A toddler trots on a traffic-free Lakshmi Road. Elderly men and women, seated at Pashan-Sus Road, chortle over a conversation, their chatter punctuated by the whizz of skateboarders nearby. A mother casually walks with her baby in a stroller on an uninterrupted footpath at Aundh. Her father with a walking stick joins in too.
Everyone’s happy. Everyone’s smiling. Everyone’s moving on foot.
Welcome to India’s—and Pune’s— first Pedestrians’ Day.
On 11th December’ 21, through a series of events across the city, the city reclaimed space for pedestrians, showcased the facilities created for them, and reinforced the need for safe, comfortable, and universally accessible walking infrastructure. We congratulate the visionaries of Pune Pedestrians’ Day—Murlidhar Mohol, Mayor of Pune, and Kunal Khemnar, Additional Commissioner, Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC)—and the supporting organisations and individuals, for achieving this milestone.
Why Pedestrians’ Days are important
We all wonder what a car-free future looks like. A Pedestrians’ Day can show you what that future feels like. It puts the spotlight on the most vulnerable users of the road—the pedestrians, especially the women, children, and elderly—and raises awareness about their safety, needs, and rights. Of the 1.5 lakh road crash deaths in 2019 in India, a whopping 17% of them were pedestrians. By reclaiming space from vehicles, and letting people walk, cycle, run, and roll, the Day presents an impactful image of how our streets could and should be safely redesigned, thus leading to permanent change.
In Pune, car users who were previously sceptical and dismissive of walking projects, began to empathise with pedestrians after the event. That’s the power of a Pedestrians’ Day.
A Pedestrians’ Day? Walking is sooooo unsafe, how are we going to celebrate it?! But that’s exactly why we need one! A ‘Day’ like the ‘Environment Day’ attracts people’s attention towards related issues. It leads to discussions, ideas, initiatives, projects, and improvements. Likewise, if you want your near and dear ones to be able to walk safely, among other initiatives, start observing Pedestrians’ Day in your city.Harshad Abhyankar, Director, Save Pune Traffic Movement
Your guide to doing Pedestrians’ Day right!
Partner with local organisations, experts, and volunteers
Pulling off an event like Pedestrians’ Day is no easy feat, and a single entity or organisation may not be able to do it all. It’s smarter to collaborate with experts from different backgrounds to ideate and execute the plan for a greater impact. A city should partner with social impact organisations, urban design and planning experts, civil society groups, who best understand the local context and the issues around walking and cycling. The partners can help with managing, coordinating, and executing the Day and its various activities. Also, rope in volunteers who can help with tasks like conducting outreach, documenting with photos and videos, managing the crowd, measuring the impact, and so on.
Secure the backing of one or more city leaders
A Pedestrians’ Day is bound to get a lot of attention, and with that comes criticism too. When a leader champions pedestrians’ rights and endorses safer walking facilities, it becomes easier to get support from other city agencies and departments—like the urban local body and traffic police— who need to come together to make the event a success. In Pune’s case, the Mayor championed the Pedestrians’ Day, handled pushback from various stakeholders, and even made a public commitment at the event.
For this pedestrians’ day we (PMC) along with other NGOs have created pedestrian-friendly infrastructure in different parts of the city…. But we don’t wish to stop here. We want to see Pune having better accessible pedestrian infrastructure all across the city by our Pedestrians’ Day next year.
Murlidhar Mohol, Mayor of Pune
Host the Day around an ‘anchor’
‘Open Streets’ events are hosted globally, where streets are closed to traffic and opened to life. Does your city have a street that everyone wished was rid of cars and bikes? Along the beach, in a shopping district, or close to a lake? Choose your anchor location for Pedestrians’ Day, one that will attract people to experience this car-free carnival. Lakshmi Road, a bustling and overcrowded commercial street, was Pune’s anchor. Talks of pedestrianizing this street have been going on for more than 30 years, so it was a pretty big deal when it finally happened, even temporarily.
Pedestrians’ day was not just a celebration of past walking infrastructure projects, but it was a day to kick off multiple activities that will ensure pedestrian safety in coming years. ‘Lakshmi Road Open Street Mall’ was one of such initiatives conducted on the day. The idea behind Open Street Mall was—if we can’t stop vehicles just for a day for pedestrians to move freely on Lakshmi road, it will defeat the purpose of Pedestrians’ Day.Pranjali Deshpande, Urban Planner-NMT committee member of Pune Municipal Corporation
Alongside the anchor event, host events and activities in other parts of the city too, thus catering to a diverse demographic, with varying socio-economic and cultural backgrounds.
Consult with local stakeholders
The street may be owned by the Government, but it belongs to its people. This means that there would be a lot of local stakeholders, who need to be consulted before the Day is rolled out. Shopkeepers, business owners, shoppers, residents—they may have their fair share of concerns about the event. Empathise with them. Seek their inputs and feedback on how you can improve your action plan.
