The council was forced to cancel ‘car free day’ after it caused huge traffic jams (Picture: Liverpool Echo)

A ‘car-free day’ in Liverpool has been branded a ‘disaster’ and forced to end early amid chaos, congestion and bad weather in the city centre.

The city’s council had closed off large parts of The Strand yesterday in an attempt to encourage people to seek alternative means to travel around the city.

The planned closure was due to continue until 4pm, with a range of activities set to take place on the road.

But it wasn’t long before problems started to arise as large queues of traffic began to build up around the city centre, bringing the entire place to a standstill as vehicles were diverted away from the waterfront.

One image of the traffic jam, shared on Twitter by Tommy Joseph, showed a trail of gridlocked vehicles idling on Tithebarn Street.

He tweeted: ‘Surely this many cars being idle with their engines running is having the opposite effect of improving the cities (sic) air quality?’

Another Twitter user, Jonny, shared a video of a huge queue of cars on the southern part of The Strand. He said: ‘“Car free day” on the main road through the city. Sounds great on paper. Of course I want better air. 

‘But the road to hell is paved with good intentions; and the execution and unintended consequences are dire.’

“Car free day” along The Strand in Liverpool today. Great intentions but terrible execution. The traffic jams in the surrounding streets were awful, standing traffic all over the place. Surely there has to be more thought and consideration put into these schemes?

— Michael Heverin (@MikeHev1) September 22, 2022

Council officials eventually decided to cancel the event and reopen the closed roads at about 14:00.

The council later tweeted a statement thanking people for their ‘patience’ amidst the closed roads and poor weather.

Cycling campaigner Andi Armitage said: ‘How not to do car free day. Rather than virtue signal and focus on the optics, provide albeit temporary alternatives to using a car.’

Fellow campaigner Mounsey added: ‘Nobody, nobody at all will support similar action in future years. Rather than produce something good for today, it’s easier to produce something utterly rubbish. There will be nothing for car free day next year.’

#Traffic update: The Strand is now in the process of reopening.
Thanks to all who supported #CarFreeDay – despite the poor weather!
We know some will have had a longer journey today & we appreciate your patience.

— Liverpool City Council (@lpoolcouncil) September 22, 2022

A spokesperson for Liverpool City Council said: ‘Unfortunately due to the heavy rain many of the Car Free Day activities planned to take place on The Strand had to be called off. As a result, the decision was taken to finish the programme earlier and to reopen The Strand.

‘We’d like to thank everyone who has supported today’s programme. We know a closure like this will cause some disruption, but the council is committed to improving the air quality of the city and statements like today are a way to make people think about how they travel.

‘The council is also investing in more infrastructure be it cycling lanes to a new e-bike service to provide more opportunities for people to make that step towards a healthier lifestyle and a healthier environment.’

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