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The Daily Tar Heel

Taking the car out of Carrboro and Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill will encourage residents to leave their cars at home Thursday in an effort to reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality.

The town will host Car Free Day, an annual event that began in 2004, to encourage residents to use alternate forms of transportation and lead healthier lifestyles.

Len Cone, transportation demand management coordinator for the planning department, said in an email the town wants to improve transportation habits by encouraging citizens to find a different mode of transportation — whether it’s public transit, bicycling, walking or carpooling.

Residents who participate can ask for a sticker when they ride a Chapel Hill Transit bus.

This sticker can then be turned in to the planning department, which will hold a drawing for gift cards and other prizes.

Town spokeswoman Catherine Lazorko said the event is expected to increase the use of Chapel Hill Transit and carpooling.

“A day like this builds awareness and allows people to try something out of their normal routine,” Lazorko said.

“That’s really the whole point of it — to encourage people to try leaving the car at home and see if they can find an alternate mode of transit and help the environment and help make a difference.”

Chapel Hill residents also expect a significant turn-out for Car Free Day.

“I expect there will be about 50 percent less cars on the road,” said Genny Wrenn, a Chapel Hill resident and co-owner of The Shrunken Head Boutique on Franklin Street. “The people of Chapel Hill will be gung-ho for an event like this.”

The town was recently recognized for its openness to alternative forms of transportation when it was named a Bronze Bicycle-Friendly Business by The League of American Bicyclists.

Cone said she thinks hosting Car Free Day will also help show residents that the town encourages finding other ways to get around without using cars.

Car Free Day is supported by the Village Project Inc., a non-profit that encourages creating walkable communities.

But Cone said the town’s advocacy for alternative forms of transportation goes beyond Car Free Day.

“The town offers training workshops, bicycle rodeos and informational handouts regarding bicycling safety,” Cone said. “The town is always watchful for opportunities to encourage the installation of bike racks and bike lanes throughout the area.”

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