RAAHGIRI welcomed in big numbers
By Kanika Jindal November 24, 2013 | Gurgaon
On a cold winter morning on November 17, over 10,000 residents of Gurgaon poured on to the streets, celebrating their city. Raahgiri had indeed arrived. From 7 am to noon, the 4.5 km circuit saw thousands of people enjoying the streets. Without vehicles to fight, pedestrians, cyclists, runners all converged on the streets. For the first time in urban India, the streets were car free and people friendly; children took the opportunity to play soccer, cricket and badminton, there were many skating enthusiasts who took the opportunity to hone their skills. There were street zumba classes for the fitness enthusiasts. At the end of Raahgiri, citizens came out feeling more empowered about the change they could bring in their lives and enthusiastic about their city. Raahgiri is a step towards making a more equitable urban space. With over 40% of India currently living in her cities, issues of access and equity are fast entering planning mindsets.
Marking a change
In 2006, the Government of India introduced the National Urban Transport Policy (NUTP) with a view to promote people centric transport solutions and increase the usage of non-motorized transport in cities especially the idea of bike sharing programs. Based on this, the Government of Haryana came up with an Integrated Mobility Plan (IMP) for Gurgaon in 2010, which proposed about 500 kms of road network for footpath installation and about 210 kms for bicycle lane installation. In Gurgaon, non-motorised and walking trips constitute about 30% of traffic mode share. Despite this significant number, pedestrian and NMT facilities remain inadequate, at best.
Raahgiri setting a precedent
Raahgiri Day truly transformed Gurgaon's streets; with no cars at all, the area was fully people-powered and radiated energy from all those who participated. One of the many events held was a cycle rally, flagged off by the Police Commissioner of Gurgaon, Mr. Alok Mittal, who called this a “historic day for the city”.
Ms. Nisha Singh, one of the local government councilors, said that it was a wonderful event. “Now I want to cycle all the way to 'Raahgiri' circuit, instead of stuffing my cycle in the back of my car and getting dropped there”, she said. Mr. Rajiv Khurana, Residential Welfare Association (RWA) member in Gurgaon, said that by "continuous participation we can show the authorities in Gurgaon how much it means to us.”
The huge turnout at Raahgiri Day proved that citizens no longer want to rely on cars for their travel. Instead, they just want to enjoy their city’s simplest daily pleasures: walking and cycling on convivial streets. People from all walks of life joined in the fun at Raahgiri Day; giving an opportunity for everyone to access the streets. More importantly, it played a major role in changing the image of bicycle from being the ‘poor man’s vehicle’. Amit Bhatt, Strategy Head of Transport at EMBARQ India said, “A cycle track can be made at 50% the price of a one-lane road for cars, both being of the same quality. And the advantage Gurgaon has over other cities is the availability of ample space that can easily accommodate cycling and pedestrian facilities.”