"Autovrij" is composed of "auto" and "vrij", the latter translates as "free". A more literal translation of "carless" exists in Dutch, that is "autoloos". A subtle distinction might exist in that the ending "vrij" can indicate a temporary state, whereas "loos" in general means "without".
You will typically encounter "autovrij" in the combination "autovrije zondag" ("carless Sunday"). Read more about it in the Extra.
– "Autovrije zondag? Man, dat is toch te bezopen voor woorden!"
("Carless Sunday? Man, surely that is insane!" Literally: "Man, that is too pissed/sloshed for words!" Here the drunk state of "bezopen" (from the verb "zuipen") is used in the translation of daft/crazy/ridiculous. This expression was actually used by a driver who wasn’t allowed to enter Amsterdam last Sunday: she says it twice, at the beginning of the following videofragment and at the end of the news item (wait for the commercial to finish).)
– "Ook op een autovrije zondag blijft het link om door Amsterdam te fietsen met al die toeristen die zomaar oversteken!"
("Even on a "autovrije zondag" it remains risky to cycle through Amsterdam with all those tourists who cross the road just like that!" Note the verb "oversteken": whatever your cross is already implied.)
– Autoluw: low-traffic, restricted traffic [adjective].
– Binnenstad: city centre [noun] [de stad, de steden]. Literally: "inner-town/city".
– Voetganger: pedestrian [noun] [de voetganger, de voetgangers]. Literally: "foot goer".
– Milieu: environment [noun] [het milieu, no plural]. There is a plural in the translation of "social environment": de milieus.
Last Sunday it was "autovrije zondag" in a number of cities and
towns in the Netherlands, including Amsterdam. Cars were allowed to
leave town, but couldn’t enter between 9 AM and 5 PM. Of course this
led to problems when people wanted to return to their homes. However,
contrary to last year, it didn’t lead to drivers assaulting traffic
The other usage of "autovrij" is when speaking of a pedestrian zone; here
you will hear "autovrije binnenstad" (carless city centre) and you can
use "autovrije zone", but in case of the latter it is more common to
say "voetgangersgebied" ("pedestrian area"). Note that a
"voetgangersgebied" can mean that no cyclists are allowed!
The intent is to make "autovrije zondag" a tradition to be repeated
annually. Goals are to make people aware of the environment, to
stimulate people to think about alternative transport, and just to
allow people to have a good time by being able to organize events that
become possible in the absence of cars. Note that we once had a real "autoloze zondag" in the seventies during the oil crisis.