UPCOMING EVENT: Mumbai to Host Its First "Car Free Day"


This upcoming Sunday, February 21, for the first time ever, Mumbai is holding a Car Free Day, similar to Ciclovia in Bogotá and Summer Streets in New York City. The all-day event is organized by the Khar-Bandra-Santacruz (KBS) Foundation, a community-based non-governmental organization that promotes cycling and walking as a way to improve the environment and quality of life for local residents. Seema Tiwari, advisor to the KBS Foundation and a former staff member of the Centre for Sustainable Transport in India (part of the EMBARQ Network, which produces this blog), shares her insights about why Car Free Day matters for her city and what it means for the global sustainable transport community.

How did this idea come about?

Seema Tiwari: While I was working for EMBARQ to establish the India office, I lived in Bandra. Over the weekends, in my own time, I started talking to the local community. Khar-Bandra-Santa Cruz (KBS) Foundation loved the idea and decided to implement the Mumbai Car Free Day.

As some background info: KBS Foundation was involved in taking the lead on extending the Carter Road Promenade, which is a best practice for public space utilization in Mumbai’s western suburbs. The road is widely being used by the local community for fitness and recreational purposes. KBS Foundation’s mission is to motivate people to take up cycling as a mode of transportation, sport, recreation and environment protection. In the past, it has organized a film screening on cycle-friendly cities at the Carter Road open-air amphitheatre, which attracted 100 cyclists and more than 200 viewers.

TCF: Who started Car Free Day?

ST: KBS Foundation took up the idea as a public awareness campaign under their much larger project, the Khar-Bandra Bicycle Project, which plans to implement 15 kilometers of dedicated cycle lanes in the neighborhood. As an immediate outcome of Car Free Day, the Foundation will be installing six bicycle stands with local politicians’ support.

This would not have been possible without the support of  Phirojsha Godrej Foundation, Cloud 9, PCRA, EMBARQ, Wescon Group of Companies, Maharashtra Marine Board, Maharashtra Pollution Control Board, Awaaz Foundation, Radio City 91.1 FM,  Fountainhead Promotions & Events and www.wherecity.com.

TCF: What is the mission of Car Free Day?

ST: There are six overarching goals:

  • Develop cleaner, greener and beautiful surroundings for a better quality of life by going eco-friendly.
  • Promote active transportation by creating a pro-walking and -cycling culture based on zero-pollution mobility.
  • Create a need for promenades, walkways and dedicated cycle lanes by active citizenship and community mobilization.
  • Improve quality of public spaces by assisting the government in developing dedicated cycling infrastructure like dedicated cycle lanes, cycle parks and cycle parking facilities in three phases.
  • Educate the community in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and make Khar, Bandra, and Santacruz carbon-neutral.
  • Protect and conserve the mangroves and the environment in the neighborhood.

TCF: How does this Sunday’s event compare to other car-free initiatives in cities around the world?

ST: For Mumbai Car Free Day, we carefully reviewed Bogota and New York City’s car-free days — these two were our inspiration. The key difference is these that those events are led and funded by the government, whereas in Mumbai, it’s led by an NGO who fundraised with the private sector.
In India, the challenge is to get the government to reach an understanding that urban projects are just not “technical” but “socio-technical” in nature. It is important for them to make budgets for public awareness campaigns, like Car Free Day, through which we hope to bring behavioral change in people to appreciate and use the city’s facilities, rather then rebel against the government’s sustainable transport projects.

TCF: Explain how this is innovative for Mumbai, in particular, and India, in general?

ST: The events planned for the day are very local, just not country- and city-specific, but neighborhood-by-neighborhood. Local gyms, clubs, Bollywood singers, restaurants, and artists are all participating. Local politicans, including Mrs. Priya Dutt, a member of Parliament, and Baba Siddique, a member of the Legislative Assembly, along with some Bandra-based celebraties, are all cycling with the community.

In addition, Car Free Day is integrated with other events, such as the Mumbai Cyclothon, where 4000 cyclists will pass through our Car Free Day venue on Carter Road. And about 10 cyclists from the Bangalore Cycling Club will bike 1,000 kilometers from Bangalore to Mumbai, to help promote the festivities. (Follow the ride on Twitter at https://twitter.com/blrcyclingclub.)

We’re also pleased to share that the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board and Awaaz Foundation are doing air and noise pollution studies before and after the event on Sunday. The test on February 17 will establish normal levels of air and noise pollution, while the test on February 21 will provide comparative data on a day without cars. We anticipate a significant reduction in both on the latter date and the result promises to be very interesting.

Other Car Free Day events will include morning ragas, Tibetan yoga, BMX stunts, gully cricket, pranic healing classes, dance exercises by Leena Mogre, skating, healthy eating classes, Odissi dancing, karaoke, kite flying, art camp and ghazals by Ghulam Hashir. The evening schedule will be highlighted by a pop music performance by Shaan.

TCF: That sounds fun! How has the response been so far?

ST: Very positive. KBS members have held community meetings with residents along Carter Road, to gain their support and cooperation. Local police and other municipal agencies have also offered support. There’s been a ton of press and blog coverage, too.

TCF: What are plans for the future?

ST: There will be an evaluation of the event to note down successes, failures and recommendations. This pilot project will be compiled into a report and submitted to the Ministry of Urban Development and the Maharashtra government. MOUD’s national urban transport policy clearly states the importance of such events for public awareness. Plus, under the funds provided by the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), there is a budget for capacity-building and public awareness campaigns, but it has not been mobilized so far. We would love for the Maharashtra Government to host future car-free days in cooperation with KBS all across Mumbai, as has already been done in Bogota and New York City.


About the KBS Foundation:

    The KBS Foundation is a non-profit, non-political and non-sectarian, social and charitable organization, having concerned citizens of Khar, Bandra and Santacruz as permanent members, who have come together to undertake projects across various localities of Khar, Bandra and Santacruz to fulfill a common and passionate objective of cleaner, greener and beautiful surroundings for a better quality of life.

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