India Experiments with Car Free Sunday Streets & Bus Day to reclaim streets back for people

Get creative on the streets to get heard and noticed. A new wave of people-centric innovative campaigns has reignited the concept of “cities for its people” in India. These new initiatives are supported by citizen groups & nonprofit organizations with able support from media and local government bodies to capture the hearts of the people.

Car free Sunday Streets in Gurgaon

Ciclovia (Car-free Sunday Street) in Bogotá, Colombia, is a hit and a trendsetter in the transformation of that city from a car-centric to people-centric. The Green Living Blog of The Guardian mentions   “Ciclovía a weekly, city-wide, car-free day in Bogotá that puts 76 miles of roads, including La Septima – the city’s main commercial centre – off-limits to cars. It’s been running since 1974”.

In an earnest effort, cities in India are trying to replicate this phenomenon in various forms and styles to bring people, communities and other stakeholders together to witness streets free of speeding private vehicles, no blaring horns and a cleaner environment.

People-level advocacy and indigenous campaigns can help a lot in convincing decision-makers to create infrastructure that encourages the idea of people-centric cities. The three important criteria to make these campaigns succeed are:

  1. engagement (online and offline);
  2. people network;
  3. momentum.

There is a strategic need to embolden policy-level advocacy with strong people-level advocacy on ground level. People need to be the champions of this street renaissance.

Cities in India are bursting at their seams. They are choked with traffic jams, engulfed into toxic air pollutants (like winter smog in Delhi, capital city of India) with ever-increasing numbers of private vehicles on the roads, an insatiable demand for parking spaces, and a rising number of traffic accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists.

The mushrooming giant serpentine flyovers are making the cities’ skylines uglier day by day.

According to the Ministry of Road Traffic and Transport, (press release for Road Safety Week January 1- January 7, 2014) “over 100,000 people are killed in traffic in India annually”. This staggering figure translates into 275 people dying an unnatural death on roads in India every day of the year.

The Times of India report suggests there are now 200 times as many motor vehicles (including two-wheelers) as there were 50 years ago (from 0.7 million in 1961 to 142 million in 2011). The worst affected are children who are slowly losing their neighbourhood parks to these cobwebs of car parks.

The 2006 National Urban Transport Policy, a national level policy made by the Ministry of Urban Development, was formulated to address an onslaught of private vehicle dependence and maddening traffic with an emphasis on “moving people and not just vehicles”.

But it has failed miserably in the way it has been envisioned.

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