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Bandra’s Equal Streets

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Sunday morning I woke to a cool breeze and inclination to go for a stroll.

Now normally this means risking life n limb, dodging all kind of vehicles on the road and trying not to trip on sidewalk hazards.

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.

Half n half

Half n half

Now these cars are welcome

Now these cars are welcome!

Now... these cars are welcome!

And these!

There are also cycles to take for a test drive… bringing equal opportunity for rich and poor to try riding a bicycle.

Hear ye! Hear ye! Come forth for a cycle for you!

Hear ye! Hear ye! Come forth for a cycle for you!

While a few kids were clearly experts, most were quite new to hopping on a bicycle… with a couple quite nervous about the experience.

No one is stopping me!

No one is stopping me!

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.

"Papa I'm not so sure I'm ready..."

“Dada! Don’t let go…”

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…

GDDDD

Can you get me some more paper!

Space to play...

Hmm… your move…

I've got it!!!

I’ve got it!!!

20141214-Soccer2 20141214-Soccer1

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!

Wait... Wait...

Wait… Wait…

Ok you can go now!

Ok you can go now!

Waiting...

Now you folks also need to wait…

And before you knew it – whoosh! From behind came a motorbike, then rickshaws, then cars… and it was over.

Clearly NOT happy about things!

Clearly NOT happy about things!

A few were simply in denial and kept peddling even as the cars returned to the roads!

I'm not giving up my road!

I’m not giving up my road!

Here’s a very clear sign of sentiment!

And here to say thanks!

With thanks to the many volunteers that made it happen!

Our job is done!

A job well done!

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.

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16 Comments

  1. What a lovely idea 🙂

    …but… Amsterdam… those are bloody kamikaze cyclists. NOT impressed at all by that, I must say.

  2. Marta says:

    This is a great initiative and China should copy it! (they are very experienced in copying so shouldn’t be very hard… haha!).

  3. D K Powell says:

    What a GREAT initiative! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  4. thewriteedge says:

    How cool! My memories of visiting India all have to do with near misses of “death by traffic”. Next time I talk to my aunt in Bombay I’ll have to ask her about this (she lives in Andheri West.)

  5. First off, great pictures – you definitely captured the spirit of equal streets in your photos. The whole things sounds so interesting and it looks like the it is a major success. I just love the idea of people having the opportunity to ride rent-free bikes. It seems that most of the young people enjoyed it as well.

  6. Vow, such a lovely idea and initiative! Hopefully it takes roots and will grow into something even better. Thanks for sharing – it’s a really inspiring and positive message 🙂

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