Raahgiri Day – Apni Rahen, Apni Azaadi

Raahgiri Day – Apni Rahen, Apni Azaadi

Raahgiri Day is India’s first sustained car-free citizen initiative that began in Gurgaon on Nov 17, 2013 & was conceived by 5 organizations–EMBARQ India,IAmGurgaon,Pedalyatri,Heritage School & Duplays. Every Sunday, for 4-5 hours in the morning, dedicated stretches of roads in the city are blocked for motorized traffic and opened for people. Today, this movement is celebrated in 15 Indian cities.

Amit Bhatt, Delhi, India

The vision of Raahgiri Day is to encourage people to develop living streets — streets that encourage pedestrians, cyclists and other non-motorized transport modes. Streets are public assets but on most days are monopolized by cars, two-wheelers, etc. On this day, predefined roads are blocked so that people can regain ownership of the streets. The idea behind the movement is to address the following objectives:
1.Road Safety: More than 1.4 lac people annually die in India due to road accidents & majority of them are pedestrians & cyclists as they are not respected on roads.
2.Air Pollution: As per WHO report, more than 6.2 lac premature deaths/year happen in India due to air pollution.
3.Physical Inactivity: The WHO report estimates more than 4.3 lac premature deaths happen/year in India because of physical inactivity which is largely due to lifestyle changes.
4.Inclusive Development: Many urban areas are becoming very exclusive as there is no formal mechanism for interaction between various cross sections of society. The outcome of this social segregation is manifested in forms of social unrests.

Raahgiri Day is modeled after Ciclovia, an event that began in Bogotá, Colombia in 1976, & went onto inspire 110 cities in the World. In order to choose a more Indian name for Gurgaon’s event that would resonate with the city’s residents, the founders chose “Raahgiri” – a term that brings two ideas together. Raah refers to a path towards a final goal, & GandhiGiri is a colloquial adaptation of Mahatma Gandhi's transformative technique of non-violence.

On every Raahgiri Day, children & adults are invited to bike, skate, run & walk; to partake in community leisure activities such as street games, street dancing; to learn yoga, aerobics & zumba. This event is today celebrated in about 15 Indian cities including Ludhiana, Navi Mumbai, Delhi, Bhopal, Ahmedabad, Indore, Chandigarh, Mumbai, Hyderabad & Ranchi among others, with about 15-20,000 people participating in the movement every Sunday at each location. Raahgiri Day is chosen as 24 most inspiring stories for “Pathways to Green Cities” by Global Advisory Committee of The Earth Day Network; it won the early-bird prize for UL and Ashoka Changemakers: Safer Roads, Safer India Competition; and the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) has documented Raahgiri Day as a best practice in urban transportation.

Imapct of Raahgiri Day in Gurgaon –
1.Infrastructure Development – After 1 year of Raahgiri, 8 km of cycle tracks were installed in Gurgaon as pilot & remodelling & redevelopment of certain stretches have been taken up. In Delhi, DDA has allotted some budget for launching a public bicycle sharing scheme in Dwarka.
2.Road Safety - According to Gurgaon Police data (Mar 2014), Gurgaon saw 10% reduction in road traffic accidents. Gurgaon took a first step towards ‘tactical urbanisation’ with citizen groups coming together and reimagining their city’s zebra crossings; a very innovative method to convey the existence of zebra crossings & how to use them.
3. Increase in bicycle sales and local businesses - In our survey, 28% people said they bought cycles & shop owners reported 29% rise in sales.
4.Community Building - Raahgiri has promoted great interaction between Gurgaon police and citizens. It gives an opportunity to Police to talk to general public, exchange notes and win the trust of citizens.
5.Reduction in Air & Noise Pollution - On Raahgiri Days, streets have shown 49% reduction in exposure to PM 2.5 and 18% reduction in noise pollution as compared to Weekdays.
6.Promoting Inclusiveness – According to our visual surveys 40% visitors are from slum areas, & this is prominently indicated by the Zumba classes in which first 3-4 rows are filled with these children. "Inclusive Raahgiri" has also been celebrated in Delhi & Gurgaon in order to include our children and adults with disabilities in this initiative and embrace their unique talents.

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