Action Ideas

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.

  • The 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.

  • The locally focussed actions - which link to a real or planned project in your area.

  • The 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.

Direct Actions

  • 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 enthusiasm.

  • 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.

  • Dress 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 pages.

  • Release some stinky diesel fumes or dump an oil spill inside a major international car show.

  • Get 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!

  • Hold 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.

  • A 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.

  • Guerilla 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.

  • Create 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.

  • Organise 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 Feel Exposed"

The Legal Approach

  • Work 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.

  • Provide 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.

  • Offer 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 to petroleum!

  • Team 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.

Family Orientated

  • Organise 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 idle.

  • Put on some street theatre plays with a car free message.

  • Hold 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)

  • Hand 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.

  • Subvertise some car advert billboards to read anti-car messages.

  • Follow 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.

  • Drag 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.

  • Make 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).

  • Modify stop signs to read "Stop Driving." (Stickers are available via Car Busters Resources page.)

  • Stand at a very busy road intersection with a plackard saying "I've been waiting for the bus for 10 years."

  • Car 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

  • Death 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.

  • Alternatively, 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 problem.

  • 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!

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 This page was last updated 24 January 2005