Get creative on the streets to get heard and noticed. A new wave of people-centric innovative campaigns has reignited the concept of "cities for its people" in India. These new initiatives are supported by citizen groups & nonprofit organizations with able support from media and local government bodies to capture the hearts of the people.

Ciclovia (Car-free Sunday Street) in Bogotá, Colombia, is a hit and a trendsetter in the transformation of that city from a car-centric to people-centric. The Green Living Blog of The Guardian mentions   "Ciclovía a weekly, city-wide, car-free day in Bogotá that puts 76 miles of roads, including La Septima – the city’s main commercial centre – off-limits to cars. It’s been running since 1974".

In an earnest effort, cities in India are trying to replicate this phenomenon in various forms and styles to bring people, communities and other stakeholders together to witness streets free of speeding private vehicles, no blaring horns and a cleaner environment.

People-level advocacy and indigenous campaigns can help a lot in convincing decision-makers to create infrastructure that encourages the idea of people-centric cities. The three important criteria to make these campaigns succeed are:

  1. engagement (online and offline);
  2. people network;
  3. momentum.

There is a strategic need to embolden policy-level advocacy with strong people-level advocacy on ground level. People need to be the champions of this street renaissance.

Cities in India are bursting at their seams. They are choked with traffic jams, engulfed into toxic air pollutants (like winter smog in Delhi, capital city of India) with ever-increasing numbers of private vehicles on the roads, an insatiable demand for parking spaces, and a rising number of traffic accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists.

The mushrooming giant serpentine flyovers are making the cities' skylines uglier day by day.

According to the Ministry of Road Traffic and Transport, (press release for Road Safety Week January 1- January 7, 2014) "over 100,000 people are killed in traffic in India annually". This staggering figure translates into 275 people dying an unnatural death on roads in India every day of the year.

The Times of India report suggests there are now 200 times as many motor vehicles (including two-wheelers) as there were 50 years ago (from 0.7 million in 1961 to 142 million in 2011). The worst affected are children who are slowly losing their neighbourhood parks to these cobwebs of car parks.

The 2006 National Urban Transport Policy, a national level policy made by the Ministry of Urban Development, was formulated to address an onslaught of private vehicle dependence and maddening traffic with an emphasis on "moving people and not just vehicles".

But it has failed miserably in the way it has been envisioned.

Raahgiri Day public ad by  Times of India

Here is a list of brave new advocacy attempts to bring people to the centre of city planning and designing in India:

1. Raahgiri Day in Gurgaon, New Delhi (regular)

Raahgiri Day is a weekly road event started from 7th Nov and will continue on every Sunday till 30th March. It is supported by local government bodies, NGOs and media. The streets identified for Raahgiri Day are cordoned off for non-motorized transport users between 6 am and 12 noon.

Cycle Day in Bengaluru- Graphic by Bengaluru Cycle ClubDuring the day, a mass of interactive and engaging activities is planned to celebrate the safe and people-friendly street concept. Raahgiri Day is one of the first steps towards making Gurgaon a sustainable and environment-friendly city.

2. Cycle Day in Bengaluru, Bangalore, Karnataka (regular)

The cycle day campaign in Bengaluru is held on the last Sunday of every month. The day is supported by by the Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT) along with groups such as Ride a Cycle Foundation and Praja RAAG.

According to TOI report, "traditional games such as gulli danda, lagori,slow cycle races for children, adults and the traffic police and rangoli competition were organised."

3. Bengaluru Bus Day, Bengaluru, Karnataka (regular)

Bus day Bengaluru

The Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) observes the fourth day of every month as Bus Day. It was started in year 2010 with support from a city-based citizen initiative praja. It has been continued and last celebrated in the month of November, 2013.

4. Pune Bus Day, Pune, Maharastra (discontinued)

Pune Bus Day- Graphic by Sakal Times

The city-based media group, Sakal, took the innovative initiative of a ‘Pune Bus Day’ to highlight and publicize the need for a better public transport service in the city. The event, celebrated on Nov 2, 2012, brought together a wide array of stakeholders to support the effort including schools, colleges, citizen group, NGOs (ITDP, Parisar among others), private companies, and government bodies.

The event was widely marketed through traditional media approaches in addition to a massive online campaign through Facebook and Twitter. The event was planned in partnership with PMPML, the city bus service provider and they run almost twice the number of buses on November 1, 2012, with an appeal to people to use the city bus instead of their own vehicle on that day. However, in the subsequent year, it was discontinued.

5. Ahmedabad Car Free Sunday Street: initiated on a good note but lost momentum (discontinued)

Ahmedabad Car Free Sunday Street- by Kumar Manish

Ahmedabad, the fifth largest city in India with over six million people, has the all-too common problem of pedestrians and cyclists competing for street space with heavy traffic. In April, 2010, three of the city’s busiest streets were experimented with something unique to Gujarat’s capital: Car-Free Sunday Streets.

Ahmedabad Traffic Police, in collaboration with the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC), declared three roads - C. G. Road, Law Garden, and Kankaria Lake - to be vehicle-free zones for one evening each week. Every Sunday from 4 PM to 11 PM year-round, these three streets, some of the busiest in the city choked with vehicles on regular days, become a walking and biking paradise and a playground for children and families. Initially, the event garnered a lot of interest.

However, a lack of planning, ownership and poor management led to its untimely death. An earnest approach but went kaput.

These creative efforts in public campaigning will be a crucial catalyst in making cities in India more lovable and liveable. As citizens we sincerely need to demand, partyicipate aznd support such initiatives by getting organized at the neighborhood to city levels to make our streets safe for all, especially children.