Ashland is closing down the street and throwing a block party, joining hundreds of cities across the world in celebrating Car Free Day.

Ashland is closing down the street and throwing a block party, joining hundreds of cities across the world in celebrating Car Free Day.

This year Oak Street will be shut down between Lithia Way and E. Main Street for International Car Free Day Wednesday from 4 to 7 p.m. This year marks more than 10 years of Ashland celebrating the event. Official international recognition of Car Free Day came in 2000 when the European Union adopted the event into its environmental policy.

Transportation Commissioner Steve Ryan has helped with the celebration for three years and says it is a big block party.

"There's a number of fun stuff for people to do," Ryan said. "It's a way to thank, recognize and encourage Ashland."

The City of Ashland, with co-sponsor the Rogue Valley Transportation District which is celebrating 35 of service in the Rogue Valley, will offer different activities including free access to RVTD buses all day, a bike safety rodeo with an obstacle course, a performance by Dave Nourie doing bike tricks and music by local Rogue Valley-based band Bathtub Gin Serenaders.

Everyone is invited to participate in the Share the Road group ride that will lead people down Oak Street from Standing Stone Brewery at 5:30 p.m. Oak Street was officially named Ashland's first "shared road" in November 2009.

The ride is meant "to stimulate awareness of shared roads."

"This is particularly important this year because we are embarking on the Transportation System Plan," Ryan said.

The annual two-week Transit Challenge also will begin at the event. People can sign up to tally how many miles they travel using transportation other than driving alone in a car.

"We've had an increasing number of miles over the last two years," Ryan said. In 2009, 8,236 miles were tallied, up from 2008 with 3,745 miles.

"It's about encouraging people to compete and collaborate and increase multi-use transportation," Ryan said.

RVTD will give out a Transportation Super Hero award at the end of the event.

"To be a hero you have to use a bike, skateboard or walk as your main transportation," said Kat Smith, transportation options coordinator for RVTD. The name of the winner is kept a secret until Car Free Day.

"It's RVTD's way to recognize people who use more than one way to travel," Ryan said.

Ashland is the only town in the Rogue Valley to host an event for International Car Free Day.

"It'd be really wonderful if other cities would get involved," said Bob Altras, a coordinator for the event.

Smith emphasized that RVTD is willing to help with transportation events when asked.

"(Car Free Day in) Ashland started with a grassroots effort. The bike and pedestrian commission adopted the event," Smith said. RVTD helped with the event after that, offering an alternative to riding alone in a car.

"There's lots of ways to get around, and we provide these services," Smith said.

In addition to Car Free Day, RVTD is holding a Try Transit Week which offers classes on bus commuting and opportunities to win free bus fare from Sept. 17 to Sept. 24. To see the full Try Transit Week schedule visit their website at www.rvtd.org.

Contact reporter Johanna Thompson at 541-482-3456 ext. 225.