay for meters doesn’t deter people from driving to class,” Rosato said.

Rosato said she has friends who use Lehigh’s bike-share program, Zagster, to ride around the South Side or get groceries.

Wurth said universities like Lehigh should be taking the lead on sustainability efforts, and all universities should convert all campus transportation to hybrid vehicles.

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