When you engage them in the process, they start to feel more invested in the event, and sometimes turn into its biggest advocates too! By giving them space for dialogue, you can allay any fears or worries they may have, and reduce potential pushback.
It is imperative to solicit the feedback of the local stakeholders, at every stage of the process. The critical inputs from shopkeepers, vendors, residents, and visitors should be documented before, during, and after the event. This dialogue helps to identify concerns, create inclusive proposals, help reduce pushbacks, garner support, and most importantly, it can bring out champions for the cause.Pranjal Kulkarni, Deputy Manager-Healthy Streets & Compact Cities, ITDP India
Time it right
‘Open Streets’ events are typically hosted during the morning hours of the weekends, when there is less traffic anyway. Why not host these events across the entire day? Make a statement—that you prioritise your pedestrians and cyclists over motor vehicles—by organising the Pedestrians’ Day during busy hours. Traffic movement is likely to change, and car users may get frustrated, which brings us to the next point…
Provide alternate ways for people to reach the event locations
Strategically plan how vehicles will be rerouted. Deploy special bus services and buggies for people to reach the venue conveniently. These arrangements make it easier for people to ditch their personal vehicles, and experience the Day as a pedestrian would! Communicate these details in advance so people can make an informed decision.
Organise spaces and activities for all users
Make people feel welcome—by ensuring there’s something for everyone to do. Include all age groups, genders, and abilities while planning your activities. Play and art zones, yoga sessions, laughter exercises, street performances, free cycle repair clinics— think of the different ways in which you can engage with your diverse audience. Taking it a notch higher, Pune even hosted an ‘Accessibility audit’, inviting persons on wheelchairs and with walking sticks, and caregivers with prams and strollers, to experience what a street accessible by ALL feels like.
Create hype with a robust communications strategy
To effectively reach your target audience and leverage the event for permanent change, put together a comprehensive communications strategy for all the phases—before, during, and after the event. Start by
1. Identifying the target audience: A Pedestrians’ Day has the potential to influence and impact a lot of stakeholders. But not everyone may be on board with the idea at the start. List your most important stakeholders and understand what their concerns might be.
2. Sending out the right message: Be empathetic to the concerns raised by the target audience. Try to show them the big picture by sending out the right message about the event, and its long-term benefits.
3. Choosing the right communications channels: Reach your target audience through different media. Leverage print media—newspapers have a wide readership, from city leaders to the common man. Actively post on social media. Consider other offline media too—like posters, banners, billboards, and radio.
4. Allocating the right resources: Put together a team to effectively execute the communications plan. Hire a videography agency to document the event. Monitor the plan closely, so you can pivot when required.
5. Analysing the results: Track the impact of your strategy to understand how it did, and how you can improve the strategy next time.
Measure the impact
Impact assessment tools—footfall counts, surveys, before-after photos, testimonials—demonstrate how people use and experience their spaces differently when streets are reclaimed for people to walk, cycle, and loiter on their streets, where they are not overwhelmed by the sounds, smoke, and scare of motor vehicles. If the intervention is planned in a commercial zone, increase in sales and revenue also indicate the positive outcome of making the street walkable. These numbers and stories of impact are a great way to build support for permanent pedestrian projects in the future.
The Laxmi road pedestrianisation trial was meant as a proof of concept and to get a sense of what issues will arise and how one might tackle them. It also gave us a chance to develop methodologies for collecting data, so that they could be refined based on how they worked. And while some impacts can be meaningfully measured, such as reduction in noise and pollution levels, footfalls and revenues on the other hand cannot be assessed based on a half-day event.Ranjit Gadgil, Programme Director, Parisar
That’s it! We hope that the guide inspires you to go and launch your own Pedestrians’ Day. Following Pune’s lead, other cities in India want to host Pedestrians’ Days too, and we can’t wait to see the transformation they create.
Because as Janette Sadik Khan says, “If you can change the street, you can change the world”.
We take this moment to appreciate the efforts and initiatives of:
- Organisations and individuals— Save Pune Traffic Movement, Parisar, and Pranjali Deshpande;
- PMC’s engineers—V.G. Kulkarni, Dinkar Gojare, Ardhapure;
- PMC’s urban designers—Abhijit Kondhalkar, Tanmay Bhalerao, Megha Sharma;
- ITDP India’s Pune team— Pranjal Kulkarni, Naveenaa Munuswamy, Siddhartha Godbole, Suraj Bartakke;
- The people of Pune who brought its streets to life;
and everyone else who made the Pune Pedestrians’ Day possible.
Written by: Aishwarya Soni
Edited by: Kashmira Dubash
With inputs from Naveenaa Munuswamy, Siddhartha Godbole, Pranjal Kulkarni
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