People in Mumbai are being squeezed out of spaces to walk or cycle by the sheer pressure of cars. Equal Streets Day closes off one side of the road to motorised transport to create space for non-motorised and active modes of transport. The program's objective is to create awareness, support, and catalyse permanent infrastructure change in the city.
Objectives and Goals
Equal Streets is a sustained community movement towards the provision of better and safer walking and cycling infrastructure in our city. The Equal Streets movement is constituted by a growing number of citizens groups, cycling clubs, NGOs and residential welfare associations that have all come together for this common cause.
As an immediate objective, we organise a weekly program every Sunday morning, where a section of select roads are made “car-free”; they are closed off to motorised transport and open only to forms of non-motorised transport such as walking and cycling. Through this weekly program, we are creating community awareness and support for the larger objectives of the Equal Streets movement. Additionally, we hope to catalyse a momentum towards permanent change.
The purpose: Every day, people in Mumbai are being squeezed out of spaces to walk or cycle by the sheer pressure of cars, whose numbers are growing exponentially each year. In many places, footpaths are in an extreme state of disrepair, or have been completely encroached upon by other uses. In other places, footpaths have been completely eradicated to create additional space for motorised traffic. At the same time, the growing volume of motorised traffic has created very unsafe and harsh conditions for cyclists. Thus, the prominence of this once very important mode of transport has slowly dwindled over the years. Apart from the omnipresent danger posed by motorised transport, there is the rising toll of air pollution, which has left the city literally gasping for breath. Added to this is the increasingly stressful environment created by noise pollution emanating from motorised traffic.
The Equal Streets movement seeks to correct the fundamental imbalance in our city’s transport planning priorities. As things are, the bulk of public expenditure on city transport favours owners of cars. Our objective is to put the human being at the centre of transport priority, rather than the motor-vehicle. Equal Streets Day allows communities to reclaim their streets, at least on a Sunday morning to start with, and thus create the platform to invoke permanent change.
Impacts of the Equal Streets Day Program
In March 2015, the team conducted a survey on a Sunday morning, to determine and document the response to the program, and address any constructive feedback from users and residents. The survey, with a sample size of 337, indicated an overwhelming response from the public. Below are some key highlights obtained from the survey:
• 91% strongly agreed that there was a reduction of pollution on a Sunday morning
• 86% agreed that information dissemination about the event was well-managed
• 98% strongly agreed that the event should continue
• 77% agreed that the current area should be expanded to other parts of the city
• 46% accessed the location on foot
In terms of the post-event impacts, the following impacts were recorded:
• 22% bought cycles
• 72% began walking for short-distance trips
• 38% now walk / cycle more than 5 times a week
• 47% use public transport more often
Future Proposal for Change
Over the last few months, the Equal Streets team, consisting of urban designers, planners and architects, has designed a more permanent infrastructure change to Linking Road. This plan focuses on the following objectives:
• Localised traffic movement
• Traffic-calmed spaces: raised junctions, one-way traffic movement
• Shared space: vehicles and cycles plying together
The team has put forth this design to the authorities and public and is currently collecting feedback and inputs to the plan.