Want to take action against car culture but don't know what to do?
Anything that you want to do or think you are capable of doing. That is what direct
action is all about.
The best actions are those which are full of colour and laughter. People respond
best to ideas presented to them in a fun way.
The most successful actions fall into these four "categories":
The most fun and colourful educational acts which reveal all
the problems of car culture - beyond the pollution argument and into
habitat destruction, resource extraction and human rights abuse,the
loss of community space in our cities etc.- presented in a fun fashion.
most radical (and therefore attention grabbing) actions which confront
the hypocrisies in the system or the lies in the advertising and tell
the real truth.
locally focussed actions - which link to a real or planned project in
long term focussed - where your action is just the first step in making
a permanent change. i.e.turning your city permanently car free or launching
a six-month programme designed to wean driver's off their cars and step-by-step
change their lifestyle forever.
There is, however, no perfect action. Whatever you can do can help, and just maybe
you should ignore these suggestions, develop your pwn ideas and possibly come
up with the next most successful tactic for the car free movement!
But if you are really stuck for ideas, here are a few suggestions.
Is there a road building scheme near your city, town or village? Why not
put up a giant picture frame beside the highway, looking like a roadside
billboard. Except with a hollow center,"framing" the threatened
landscape. And a quote - the German activists who used this tactic quoted
Goëthe: "Why wander in the vastness; see the Good lies so near."
Build yourselves some cardboard cars with wooden frames, shopping cart wheels,
and grimacing faces. Then paint them with slogans such as "I pollute,
make my driver aggressive and will kill you before the age of 50!" Then
ride them around to animate your demonstrations, before spitting fire
at them in an act of street theatre, and burning them in a ritual sacrifice
to the god of public space.
Are there any underground highways or car parks (parking lots) planned in
your city? Then follow the Madrid Green Mole example. When Madrid’s
mayor proposed a network of 140 kilometers of underground highways,
the group Ecologistas en Accion presented the city leaders with a life-size
"genetically modified creature," half-human and half mole, designed
to survive in the new urban habitat. Homo madritensis futuribilis
appeared frequently at tunnel inaugurations and peppered the mayor’s
re-election campaign with shows of "gratitude" for such excavating
Paint your own bike lanes - put in place the alternative transport options
you want in your city. Then demand your city build more bike lanes,
or such actions will be repeated every month.
Organise a pedestrian-crossing action to contest the fact that cars always get
the right-of-way, even if they are outnumbered by pedestrians. Dress
in solid black or white outfits, march into the middle of the road and
lay down. Voilà, a human zebra-crossing (crosswalk)! A traffic guard’s
costume and stop sign borrowed from the city council can keep the cars
obediently waiting, while you pass out leaflets and pedestrians can
miraculously cross the road without waiting for endless traffic.
up to make you point - costumes always attract attention. So why not
all wear cow outfits and tell those cars to "MOOOOOve out of Town!"
Or dress in bandages smeared with tomato ketchup and lie down in the
street as accident victims.
Car Bouncing - get those illegally parked cars off the pathways/sidewalks,
and leave a little note under the windscreen wiper explaining your actions.
More info on how in our Skill Sharing
some stinky diesel fumes or dump an oil spill inside a major international
hold of an old car, park it in the centre of town somewhere and invite
people to take out their frustrations beating it up and destroying it.
Simultaneously filling their ears with lots of information about the
destructiveness of the car, that is!
a Street Party. Traditional street party celebrations were once commonplace
in Britain’s towns and cities, until the automobile’s arrival replaced
public space with the private space of people constrained in moving
metal boxes. But since 1995 in London, "Reclaim the Streets" anti-car
street parties have broken out all over the world, showing how life
can be different in the absence of the car. "The largest party
of 1996 saw 8,000 people reclaim, redecorate and plant trees in [a London]
motorway." Read the "How To" guide from Road Raging, in our
Skill Sharing pages.
variation on the idea of invading and blocking a stretch of street with
tripods, for example, is to hold a party in the part of a street to
which you have a legal claim. For example, you could hold a "parking
meter party" where you pay the parking meter for your hour of parking
time, but instead hold a party in the space - if a whole row of meters
can be claimed you can have a huge party, and potentially in the busiest
areas of town.
