Rotterdam / The Hague - For the first time in our history has our country today with a car-free Sunday. Cause is the newly erupted war between Germany and France / England last month. Only people with an exemption (and people from abroad) may continue to drive.

It looks very strange. On busy roads, like the way Leiden-The Hague-Rotterdam, it is extinct. A single bus is still passed on the way. Cyclists have more free play.

The Coolsingel in Rotterdam today an empty impression. Only here and there a car driving, while it is normally a lot busier. Are there fewer people on the streets? Nee, not that. Because according to the Maasbode is in the pubs on the Coolsingel almost impossible to get a spot.

Collage Maasbode (02-10-1939) the first car free Sunday and the Saturday before


Today it seems to be the main task of the police; checking whether the ban is complied. So be put down around The Hague checkpoints on the main roads to the city. There are dozens of violation found. the directors are in most cases with a warning off.

But not everyone participates. In The Hague one motorist refuses to go home. He gets a motorcycle escort of two officers. Another man refused to stop for police checks at Rijswijkseweg Hague. After a short chase, he is put to the side. Both drivers should soon appear in court.

In and around Rotterdam police is somewhat busier. Fifteen cars and ten motorcycles seized. The majority of offenders come from out of town.


Some people try to be smart and let themselves be used as a "delivery service", because vans can count on exemption. But a few bottles of milk in the back of the car, making a passenger car currently no pickup, find the police.

Others say they have a dispensation to go on sick. But the police put a family on the side of the road, who obviously had just been to a football match. They get away with a warning.

In Bergschenhoek some residents have a horse for an old (no longer propelled) car tense. Sitting on the roof of the car, these people drove to Rotterdam. The police can still see the funny. However, the driver was ordered to return home.

Two directors declare that they are not on gasoline, but, petroleum reason. They may drive.

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Meanwhile, the debate between going for- and opponents of the car-free Sunday even by. A spokesman for the dealers in our country takes the measures go too far. By the outbreak of the war and the recovery from the crisis, the dealership has not been as widely. This measure gives another extra hard rap.

Because it is not clear how long the car free Sunday persists, allow people to buy a car from, says a car importer. There are better measures. Thus, a reduction in the speed limit had to 60 of 70 kilometers per hour produced a much bigger savings, they think.

But the measure is also bad for the Treasury, opponents say. It's only a matter of time before people put away their cars, whereby the government road tax goes wrong.

The Dutch Royal Automobile Club (KNAC) is especially pleased with the uncertainty. It is not clear how long it takes the shortage of gasoline. "It certainly can not be in the interest of our community, in that the driver is recommended for his car to put the displacement honor duration of the war in the stable ", says the chairman of the KNAC, Mr.. Smits van Oyen in the Algemeen Handelsblad.

"There will be cases, of course, occur, where 'imposition' of the car must be forced. But otherwise I would, in the interests of the many countrymen, in the car dealership and related subjects, are employed, would encourage every motorist with clamp, is much related to the available fuel is possible, use of the automobile to continue to make. " (Algemeen Handelsblad, 29-9-1939)

The car-free Sunday is not the only measure taken by the government. A few weeks earlier, an appeal has already been done to make the car more often anyway stand. Also, the automotive industry which was an eyesore.

In other countries

Netherlands is the only country to take measures. In Italy and Germany all private motorists were banned from driving. England went petrol rationed. In Sweden and Denmark, private car use was banned.

In France there has been a while an individual driving ban, but that story could not be confirmed by the threat of war. In Belgium, the fuel shortage so large, that a plurality of pumps are sold.

Hoe ging het verder?

The car-free Sundays continued until mid-November. A distribution system was created. That kept so that still could not be driven indefinitely, but the car-free Sunday went anyway.

The car-free Sunday went back several times after World War II. In 1946 there was a small car-free Sunday. In 1956 en 1957 two months long could not be driven on Sunday in connection with the Suez Crisis.

The most famous car-free Sundays were 1973. From 4 november 1973 up to and including 6 januari 1974 there should not be ridden on Sunday. That was a direct result of the Yom Kippur War.

Even then there were car-free roads and streets. The story that there is plenty of cycling and skating roll was on the highways is largely a myth. It happened, but was still banned. People who tried it anyway, were immediately sent away.

Then there are no statutory car-free Sundays have been more.

What will now say?

People who think "that there was still almost no cars were" somewhat are disappointed. In the Netherlands reason 1939 zo’n 100.000 cars on the road. That equates to about 10.500 per 100.000 inwoners. Met andere woorden. In every street were several cars along the side of the road.

It must however be bijgezegd, the number of cars in the Netherlands relatively quite far behind the countries around us. In France and England, the number of cars per 100.000 Residents much higher. Only neighboring Germany remained behind Netherlands, but that was not surprising. After World War I Germany had to pay hefty compensation.



SUNDAY WITHOUT CAR Police had easy work. And against the ban. Rest on the roads in and around the city. But motor boats wasted petrol! CARS WERE PARKED ON STREET“. “Algemeen Handelsblad“. Amsterdam, 02-10-1939.

Save CAR-LOOZE SUNDAY Gasoline, good! But why this way? Unfair consequences of the Sunday-driving ban. THE TREASURY WILL road tax DERVEiN“. “Algemeen Handelsblad“. Amsterdam, 29-09-1939.


First car free Sunday was 1939, NPO History

Text: Dave Datema

published: 01 oktober 1939

story number: 50

Thanks to Hans Schimmelpenning for providing the photo, made by his father, H.G.L. Schimmelpenning.

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