Flix Wednesday, January 28, 2015 - 05:30
Nitin B| The News Minute | January 17, 2015 | 3:20 pm IST Car-free cities. Is that even possible? Madrid has already banned most traffic from certain city streets. By 2020, the mayor of Paris plans to double the number of bike lanes in the city and ban diesel cars. Copenhagen has started introducing car-free zones in the city center. The German city of Hamburg is aspiring to become completely car-free within the next two decades after city officials felt that the personal car does not fulfill a function that walking, biking and taking public transport cannot, a report in BBC says. The automotive industry in India is one of the largest automotive markets in the world, but with the ratio of road networks hardly increasing with respect to the number of cars, the country is really experiencing a lack of space. Cramped up buildings, tiny roads and pedestrians squeezing past each other - in turn causing traffic to pile up while vehicles continue to honk, has become a frequent sight. Though the infrastructure as a whole has improved with better highways and more ways to manage the traffic, after years of car-filled streets, can the country really turn its back on the automobile? A lot of cities around the globe are slowly moving towards a more sustainable society, by trying to go car free. In India, the scenario is slightly alarming. A report in NDTV, says that Delhi is fast becoming the new pollution capital of the world and adds 1400 cars to its roads every day. The report is dated to almost a year ago. The current scenario is much worse. Over the last decade, the number of vehicles in Delhi has jumped by a phenomenal 97 per cent. Bangalore, on the other hand, has become the first city in South India to cross the half-a-crore mark in the number of vehicles - while the road network has not even increased by a kilometre.    As of July 2014, there are more than 52.14 lakh registered vehicles on the streets of Bangalore. Hyderabad  has 48 lakh while Chennai has close to 43 lakh, a report in the Bangalore Mirror adds. But all hope is not lost. On November 17, 2013, an entire street in Gurgaon transformed into a car-free zone on Sunday where citizens came together and used the street for recreation. The street which was closed to automobiles from 7:00 am to 12:00 pm saw families come out and enjoy community leisure activities including street dancing and live music.  Inspired by an event that began in Bogotá, Colombia in 1971, where to this day, 121 km of roads are closed to cars and buses every Sunday - the Indian equivalent of the event was christened "Raahgiri Day" and celebrated the fact that cities were meant for people and not their vehicles. On September 21, 2014, Bhopal became the fifth city in India to take part in the weekly open streets movement. Witnessing over 10,000 people from all over the city, the event was organized by the Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the Traffic Police. Raahgiri Day took a huge leap forward in a few months - when it spread to Connaught Place, Delhi where over 5,000 people attended the city's first Raahgiri Day During its third week, attendance doubled to more than 10,000.  The Independence day celebrations, in August of last year also get a glimpse of the concept after Raahgiri had been chosen to be at the core of a week of Independence Day activities.  This Raahgiri event which took place on India’s 68th Independence Day across from the Red Fort and will included activities like skating, zumba, yoga, and cycling.  The decision to place Raahgiri Day at the center of Independence Day celebrations brings out the country's desire to integrate the principals of sustainable, active mobility into Urban culture and perhaps one day, look forward to large scale, massive implementation of the concept and look forward to cities going car free. But numbers now suggest that India's car fetish is here to stay for sometime. Tweet Follow @thenewsminute

Show us some love and support our journalism by becoming a TNM Member - Click here.