Raahgiri Day, India’s first sustained car-free day, completed its second month in Gurgaon – India’s “Millennium City” – on January 19, 2014. Although only eight weeks old, Raahgiri Day has had quite the journey since its first day in action on November 17, 2013. While 10,000 people participated in the inaugural event, that number has grown each week – reaching over 20,000 by Week 5 and nearly 90,000 by Week 8.
With Raahgiri Day garnering significant public and media attention, a strong message is being sent that Indian roads have great potential to positively benefit urban residents when they are accessible not only for cars, but for pedestrians, cyclists, and for recreational purposes as well. More importantly, the event has succeeded in driving home the fact that many of India’s urban residents are willing to use sustainable modes of transport, provided they have access to safe and secure infrastructure.
Raahgiri Day in photos
Every Sunday, Raahgiri Day participants can be seen cycling, running, working out, playing soccer, or just soaking up the winter sun with their families, friends, and even their pets. It’s also common to see kids singing, dancing, performing martial arts… the list goes on and on! Check out some scenes below from the streets of Gurgaon over the past two months:
The making of Raahgiri Day
On October 18, 2013, Mr. Alok Mittal – Commissioner of Gurgaon Police – announced the launch of Raahgiri Day at a press conference:
Raahgiri Day will not be a one-day event, but an ongoing festival until March to celebrate vehicle-free and pollution free roads, and will be supported by all the major administration units in Gurgaon – HUDA, MCG, PWD and Traffic Police.
But the conceptualization and planning of Raahgiri Day in Gurgaon goes back over a year. On the ground implementation began when the Heritage School approached EMBARQ India and Pedal Yatri, a recreational cycling group in Gurgaon, to assist their students with a research project titled, “Making Gurgaon a Bike Friendly City – 2013.” As a part of their research, students learned about cycle-friendly cities around the world, participated in traffic observation fieldwork, conducted neighborhood surveys, and interviewed cyclists of various socio-economic backgrounds. Their research findings raised a few basic questions: Can we experience freedom and self-reliance in our cities? Is Gurgaon a cycle-friendly city?
The Heritage School’s project culminated with a 12 kilometer (7.5 mile) cycle rally in Gurgaon, which was held in April 2013. Almost 300 cyclists participated, including students, parents, and teachers from Heritage School; senior government officials from Gurgaon and members from Pedal Yatri and EMBARQ India. Enjoying generous public support, the rally was the first event to draw attention to the notion that roads are public spaces too often congested by cars and motorcycles. From there, the idea of Raahgiri Day was born.
Raahgiri Day builds support for non-motorized transport infrastructure
Raahgiri Day’s popularity is contributing to a growing awareness of the need for adequate non-motorized transport infrastructure in Gurgaon. Decision-makers in the city are now beginning to understand that these modes can be used as an effective form of mobility for shorter trips and last-mile connectivity to large-scale mass transportation systems, such as Gurgaon’s metro.
Thanks in large part to the event’s success, non-motorized transport is being seen as a key intervention that can help close the sustainable urban mobility loop. Hopefully, the supporting momentum for Raahgiri Day will help commission the establishment of permanent pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, as well as other accessibility and livability improvements in Gurgaon.