Raahgiri Day is India’s first sustained car-free citizen initiative , that began in Gurgaon in Novemeber 2013. The movement was conceived and is trademarked with the Raahgiri Foundation, consisting of local residents from five organizations –EMBARQ India, I Am Gurgaon, Pedalyatri, Heritage School Gurgaon, Duplays Gurgaon.
It was not long thereafter that this weekly event – that closes streets to cars arrived in New Delhi. The New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) together with the New Delhi Police Department took the lead in hosting car-free Sundays in the inner circle of New Delhi’s Connaught Place each week, beginning July 2014.
Expanding the movement from Gurgaon(population 800,000 people) to New Delhi (population 22 million) has definitely been a huge leap, one that reminds us that reorienting cities around people – and not cars – is achievable.
In July 2015, this movement completed a year in Connaught Place. Rising from a turnout of 5000 people on the first Raahgiri day to 20,000 people today; and expanding to Dwarka, Rohini & East Delhi areas in Delhi, the movement has shown a tremendous growth. This has also set New Delhi on an important path towards combating air pollution and improving public health, and moved all of India one step closer towards being an exemplar of sustainable urban development for other emerging economies.
In Novemeber 2014, Gurgaon completed “1 year of Raahgiri Day – Apni Rahen, Apni Azaadi”. It has been a commendable journey so far with thousands of citizens participating in this movement every Sunday.
The success of this initiative over the last year has shown that if people are provided with safe, high-quality infrastructure, they will cycle. This was also welcomed by the authorities of Gurgaon, as they finally initiated its much-discussed plan of installing cycle tracks in the city of Gurgaon, covering an area of 8 km from Huda City Centre to Golf Course Road Extension. But according to the organizers, this is only the beginning! The end goal is to have pedestrian and cycling friendly infrastructure laid over the entire city and to have safer roads for all!
The first anniversary celebrations were marked by a lot of momentous performances. The start of the show was by Enrique Penalosa, the former mayor or Bogota, Colombia. While listing the most important amenities that help improve the quality of life in a city, he said that the prime focus should be on developing parks, cycle tracks, footpaths, facilities for the elderly, differently abled and poor. He added, “The poor who use the non-motorized transport, are contributing to the environment. However, the rich are making it worse by using their vehicles. Thus, those who use non-motorized transport should feel proud and not inferior.”
In addition, a new campaign kicked off at the venue to sensitize Gurgaonites on the need of giving right of way to ambulances. According to the Road Safety Officers (RSOs), who started this campaign, they want to encourage every citizen to take a pledge that they will clear the way for an ambulance, so precious lives can be saved.
The other memorable performance on this day was the rock concert by Euphoria. Palash Sen, the lead singer of Euphoria, pumped-up the crowd during Raahgiri Day with his power-packed two-and-a-half-hour concert. The band started with ‘Walk On’, the song it coined as the Raahgiri Day anthem, followed by a lot of other hits. Hundreds of people who thronged the Raahgiri Day stretch on Sunday sang along with the band.