Sunday morning I woke to a cool breeze and inclination to go for a stroll.
However that was all before Mumbai joined the ‘Equal Streets‘ movement.
Each Sunday from 7am until 11am, one side of two main roads in Bandra are closed to motorised traffic for community activities.
So I hopped in a rick and asked to be dropped at the HP Petrol pump, corner of SV Road and Linking Road.
My friendly rickshaw driver knew immediately my purpose and gently chided me that it was already quite late and I would miss most of the activities – especially the races (it was 10am).
I asked what he thought of the Equal Streets initiative? He was nothing but praise – not minding in the least the small inconvenience of having the roads partly blocked on Sunday mornings. Said how next Sunday I should go earlier to enjoy it more!
Now… as I reached at the tail end, I did indeed miss most of the activities, I witnessed a transformation from community use to regular traffic conditions.
There are also cycles to take for a test drive… bringing equal opportunity for rich and poor to try riding a bicycle.
While a few kids were clearly experts, most were quite new to hopping on a bicycle… with a couple quite nervous about the experience.
I loved watching all the little girls whizzing around – I missed catching a pic of this one young burka-clad girl with her face beaming with an older girl perched behind her. The striking radiance from such unfettered joy was powerful.
There were still a few lingering activities such as drawing, chess, tennis, soccer even though most activity stations were in the process of being dismantled as I meandered along…
It was remarkable watching folks leaving actually getting police help to cross the traffic. Anyone who has done the Indian road ‘dash n dart’ knows how dangerous it can be – especially for the elderly or those with mobility issues!
And before you knew it – whoosh! From behind came a motorbike, then rickshaws, then cars… and it was over.
A few were simply in denial and kept peddling even as the cars returned to the roads!
Here’s a very clear sign of sentiment!
With thanks to the many volunteers that made it happen!
Having so recently returned from Amsterdam where cycles have a clear place of pride in the grand scheme of things, the contrast with India is extreme.
There are very few places in Mumbai to safely walk, cycle or play. Which makes initiatives like these so important. Now in one part of the city once a week for a few hours, there is one alternative – free for all!
Now… I just might listen to my rickshaw driver and make an effort to go earlier next week to catch the oodles of other activities, workshops, performances and more.
- Equal Streets Website
- ‘Reclaiming the streets: a vision of a happier, healthier Mumbai’ in the Guardian
- The ‘Equal Streets’ Movement in Mumbai post on Natures of Cities
- Equal Streets-Mumbai on Wanderful