Nearly a month into the program, Chennai’s car-free Sundays at Elliot’s Beach Road have seen citizens making the streets their own, with pedestrians and cyclists taking center stage on streets that are otherwise filled with parked cars and traffic. From kids cycling and skating without the fear of cars, to fitness enthusiasts training on wide streets, car-free Sundays in Chennai have brought together citizens from all walks of life to transform the streets into vibrant public spaces.
Football and badminton attract the young, while spontaneous games of street cricket give opportunities for families to unwind. Road art and storytelling sessions keep the kids engaged and are met with enthusiastic support from parents. In recent weeks, unexpected street performances lent an air of festivity to the event and had the crowd asking for more. But the event is more that just celebration. By bringing different social groups together, car-free Sundays have provided a platform to generate awareness about various issues in the city — one group used the event to talk about cerebral palsy and the need for an inclusive society.
The first of Chennai’s car-free Sundays kicked off on 11 October 2015, when the Mayor, Saidai Duraisamy, joined the City Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner and city officials for a cycle ride along the street. “I love to bike. It is something that I am very passionate about. Given an opportunity, I would like to bike around the city,” said Vikram Kapur, Commissioner, Corporation of Chennai after cycling along the car-free streets.
Initiated by the Corporation of Chennai and the Chennai City Traffic Police, this campaign was conceptualized by the Institute of Transportation and Development Policy and Chennai City Connect Foundation and is presented by The Hindu newspaper.
Called Namma Chennai Namakke (“Our Chennai Ourselves”), car-free Sundays form an important step in creating a paradigm shift in urban transport in the city. By shifting focus away from cars and towards walking, cycling and public transport, the campaign presents an alternate vision of how Chennai can be — a happier, healthier, more inclusive city. With local residents wanting to expand this initiative to other times of the week and with requests pouring in from citizens across the city to have this initiative in different neighborhoods, Chennai looks set to pave the way for a car-free future.
Car-free days are held every Sunday, from 6:00 a.m. to 9.00 a.m., on Elliot’s Beach Road, Chennai, India. All are welcome. For more information, log on to https://www.facebook.com/NammaChennaiNamakke/
A version of this article is also available on the ITDP India website, here