Bhopal Becomes the Fifth City to Join the Raahgiri Movement
By Kanika Jindal
On 21st September 2014, Bhopal became the fifth city in India to implement the weekly open streets movement - Raahgiri Day. Organized by Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC), Traffic Police and Bhopal City Link Ltd. (BCLL) in collaboration with EMBARQ India, the event started at 6 am and witnessed an overwhelming first day turnout. Over ten thousand people from all over the city participated in this event at Boat Club Road.
Raahgiri Day is India's first sustained car-free day, launched first in Gurgaon – India’s “Millennium City” – on November 17, 2013 – with 10,000 people in the inaugural event. Over half a million people have now participated in car-free Sundays, including high-visibility events at Connaught Place in New Delhi.
Bhopal’s edition of Raahgiri Day saw special programmes including fitness dancing, exercises, rangolis, cycling, skating and gully sports like cricket, football, badminton, hockey and yoga, amongst others. The Commissioner of BMC, Ms. Tejaswi Naik was also seen actively participating in a game of hockey with a group of children. The traffic police and officials patrolling the stretch did so on cycles. For the first time at Raahgiri, cycle rentals were computerised and therefore, more organised.
Traffic Police officials gave important information about road safety, educating people about traffic signals, safe driving, and the importance of wearing helmets. Large banners that read “city for people, not for vehicles” were seen around the area. Environmental experts were also present and conveyed key messages to protect and preserve our environment for the future.
Bhopal is the 14th largest city in India and is known as the “City of Lakes” for its various natural as well as artificial lakes. In recent years, Bhopal has been witnessing a gradual increase in vehicle ownership. Civic bodies have been adopting different measures to retain the existing mode share of cycling and walking in the city, which is still pretty high in number. Raahgiri Day is an attempt towards this vision.
Devendra Tiwari, working as an engineer in the Municipal Corporation of Bhopal said, "The Raahgiri concept has been brought to Bhopal after being successfully run in Gurgaon for the past year so that we can make people aware about road safety, healthy lifestyles, use of non-motorised vehicles, and public transport. We will try to expand it to the entire city. Maximum deaths happen due to road accidents and heart attacks, so we want to send a message to be safe on the road and stay healthy."
Widespread outdoor marketing and advertising was done throughout the city, at major intersections and popular market places. In addition, an engaging social media campaign via Facebook informed supporters and participants about key events for the day. Text messages were sent to people on the BMC databse, and a Raahgiri Day video was played in several buses in the city. The media, especially The Times of India, were actively involved in publicizing the event.
Raahgiri Day, India's car-free Sunday movement is gradually expanding across the country. This is a unique opportunity for India to promote broader solutions for sustainable cities.