1) Who is this initiative driven by and what is the idea behind it? Tell us more about Namma Chennai Namakke?
'Namma Chennai Namakke, a citizens' driven collaborative campaign that will erase cars from our streets on Sunday mornings and instead fill them with smiles. This is an initiative by the Corporation of Chennai and Chennai City Connect, conceptualized by the Institute of Transportation and Development Policy as well as Chennai Traffic Police. This initiative is presented by The Hindu in association with other partners. The campaign is all about getting the people to enjoy the city that belongs to them. The initiative will reroute traffic from certain roads in the city for a few hours every Sunday morning and transform them to safe and vibrant public spaces - where everyone can walk, jog and cycle safely. Children can play and roam freely, elders can sit and relax in public, teenagers can socialize with their friends, and families can spend time together. In an age where our parks are being swallowed by ever widening roads, where our children spend more time on electronic gadgets with virtual friends than real people and where child obesity is soaring; this campaign aims to to promote an active and healthy lifestyle, to promote the need for equitable street design and healthy transport, and give people a new way to enjoy the public space in our city. Simply put, the campaign will create large parks for free, just keeping selected wide and shaded streets free of traffic for some period of time. It is inspired by Ciclovia, in Bogota, where more than 120 kms are closed to traffic every Sunday for walkers, runners, skaters, cyclists and others. This global movement has now inspired many Indian cities including - Gurgaon, New Delhi, Ahmedabad, Pune, Hyderabad, Bhopal, Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Chandigarh - where such similar campaigns have been initiated successfully.Namma Chennai Namakke will start off on October 11th in Besant Nagar on the Eliot's Beach Promenade, and all traffic on this road will be cut off from 6:30 AM to 9:30 AM.
2) With the targeted area being smaller than previous events in other cities what is the scope in Chennai?
Although the initial targeted area is an 800mts stretch, we hope that this will soon increase in size and also spread to other areas in the city. The initial weeks will help people understand and appreciate the concept, and once they warm up to the idea, people can/will help in expanding the scope of the event. The event is all about people's participation, and if people get excited about the idea, the targeted area will grow on its own. With the increasing traffic congestion and cars in Chennai, we hope that this idea will be a push to making Chennai citizens choose public transport and non-motorized transport over more cars and more pollution.
3) Who are the target audience and are the people expected to come dressed for sport or carry any specific items with them?
The 'audience' is Chennai- the idea is to make the people enjoy their streets, whether it means they should walk and cycle or even just sit around to enjoy a traffic free morning.Those who wish to cycle, run or play any sports or do yoga can come dressed appropriately. We encourage citizens to bring the things they may need for their activities, like bats and balls, skipping ropes and roller skates. This is not a defined event like a marathon or a sporting event, it is essentially a way to start promoting a healthy lifestyle, fewer cars and streets for people. Citizens should carry their own water bottles and try to keep the beach litter free.
4) What are the events/activities one can expect to happen on October 11th?
There will be four zones - Fitness zone, Sports Zone, Fun Zone, and Track Zone. The Track zone will be demarcated for walking, running, cycling and skating. Fun zone, mainly aims to cater to small children with activities such as sack race, lemon and spoon, tug of war, dumb charades, teaching sessions for dance, singing and drawing etc. Sports zone will teach interested participants Badminton, throw ball, football etc. Some music and impromptu dances can also be expected.
5) Can people bring their own cycles to the event? Is there a rental option?
This event aims to promote non-motorized transport and all cyclists are encouraged to bring their cycles along. We will also be having some rental cycles available.
6) What can we look forward to in the future?
Starting with this one initiative, we hope to extend the idea of car-free days across different neighborhoods and different days and times. We are starting off with a Sunday morning, but we hope to have car free days even on busy roads on a weekday evening for a sustainable future where people are prioritized over vehicles.
Paris has just had a car free day where the streets in its city centre were shut off to traffic from 11 am to 6 pm, Delhi and Ahmedabad have been having car-free Sundays and Coimbatore's car-free Sunday has also been hugely successful. We are hoping for car-free days to become a big hit in Chennai too, and look forward to kick starting the campaign on October 11th.