What if you lived in an area where you could comfortably walk the streets, go cycling without worrying about the traffic, have your kids play freely on the roads, and attend and participate in cultural activities taking place on the street?
It may sound like a distant and improbable dream for many Indians, but the recent Open Street event in HSR Layout, Bengaluru showed how it could be done.
Open Street, a Government of Karnataka initiative in collaboration with several residential welfare associations, involved no passage of vehicles on the streets across Sectors 1 to 7 in HSR Layout, Bengaluru. This opened up a number of possibilities for the area’s residents who had a gala time throughout the day.
Image Source: The Hindu
The event started early at around 6 am and came to a close at around 7:30 pm on Sunday, 20 September, short of the planned 9 pm close. Several cultural programs were organized throughout the day, especially involving children, some of who got the opportunity to create art, even on the tarred roads. They also got to participate in Karate and Taekwondo classes — fun ways to be fit.
Families also came out in large numbers and played games on the streets. It was also refreshing to see the cyclists come out in large numbers to ride freely around the area.
Image Source: Bangalore Mirror
Image Source: DNA
Prem Kumar, the Secretary of the Residential Welfare Association for Sector 7, said, “The well-learned and educated people of HSR have responded very well to this initiative. It was one of the best programs organized here. We are proud to say that the entire credit goes to the people of HSR layout. Today, it looked like HSR from the year 2000.”
The police also cooperated in making sure the event went on smoothly, even though they were challenged with the task of keeping the vehicles at bay.
The government officials found in this initiative an opportunity to measure the pollution levels in the area before, during, and after the day of the Open Street. The significant difference in pollution levels can hopefully act as an impetus for organizing more Open Street events across the city.
One of the highlights of the day, however, was Minister of Transport Ramalinga Reddy entering the area like a commoner in a BMTC bus, and MLA Satish Reddy and the area Corporator taking a bullock cart ride. They had lunch with the local authorities before playing cricket on the street and mingling with the area residents.
Prem Kumar told us this was a pilot project, and that if this initiative was a success, it would be extended to other areas in Bengaluru, like Sadashivanagar, Koramangala, and Jayanagar. He said the plan would be to organize an Open Street once in a quarter in a different area. A happy bystander then jumped in during this conversation and requested for an Open Street every month.
Even if the initiative was a success, there were some lapses in planning. The elderly who had to pass through these areas had to resort to more inconvenient ways to get back home. Since the traffic was diverted, many had to take a much longer route to reach a place better connected with HSR. And traffic in nearby areas was severely affected.
It would be one hell of a challenge for the authorities to make Open Street happen smoothly, but if they did, wouldn’t it be worth it?