Coimbatore spoke loud and clear! The people reclaimed their streets from automobiles, in the process reclaiming their quality of life. Sunday, 9 August 2015, saw over four thousand residents out bright and early for Coimbatore’s first car-free Sunday. People put DB Road and TV Swamy Road to good use, whether they were walking, cycling, playing badminton, jumping around on trampolines, or dribbling soccer balls. What stood out was the laughter and the palpable joy.
The Coimbatore City Municipal Corporation (CCMC) and Coimbatore City Police launched the car-free Sundays along with founding partners ITDP, the Residents Awareness Association of Coimbatore (RAAC), and presenting partner The Times of India. The events are part of Namma Kovai Namakke (Our Coimbatore for Ourselves), a campaign to create people friendly streets across Coimbatore.
“I didn’t realise how wide our roads are,” said Archana Patnaik, District Collector for Coimbatore, as she walked and cycled along the streets. Patnaik and other city officials met with residents and participated wholeheartedly in the activities.
Citizens walk and cycle along car-free streets (left) while Coimbatore Municipal Commissioner, Dr. K. Vijayakarthikeyan, enjoys a game of cricket (right).
With a turnout of over 15,000 the next weekend and 19,000 in the third week, more and more of Coimbatore’s residents have begun participating, enjoying their Sundays like never before. The unprecedented public support for car-free Sundays has enthused CCMC and the Traffic Police, who are planning to expand the initiative to include other streets like Race Course Road.
The run-up to the launch of the car-free Sundays saw the residents and city officials come together to discuss how to to transform Coimbatore into a smart, vibrant city, one that offers safe, accessible, and comfortable public spaces to all. “I want Coimbatore to be the smartest city—not just a smart city—in India,” remarked Dr. K. Vijayakarthikeyan, Commissioner, Coimbatore City Municipal Corporation, at a stakeholder meeting.
Municipal officials, traffic police, RAAC, Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry – Coimbatore chapter, prominent citizens and the media participated in the stakeholder meeting to envision a Smart Coimbatore.
Car-free days are but the first step towards making Coimbatore a liveable city with safe and equitable public spaces. Following the success of car-free Sundays, Coimbatore plans to upgrade footpaths along key streets in each of its five zones, including DB Road and TV Swamy Road. As one participant rightly said, reclaiming space for people makes it “not (only) a happy street, but a happy city.”
Car-free days are held every Sunday, from 6:30 a.m. to 10 a.m., on DB Road and TV Swamy Road, Coimbatore. More streets will join the party soon! All are welcome. For more information, log on to https://www.facebook.com/NammaKovaiNamakke.