Every Sunday is a hit. Kilometers of roads in Gurgaon, India, are blocked. Thousands of people enter the road to walk, cycle, play, dance and perform yoga. More and more participants enjoy the carfree streets since the start in November 2013.
Gurgaon is a growing city of one million residents in the vicinity of New Delhi. Elsewhere residents’ initiatives copy the idea. In simple villages in the region, but also on Palm Beach Boulevard in the rich Navi Mumbai, thousands of kilometers away.
Leisure, fresh air and exercise
The approach reminds of Dutch action methods from the seventies and eighties. A protest to raise the issue of urgent traffic problems? Or fun for consumers who want change? It is both. In still chaotic India citizens increasingly want to be able to choose between different transport options. And they are looking for leisure, fresh air and exercise room.
Facilities for slow traffic
Initiator Sarika Panda: "We started in May 2013 in Gurgaon forming a group. One of the first steps was to convince the police to give us space. That worked. Today, the local police chief joins the event himself, he arrives by bike. The initiative grows. We want a fun and positive way to draw attention to traffic issues. The Sunday activity is baptized Raahgiri Day and the information spreads rapidly through social media sites. Sarika Panda: "Our first set of proposals for better facilities for slow traffic and public transport was presented to the authorities. We will continue! "
Transforming Our Cities
India hardly knows spatial planning. Attention to vulnerable road users is minimal, writes economist Isher Ahluwalia in her book 'Transforming Our Cities’. Where government organizations build the cities, their monopoly behavior leads to enormous inefficiency and widespread corruption. Private developers act no better, Ahluwalia sees: "Because the urban population continues to increase, the situation gets even worse”.
Active citizens and officials
But she also sees hopeful examples across the country. Active citizens and officials dare to take the lead. Such examples of change deserve adaptation. Against the current, here and there neighborhoods are designed in a way that residents can walk or bike to many destinations daily. The number of functioning underground and bus systems increases.
Three car-free circuits
Gurgaon now has three car-free Sunday circuits, each 2.5 to 5 kilometers. In summer activities are put on hold because temperatures are too high to enjoy outdoor activities.
(Published in Traffic. October 25, 2015)
Sunday Times of India. March 16, 2014
Isher Judge Ahluwalia: ‘Transforming Our Cities: postcards of change’, Harper Collins/The Indian Express Group, 2014.