Amit BhattJuly 5, 2018
Raahgiri Day demonstrates the power that can be derived from people-oriented streets and cities. This event, which started as a small idea, has transformed cities across India. Gurugram, India, March 2014. Photo by Raahgiri Team Gurugram
Imagine a city where roads that are normally clogged with traffic and clouded with smog are instead filled with people – rich and poor, young and old, men and women, all laughing, dancing, watching their children play, cycling Raahgand skating without fear of being run over. Yes, that’s what happened on November 17, 2013, when four and half kilometers of roads around the Galleria Market in Gurugram, India, were closed to traffic and opened to people for the launch of the inaugural Raahgiri Day.
According to the 2011 Census, 23 percent of people walk to work, 13 percent cycle to work and only 2.7 percent of people drive to work in India. Yet, planners continue to design cities for motor vehicles. The result: more than 50 percent of those who are killed in road accidents in Indian cites are pedestrians and cyclists.
The Raahgiri Day initiative was inspired by Bogotá’s famous Ciclovía, where every Sunday and holiday about 120 kilometers of roads are closed to motorized traffic. During Ciclovía, around 1.5 million people turn up to walk, cycle and enjoy the roads as public spaces. Inspired by the Bogotá example, some young, local residents started it in Gurugram.
In addition to opening city streets to walking and cycling, Raahgiri Day hosts a variety of community exercise and dance classes, as well as different sporting activities. Photo by Raahgiri Team Gurugram
More than 10,000 people turned up for the launch of Raahgiri Day in Gurugram, and everyone, including myself, was pleasantly surprised. After the first couple of months, Raahgiri was fully established. By February 2014, attendance reached over 25,000 people. In May, it was reported as a Top 14 Experience in Gurugram by the travel website, Lonely Planet. The next big moment for the campaign came in July 2014, when it came to Connaught Place in Delhi. The Delhi example reinstated the belief that if streets are made for all, they will be used by all.
Today, this concept has been adopted by more than 50 cities. Bhopal, Chandigarh and Jamshedpur call it Raahgiri, while cities such as Mumbai, Chennai and Lucknow have come up with their own names. Cities like Bhubaneswar, Pune and Ahmedabad started with Raahgiri but later changed to a local name. The campaign has also been adopted by smaller cities such as Angul in Odisha, Bhagalpur in Bihar, and Fatehabad and Jhajjar in Haryana.
Apart from the fun and frolic, Raahgiri has also produced some tangible changes on ground. Research by WRI India suggests that in Gurugram and Mumbai around 30 percent of people who participated went and actually bought bicycles.link to original article