Making Carfree Events More Effective - a Perspective from India

Traffic in Mumbai/ cc Bodenseemann, Spring 2004

Traffic in Mumbai/ cc Bodenseemann, Spring 2004

The  Carfree movement has caught the imagination of the people across the world. Perhaps it is is hassle faced by city-dwellers on a daily basis while commuting that motivates them to take an active part in such movements. The hardship is not only for those who are using an automobile – due to traffic jams etc, but also for all others who are subjected to increased pollution from the increasing number of cars working for an increased number of hours daily.

The information age also allows faster communication within communities which helps in the sharing of views on issues of common importance and concern. The recent past has witnessed people lending support to many such issues globally and coming out in the open to express solidarity for a cause. The only unfortunate part is that some such events also attract some unscrupulous elements who are more interested in personal gains rather than any real contribution to noble causes. Recently Mumbai in India witnessed one such Car Free Day where a Cycle Race and Walkathon was organized. The organizers were more interested in rubbing shoulders with politicians and government officials rather than seriously planning the event to percolate the importance of Car Free Days. The local media also fell into the trap and allowed its platform to be used for the tom-tom by the politicians and organizers. It is doubtful whether the city really experienced reduced emissions due to the Car-Free Day. While some of the vehicles were diverted to some longer routes to reach their respective destination with a view to accommodating the Car Free event, many vehicles were able to barge into the route which was meant for the Cyclothon or Walkathon. Both were problematic: the vehicles that were diverted to alternative/longer routes for their destinations produced more pollution than they would have done and the ones which moved parallel to the participants on the same road actually threatened the participants’ safety.

However, such movements should gain more popularity and international organizations like WCN and its members can play a formidable role in influencing people’s behavior.

A few suggestions for making such events more useful and beneficial could be:

a. The Car Free Days could be organized with greater regularity, say every month or once in a quarter.

b. Such events should also be held on working days rather than on holidays alone. If the event is organized on working days, the local government and authorities should endeavor to provide more public transport vehicles so that people can commute to their work place without using their own vehicles. Similarly, people may be encouraged to create car-pools to ferry more people in a single car.

c. Can “Exchanges for Proximity” be created?  It would be essentially a pool where the members would exchange their houses with a view to minimize travelling. For example Mr. A has a house in locality “X” but works in locality “Y”, similarly Mr. B has a house in locality “Y” but works in locality “X”.  Both exchange houses with a view to minimize travel to work. On the face of it such arrangements may seem difficult, but if tried could bring in new possibilities.

d. Small shopping complexes in close proximity to the residential complexes may be promoted so that the inhabitants of the residential complexes are either not required to travel more than 400-500 meters - a distance which is walkable for most people .

e. Use of cycles should be encouraged. This could be achieved if the leading lights of society use cycles at least once in a month, so that the behavior of the people at large could also be influenced.

f. Organizations like WCN and its members could enlighten the local governments and authorities about the “model-requirements” for holding carfree events. This would help to ensure that only those people who are serious about a cause rather than their own personal gain would take the lead for such events. This would also ensure the safety of the participants, which would lead to larger numbers of participants in all subsequent events.

— Arvind H Mittal

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *