In an effort to combat pollution caused by the hundreds of vehicles entering and leaving the campus every day, a group of students at the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Montemorelos University has come up with a car-free zone initiative that includes closing its gates for one day once a month.
Students, faculty, and staff of the school campus in Montemorelos, Nuevo León, Mexico, can enter or leave campus on foot or on a bicycle anywhere they need to go on the last Tuesday of the month.
“Through this initiative, we want people to create a habit of using other, more efficient ways of transportation like bicycles, carpooling, or public transportation that facilitate mobility on campus,” said Ruthlyne Baro, who teaches in the School of Architecture. It’s also an opportunity for social integration, she said. “We want society to embrace and use these means of transportation that are more sustainable.”
Students and faculty from the School of Architecture came up with the idea of implementing a car-free zone activity once a year on campus three years ago, said Baro. But they decided that for the 2018-2019 school year, starting on August 28, it was time to implement it once a month.
On an average weekday, the campus sees approximately 1,650 vehicles entering its main gate, so coordinating the initiative has taken plenty of planning, university officials said. Some students and faculty have volunteered to remind the student body and the community through general assemblies, email, and other announcements of the upcoming car-free day.
“This car-free day is generating a lot of controversies because we are working with a change of paradigms, a change of habits, and all habit changes are difficult,” Baro added. “Some people like it, others not so much.”
Baro said that the monthly initiative is still in the trial phase. “We are finding out what people liked and did not like, and we are trying to find solutions to the problems that came up during the day to help create that habit slowly, so people realize they do not need to depend so much on an automobile.” It’s not only about diversifying the way students and faculty transport themselves but also using the main road to connect, Baro said.
“The main road is not just a place where the car travels but the common area where people interact, so we are looking to retake this concept of how to connect as a society.”
Montemorelos University president Ismael Castillo said he is happy to support the initiative and that it’s also an opportunity to promote the healthy habit of exercise.
For Olga Sánchez, who studies architecture on campus, the initiative sends a positive message to students and the surrounding community.
“The initiative brings to the students and the community a culture of respect and that they can see that they don’t have to depend on a car but other healthy ways of transporting themselves,” Sánchez said.
More than 3,250 students are enrolled at Montemorelos, with 1,500 of those living off campus. Organizers said that getting the message to them took some coordinating, but for the most part, it’s moving toward a more positive experience for everyone.
Plans are to continue the car-free zone day the last Tuesday of every month for the rest of the school year, until May 2019, Baro said. “We will also work to make arrangements for the initiative to continue once a month permanently,” she said.