Imagine people doing the zumba right in the middle of the road in an Indian city, without having to worry about motorists honking, abusing or worse still, strike them down as is the sad routine here.
The Millennium City, Gurgaon, is gearing up to have a motor vehicle-free 10 kilometre stretch every Sunday where, besides enjoying the Colombian-origin dance fitness programme, people will get to ride cycles, practise yoga and even play badminton.
The country’s first date with ‘Ciclovia’, where cyclists, skaters and pedestrians are allowed risk-free leisure time out on the roads, is set to begin in Gurgaon on 10 November. And it’s being called “Raahgiri Day”.
Sounds very much like Bogota’s “Sunday Streets Ciclovia” – the weekly event of the Colombian city since 1974 where more than 70 miles of roads, including La Septima, the main commercial hub, remained out of bounds for cars. And Gurgaon looks ready to showcase ‘Ciclovia’ for the fun, eco-friendly way of life that it represents.
Sarika Bhatt, an urban planning consultant and coordinator of “Raahgiri Day” says, “In association with the local authorities, we have identified a route of about 10 kilometres around the city’s DLF City area and Huda City metro station. There will be stages along the ‘Ciclovia’ path where music will play. Trained and informed facilitators will be present to guide the participants.”
Gurgaon is known to be a city of high-speed roads where pedestrians and cyclists are eased out by motor vehicles. Sometimes in a severely harsh manner. There were 25 pedestrian deaths out of the total of 55 deaths on the Delhi-Gurgaon expressway in 2012.
Apart from the two existing expressways in the city (Delhi-Gurgaon and Gurgaon-Fardiabad), four more high-speed roads (northern peripheral road, southern peripheral road, Kundli-Manesar-Palwal expressway and an eight-lane signal-free sector road connecting DLF city to one of the highways) are coming up. However, there were no dedicated cycle tracks in Gurgaon till date, despite its label as the “Millennium City”.
“Raahgiri Day” is the culmination of tireless and creative efforts by a group of ‘informed’ Gurgaon residents who began working on the idea almost a year back.
An informal group of executives under the umbrella of Non-Motorised Transport (NMT) began working towards promoting walking, cycling and use of public transport through workshops, lectures and even miniature ‘ciclovias’ where they invited the city’s top cops and administrators, to reach out and engage with them on the idea of pollution-free modes of transport.
Prabhat Agarwal, co-founder of “Pedal Yatri”, a city-based cycling group comprising senior corporate executives among others and an NMT group member, says that once the sensitization levels reached a certain level, they began taking it forward with the city’s corporates and administration to garner further support.
“Thankfully, the police and the administration have come out in full support of the weekly event that will go on till the last Sunday of March next year,” says Agarwal, a graduate from IIT Delhi and IIM Ahmedabad and an entrepreneur who cycles to his workplace instead of driving to office in a car.
There are several executives and expats in Gurgaon who are well-travelled, and hence share the bewilderment at the glaring lack of pedestrian and cycling paths in the city. The NMT movement has also received support from the National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom) as the city is a major hub of IT and other related IT enabled services firms. Nasscom has initiated events like “CEOs walk to work” to promote NMT in the city. According to Manas Fuloria, MD (Europe) of Nagarro Software, which is a member company of Nasscom, famous Hindi-rock band Euphoria has composed a video anthem for the city’s NMT campaign.
“We are soon going to release the song composed by Euphoria’s lead vocalist Dr Palash Sen. The song titled “Walk on” has been shot in the city itself and residents, corporate executives and even top cops have acted in it,” says Fuloria.
The city’s school children have also played an instrumental role in bringing the NMT movement to this stage. Laxmi Singh from Heritage School, Gurgaon, who is one of the main coordinators of “Raahgiri Day” says, “Students from our school did studies on the city’s transport system and made feasibility reports on NMT which were presented to the local authorities. Nasscom and all the residents came together with us to make this possible. Hundreds of children from Heritage and other schools will participate in the event.”
“Raahgiri Day”, besides being the flagbearer of the unique Non-Motorised Transport (NMT) promotion initiative in India, will also be a street celebration of the Gurgaon community where both the rich and poor can share equitable road space.