EU Car-Free Day sparks oil crisis flashback

More than 400 Austrian towns participated in the European Union’s (EU) 2010 Car-Free Day today (Weds).Austrian officials said 435 towns and communities across the country organised various initiatives in a bid to raise awareness for eco-friendly commuting and reduce car traffic.The EU-wide Car-Free Day awakens memories of a law passed by the Austrian government in reaction to the 1973 oil crisis. The Social Democrats (SPÖ) decided at the time all car owners must issue a sticker on their vehicle’s windscreen signalling on which day of the week they would not drive.The government also introduced an extra week of school holidays in February to save education institution’s energy costs. The so-called energy holidays – which mark the middle of a school year – still exist.It has to be seen whether the most recent activities will have any long-term effects since many Austrians are considered as being fans of driving their cars.The number of cars registered in the country was up by two per cent year on year to 4.4 millions 2009 despite many people being forced to spend less due to the crisis.A poll by insurer Generali showed just 10 per cent of motorists could imagine living a car-free life.Meanwhile, the number of natural gas-operated cars (NGV) registered in Austria remains relatively low. There are currently around 5,500 NGVs in the country, according to state agency Statistik Austria.