Equal Streets Launch in Mumbai Sees Overwhelming Community Support
Equal Streets, Mumbai’s open streets citizens movement, was launched yesterday by EMBARQ India, the Mumbai Police, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai with support from the Times of India. Over 15,000 people came out of their homes at 7 am on Sunday morning to take back the streets. The 6.5 km loop on SV Road, Linking Road and a part of Juhu Road saw a range of activities including yoga, aerobics, cross-fit, Zumba and cycling. Equal Streets is a citizens’ movement that is aimed at correcting the imbalance in how our roads are used. With the belief that roads are public spaces meant for all people, the organisers hope to influence a change in people’s mindsets and behaviour towards more sustainable modes of transport. Sitaram Kunte, Commissioner, MCGM, and Rakesh Maria, Commissioner, Mumbai Police released balloons at the inaugural of the event. Madhav Pai, Director, EMBARQ India, speaking at the event said, “This movement is an opportunity for us to think differently about our streets. It’s not just about cars, it’s about people”. It was great to see little children on cycles, roller skates and mothers pushing their babies in strollers on traffic-free major roads in the city.
"This is exciting," said Rakesh Maria, "as a Bandra-ite, I'm all the happier this is happening here". People queued up at the three free cycle rental stands and enjoyed rides along the open stretches, yoga enthusiasts took part in the sessions conducted by the Yoga Institute, young and old danced to tunes at the zumba fitness corners, and many enjoyed games of 'pickle football'. “We’re very grateful to the local residents who came out in large numbers to support this movement. We’re overwhelmed by their support and cooperation despite some inconveniences. Without this community support, Equal Streets would have not been possible” said Binoy Mascarenhas, Manager – Urban Transport, EMBARQ India.
Other organisations integral to the success of the Equal Streets launch included residential welfare associations, cycling clubs, and NGOs like KBS Foundation, Bandra West Residents Association, P. K. Das & Associates, Juhu Citizens Welfare Group, Gulmohar Area Societies Welfare Group, Oshiwara / Lokhandwala Citizens Association, Only Cycling, Bandra Cycle Club, Mumbai Cycling Enthusiasts, Cycling All the Way, Juhu & Lokhandwala Cycling Club, Indian Dietetic Association, Mumbai Waterfronts Centre, and Bandra Bandstand Residents Trust. From EMBARQ India’s experience working on similar events with partner organisations in other cities like Gurgaon, New Delhi, Bhopal and others, it has been seen that given safe and secure infrastructure, people are not averse to walking and cycling. Equal Streets is not a one-off initiative but a sustained movement by the people.
The objective is to provide walking and cycling tracks throughout all neighbourhoods in the city. As the success of the launch as shown, the people of Mumbai have overwhelmingly declared their support to the concept of open streets and the larger objectives behind the movement. While there are still a few operational and logistical issues that need to be ironed out, with the continued support of the citizens on Mumbai, the Equal Streets team is confident that over coming months this movement will grow and translate to a paradigm shift in how we view our public spaces.