Environmental groups yesterday filled the spaces normally occupied by passing traffic in various towns and villages in activities related to Car Free Day.

The event, organised by the Parliamentary Secretariat for the Environment together with nine local councils in Malta and Gozo, saw a number of roads being closed for traffic throughout the day.

In Birkirkara, the area around the parish church dedicated to St Helen saw different groups set up stands to promote their wares, including organic and fair trade foods, environmentally-friendly paint and traditional Maltese food. You could even try your hand on a Segway, a two-wheeled, battery-operated vehicle, which you ride standing.

Health enthusiasts were able to get a body scan and nutritional advice from a wellness company and then attend Zumba sessions. Jason Zammit, from Friends of the Earth, said the event should be extended to more localities in the future. “Aside from making the air cleaner, it also encourages more of a community spirit,” he said.

Kickboxing and rugby demonstrations were also held, the latter on artificial turf laid down in the square.

In Mellieħa, the main road was partly closed to traffic. Mini-basketball and street football games took place in Parish Square and there was also a fun run.

Deputy mayor Envin Bartolo said the absence of cars was particularly felt in Mellieħa because, according to him, the layout of the town’s roads was not very bicycle-friendly.

Inspire organised a charity cycle from Marsascala to Sliema. Environment Parliamentary Secretary Mario de Marco, who took part in the bike ride, said Car Free Day was held on a Sunday to ensure it was family oriented. He hoped collaboration with local councils in such events would continue in the future.

The Malta Environment and Planning Authority conducted air quality tests in Naxxar Road, San Ġwann. The results will be compared to air quality on a normal Sunday to measure the event’s effect on the amount of particulate matter generated by vehicle emissions.

A comprehensive analysis of the data will be published in mid-October.

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