Car-Free Sundays With Less Air & Noise Pollution

In São Paulo, Brazil, citizens are enjoying less air and noise pollution – at least on one day a week. On Sundays, during what is called Paulista Aberta, motor traffic is restricted on the popular Paulista Avenue and the street is dedicated to cyclists and pedestrians. Grassroots group Minha Sampa campaigned for the event since 2014 and on June 28, 2015, the car-free initiative was realized. The event sparked discussion about the pros and cons of the car-free zone.

After lacking hard evidence to prove the positive impact of the popular and attractive Paulista Aberta, TheCityFix recently reported that new studies show a reduction in air and noise pollution on those Sundays the street enjoys car-free life.

Paulista Avenue Sau Paulo

Carta Capital, a local newspaper, initially reported that businesses and hospitals near Paulista Avenue were against the car-free period. However, this may have been erroneous because, when surveyed by Sampapé and Minha Sampa, local hospitals were in favor of the initiative and only 25% of businesses were opposed.

Using methodology from University of São Paulo’s Experimental Air Pollution Laboratory, researchers for the partnership between University of São Paulo and an unspecified non-governmental organization have found that, during the event, air and noise pollution show a general decrease.

Paulista Avenue Sau Paulo traffic

The study, conducted between November and December of 2015, measured noise and particle matter in the air on a normal weekday and during Paulista Aberta. Contrary to critic speculation, despite buses being rerouted, the car-free Sunday did not increase air or noise pollution – in fact, the opposite was found.

Air pollution improved at every measured point despite still being at unacceptable levels according to the World Health Organization.

Noise pollution lowered for the majority of the day.

In what is surely a win for the car-free movement, advocates have solidified their claims that Paulista Aberta has a positive effect on the health of the community — score one for the good guys.

Images of Paulista Avenue by Gustavo Gomes (some rights reserved) and David Castañón (some rights reserved)


About the Author

is a working father in New York City by way of Sarasota, Florida. He is a public transportation enthusiast, clean air advocate, lifetime recycler and frequent panderer. He also reluctantly tended to his family's compost heap for many formative years. He hopes to one day leave his daughter with a safer, healthier environment than when she was born - which shouldn't be hard since she was born in Queens, New York.