II n an effort to combat pollution caused by the hundreds of vehicles entering and leaving the campus every day, a group of students at Montemorelos University have come up with a vehicle-free-zone initiative that includes closing its gates for one day once a month. Students, faculty and staff can enter or leave campus on foot, or on a bike anywhere they need to go every 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 the mobility on campus,” said Ruthlyne Baro, professor of the architecture school. 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,” Baro added.
Students and faculty from the School of Architecture came up with implementing vehicle-free zone activity once a year on campus three years ago, said Baro. But this 2018-2019 school year, starting on Aug. 28, they decided it was time to implement it once a month.
On an average week day, the campus has approximately 1,650 cars or vehicles enter through its main gate so coordinating the initiative has taken plenty of planning, university officials said. Students and faculty volunteer and remind student body and the community through general assemblies, via email, announcements and reminders of the upcoming vehicle free day.
“This vehicle-free day is generating a lot of controversy because we are working with a change of paradigms, a change of habits and all habit changes are difficult,” added Baro. “Some people like it, others not so much.”
Baro said that the initiative is still in the trial and error phase now. “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, said Baro.
“The main road is not just a place where the car travels on but the common area where people interact, so we are looking to retake this concept of how to connect as a society.”
Dr. Ismael Castillo, president of Montemorelos University, is happy in supporting the initiative and said 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,” said Sánchez.
There are more than 3,250 students 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 towards a more positive experience for everyone.
Plans are to continue the vehicle-free-zone day the last Tuesday of every month and for the rest of the school year until May 2019, and make arrangements for the initiative to continue once a month permanently, Baro added.
To learn more about Montemorelos University, its undergraduate and graduate programs and activities, visit um.edu.mx