It may sound improbable — the suggestion of separating Long Islanders from their cars.
But it’s happened before, and it’s shaping up to happen again this Friday, the sixth annual Car Free Day Long Island.
In the name of reducing traffic, conserving energy and exploring new transit options, more than 5,000 drivers have taken a pledge on carfreedayli.com to be car-free or car-lite on Friday, organizers say.
That means turning to carpooling, public transit, walking, bicycling, telecommuting or even simply driving less that day, organizers said in a news release.
The day is an opportunity “to take a look at our commuting habits and try new ways of getting around,” said Phillip Eng, president of the Long Island Rail Road. Taken together, even small changes can “make a significant impact on our environment and our quality of life.”
He was among the leaders gathered at Farmingdale State College for Monday’s kickoff of Long Island Mobility Week, which culminates in the day drivers are asked to take a deep breath and stash their car keys.
Suffolk County will present a bike share demo Friday at noon in Lindenhurst, one of several events planned for the week. The county already has plans for a regional bike share network, said Darnell Tyson, deputy commissioner of the county's Department of Public Works. In May the county awarded a contract to Zagster Inc. to design and build bicycle-share services, with the project to be fully financed by the company, which will keep any revenue generated. At the time, officials said the program was expected to begin rolling out later this year.
Part of an international effort, the Island’s Car Free Day is supported by a wide range of entities including employers, civic and environmental groups, universities and municipalities.
Those looking to get on board can find ideas on the Car Free Day website, which provides links to various means of public transportation, as well as ride-share and bicycling resources.
Last year, 6,808 Long Islanders took the car-free pledge, a number that organizers say translated into a reduction of 134,000 miles driven and a drop of 67 tons of carbon dioxide emissions transmitted into the atmosphere.
Rosemary Mascali, organizer of Car Free Day and Mobility Week, said she hopes to surpass last year’s pledges, with Car Free Day eventually developing into “the Earth Day for transportation.”