Liverpool car-free day sparks business anger

On Thursday The Strand in Liverpool city centre was shut to traffic for World Car Free Day… and disruption in surrounding streets has angered local business people. Tony McDonough reports

Tithebarn Street
Traffic held up o Tithbarn Street during World Car-Free Day. Picture by Paul Kallee-Grover


A decision to close The Strand in Liverpool city centre for six hours on Thursday to mark World Car Free Day has caused anger among local businesses.

Less than a week ago Liverpool City Council announced it would close The Strand to traffic from 10am to 4pm in both directions from Chapel Street to James Street. 

For those few hours the highway has been transformed into a stage for a programme of free healthy activities. These include keep fit classes, a “bungee run”, live entertainment and giveaways. There is also free live music from several LIMF Academy artists.

It forms part of a wider campaign to improve the city’s air quality and develop healthier lifestyles in its citizens. It includes investing in infrastructure to encourage more walking and cycling.

However, on Thursday the move caused periods of traffic gridlock in streets off The Strand. This has caused hold-ups to business people and delivery drivers trying to negotiate their way around the city centre. And shortly after 2pm the council announced the road would reopen earlier than planned.

A number of people took to Twitter to complain the initiative was poorly thought out and implemented at too short notice. Some dismissed it as “pointless virtue-signalling.”

One of Liverpool’s best-known business figure, Paul Kallee-Grover, said he had made alternative plans to come into town to avoid the disruption. The founder of Ki Partnerships and chair of Liverpool China Partnership, tweeted: “… have seen the chao it’s caused.

“#CarFreeDay2022 Liverpool … diesel generators, cycle lane blocked and 1,000s of cars and trucks idling with their engines running trying to get around The Strand during the 10-4 closure – needs a rethink for next year.”

Project Four, a construction safety consultancy based at Mann Island, posted: “As an SME we have little / no consultation or engagement from LCC. 

“No one has asked what we do to reduce traffic. For our size, we do a lot and deliver actions that if all bought into would offer long-term reduction on traffic, without a negative impact on business.”

And one deliver driver called Brad, also tweeted: “I’m a goods vehicle sat going nowhere, not getting to deliver anything.”


Car-Free Day
Traffic held up in Liverpool during World Car-Free Day. Picture by Paul Kallee-Grover
Jonny Clark
Jonny Clark, co-founder of GDPR Defender and director of Startup Grind


Digital entrepreneur Jonny Clark, Jonny Clark, co-founder of GDPR Defender and director of Startup Grind, said: “Not only is this a poorly thought-out and poorly executed virtue signal, it’s now dangerous. Frustrated drivers are coming up over the central embankment where possible to abandon their route.”

And Frank McKenna, chief executive of business lobby group Downtown in Business, also said: “If this was anything other than gesture politics why haven’t they been as quick to introduce the city centre pedestrianised areas business has been calling for post pandemic?

“Clueless would be a kind description of most council members understanding of commerce. Depressing. No consultation. Woeful timing – given how much business is struggling – and simply a nod to members ‘selectorate’ rather than part of a genuine net zero strategy.”

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 ebike service to provide more opportunities for people to make that step towards a healthier lifestyle and a healthier environment.”


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