Raahgiri Day, a car-free event initiated by WRI and partners, has expanded to more than 36 locations in 30 cities in India. Together, some 10 million people have taken part. By promoting safer roads, more physical activity, less air pollution and stronger communities, Raahgiri Day is changing lifestyles and shifting perceptions of urban life.
One-tenth of all road traffic fatalities occur in India, the most of any country in the world. The majority of victims are pedestrians and cyclists, who have not traditionally been a priority for urban planners. With India’s cities expected to grow by over 200 million residents by 2030, action is needed to make streets safer for non-motorists.
With four local partners, WRI helped launch the first Raahgiri Day in November 2013 in Gurgaon, near New Delhi. Since then, the city closes major streets to motorized vehicles for several hours on Sundays, opening them for recreational activities including cycling, dancing, walking and yoga. WRI played a key role in developing and organizing the Raahgiri Day concept and joined with media to promote it. After this initial success, WRI worked with the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, Times of India and Hindustan Times to replicate the event in other Indian cities.
The original Raahgiri Day in Gurgaon has continued to expand and has attracted over a million participants since its inception. WRI and its partners have helped take Raahgiri Day to an additional 11 cities, including Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bhopal and Ahmedabad. Eighteen more cities have launched events inspired by Raahgiri Day, often customized with local names. Altogether, some 10 million people have taken part in the car-free events.
By promoting safer roads and increased physical activity, these events have helped to shift the perception of urban mobility, introducing the idea of streets as public spaces. Raahgiri Day is sparking a movement for change, and decision-makers are taking notice. Gurgaon, for example, has built 8 kilometers (5 miles) of cycle track and is planning a larger network. Delhi has started the process of redesigning 1,260 kilometers (783 miles) of main city roads with pedestrians and cyclists in mind. Bhopal is initiating India’s first bike-sharing program. With increasing interest from citizens and governments, Raahgiri Day is poised to help bring sustainable mobility to cities across India, demonstrating that streets are not just for cars, but for pedestrians and cyclists, too.