Gardening. Take a stretch of street and reclaim it with a more positive,
atlernative use. Highlight the waste of space and resources for the
car. Check out the Reclaim
the Streets website for information about their efforts on May Day.
your own traffic calming. Change the entrance of a street from one which
is very wide to one which is narrow with sharp corners which will force
cars to slow when turning. Add your own speed bumps, or a garden plot
with brick walled edges on alternating sides of the road which cars
must drive slowly past. They could be planted with fruits and vegetables
for the locasl community to eat freely.
a Critical Mass (check out the critical
mass hub for inspiration). Add extra colour to the event and confront
some of the excuses people give for not cycling, or cyclist issues -
ride in your underwear and carry banners and plackards with slogans
like "its NEVER too cold to ride" or "Sydney Cyclists
The Legal Approach
with your local council/municipality to create a city-wide Thursday
car Free day on the Bogotá model. For information read the text
"The Past, Present and Future of Car Free
Days" and visit the Ecoplan
website for ideas, information and help in planning the event.
a free bicyle rickshaw taxi service (or tandem bikes, horse drawn carriages
or other form of alternative transport). Check the legality in advance,
as laws can vary from country to country.
a free roadside "counselling service" for all car addicts,
providing them with the opportunity to undertake the 8 step programme
to a car free life. You could even give car addicts a free "pollution
patch" to wear on their arm whilst weaning from their addiction
up with local artists and art groups and create art using the car. Then
display them in the public gallery of the street. A group in France
managed to block off 7 kilometres of street with art and other car alternatives
- including a one day vegetable garden! If you understand French, take
a look at their website.
an alternative fair with a car-free theme - good family fun with fairground
attractions to get your message across, from dressing up as U'wa Indians
to fire arrows at Oxy Petroleum symbols to learning to ride unicycles.
you can inflate balloons using the emissions from a car - a 1 metre
diametre balloon will be filled in just one minute from a car engine
on some street theatre plays with a car free message.
a residential Pot Luck Dinner in your street - invite your neighbours
to bring a dish and eat together in the middle of the road. With tables,
food, music, wine and laughter there is a positive message about the
alternative use of the space currently devoted to the car.
Actions For Individuals (or Small Groups)
out fake parking tickets. These should be designed to look like the
parking tickets of your town or city, but fine drivers for hogging public
space or contributing to climate change.
some car advert billboards to read anti-car messages.
the example of the Biotic Baking Brigade. Toss a pie in the face of
your favorite car or oil company CEO. Ideally, the pie should be homemade
and organic/vegan and escape should be made by bicycle. The Biotic Baking
Brigade and Patisserie Brigade Internationale have had many successes
with this tactic.
your sofa out into the street and sit and read a book. reclaim a small
patch from the cars - and be prepared to answer questions about what
you are doing and invite your neighbours to join in.
a car-sized frame for your bicycle and ride around town with it. An
effective tactic that first has humour—a bicycle taking up so much space
is kind of ridiculous. And that is precisely the point: why take up
so much space to move one person around? How wasteful! And you can pedal
along at your own leisurely pace, not worried about flying car doors,
having to ride right next to the curb, or speeding cars coming close
to you (since drivers are afraid of marring their paint jobs).
stop signs to read "Stop Driving." (Stickers are available
via Car Busters Resources page.)
at a very busy road intersection with a plackard saying "I've been
waiting for the bus for 10 years."
Walking - show those illegally parked drivers that you will NOT walk
round their vehicles, pathways are for pedestrians. A variation on the
theme would be not to walk over the car but sticker it with footprint
shaped stickers and leave a note to say that "the selfish driver
has been warned" - next time they park in a pedestrian zone their
car will be walked over.
Confronting People with the Real Dangers of the Car
Memorials. Hold a roadside funeral service commemorating the deaths
of pedestrians and cyclists killed by car drivers in our city. Please
note - this is an emotionally difficult action, though can be very effective.
We highly recommend you reach out to the families of the dead in advance
of your action and let them know it will take place. Some groups have
held memorial services and placed flowers or temporary gravestones at
the road side. Others have painted a life-size body outline in the road,
with the victim’s name and the date he or she was "KILLED BY AUTOMOBILE"
painted on the roadside. Visually more confrontational, this approach
could cause a more upset reaction from the both public or the families.
campaign and fundraise for an official Death memorial. Styled on the
Vietnam war memorial, it could be a wall with the names of all the people
killed by cars in your country since the beginning of the century. The
columns of names would get longer as cars grew in popularity, so the
wall would be low at one end, and tall at the other, showing the escalating
Or confront the advertising with its sexy image of the car and speed etc.
with an exhibit of alternate images. Take photographs of crash victims
from police files and justapose images of the dead and dying with the
images produced by the car advertising inductry. Please beware: this
is a very confrontational and difficult project. It has great potential
strength but will cause an upset, and outraged reaction from the public
if done insesitively. If you would like to follow this idea contact
Car Busters and we will put you in touch with a current project in Slovakia
to help you avois the pitfalls.
Got any other ideas that you think we should include here? Think what you
are planning sounds better than all of this? Then let us know about it!