Guadalajara hosted the X International Congress Towards Carfree Cities at the start of September. As with all congresses, it was as much about the conferences as it was the events and meeting people. However, Carfree went further because it was all about living Guadalajara and even forming a critical mass to recover public spaces.
The Congress’s overall theme was “Cities for the people by the people”. It’s no surprise because it was organized by the local groups Ciudad Para Todos and GDL en Bici, which have been very active opponents to urban highways and have painted citizen bike lanes among other activities. There was a big emphasis on citizen organization, and lots of local experiences of opposition to car infrastructure were shared during the event.
Some of the most attractive events of the week envolved taking over public space. There was a movie screening on a skate park underneath a bridge. The Congress also took over a tunnel, that is usually used by cars, to host a conference and show some video art.
The international guests were all very interesting speakers. There was Erick Britton from the Open Society Sustainability Initiative, Noah Budnick of Transportation Alternatives NYC and Todd Litman from the Victoria Transport Policy Institute. Roxana Kreimer talked about her book “The Tyranny of the Automobile”, which details the social symbolism of cars. Anna Nygard, from the Planka collective, talked about their vision for free public transport. Chris Carlsson, creator of Critical Mass, gave us a history lesson on the freeway revolts of San Francisco.
The most interesting thing about the Congress, though, was the people. Assistants from all over the country and the world were able to share their local experiences, which made for pretty good conversations and pretty good motivation.