By Somali K Chakrabarti
Ciclovía is a weekly city-wide, car-free day in Bogotá, when more than 2 million people come out to cycle, hang out and eat on the streets. It has been successfully running since 1974.
Ciclovía keeps cars off the streets in the Colombian capital and brings rich and poor together – if only for a day. ~ theguardian
The concept of Ciclovía has, since then, spread far and wide beyond Columbia, and walking events are now organized in different cities around the world.
The concept is no longer alien to India either. Known by name of Raahgiri, a similar event started in Gurgaon in 2013, and has been continuing for over a year. Such events are also organized at Connaught Place in Delhi, in Bhopal, Ludhiyana, Pune, Navi Mumbai and have lately started in Mumbai as the Santacruz – Bandra festival, as the result of collective efforts of NGOs, think tanks, citizens’ associations and cycling groups
Living in Mumbai, one of my main grouse has been the lack of open spaces to walk. So when I heard of Santacruz – Bandra Walking Festival that is organized every Sunday from 7 am to 11 am, with two of the busiest streets of Mumbai – Linking Road and SV Road, being closed to traffic to allow people to walk, there was no way I could keep away.
So, there I was walking at Linking Road with hoards of others who were out on the road strolling, briskly walking, prancing or jogging. What a sight it was to see the traffic packed roads of Mumbai completely devoid of traffic! Children with roller skates whizzed past in glee, there were others on cycles and push bikes, and a few were trying to balance on a segway.
People gathered in pockets along the side of the road where various activities were going on. I stopped at a spot where I saw a small crowd that had congregated in front of two drummers who were just about to start playing. Some people in the gathering were handed out smaller drums.
The Drum cafe’s interactive drumming rocked the audience as they started drumming and clapping to the rhythm. The drum beats reverberating with energy caught us in rapturous attention. It was a delightful session that lasted for around 15 minutes before we made a move as new audience gathered for the next session.
An atmosphere of cheer prevailed all over as people randomly assembled and joined in for impromptu dance-workouts, exercise or yoga sessions, or even for meditation. Using the road as their canvas, children squatted on the street to scribble and scrawl.
This is a unique concept for fostering a community feeling and encouraging outdoor activities for physical fitness. The event is very well managed, with the police ensuring that no untoward incident takes place while people walk freely on the roads.
You can walk uninterrupted for a long stretch, without auto rickshaws and cars honking at you or you can join in with others to participate in the activities that are organized on the road. You would find yoga, fitness camps, segway ride, cycling, painting, street acts and meditation camps. You can have a quick snack at Mc Donalds or Dunkins and resume walking, or you can savor hot tea with vada pao, or dhokla at the corner shops, or buy fresh coconut water from the street vendors.
Thanks to the walking festivals that Sundays are now healthy and more enjoyable. It has created the much needed incentive for children to get out of their beds and engage in healthy fun-filled outdoor activities.
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