HealthBridge’s partner, Evangelical Social Action Forum, organizes open street events on Sundays of each month with the support of local partner at different locations in Guwahati, Assam. During open street events, a stretch of street is closed for vehicular traffic and open for public to engage in sports, cultural and other recreational activities. The events promote sustainable modes of transportation and give people an opportunity to experience what it feels like to safely walk and cycle without having to worry about cars and motorbikes. It’s quite fascinating to watch people replacing vehicles on street and engage in various activities on an event day as if the street was a playground.
Building on ESAF’s work in Kerala, Karnataka, and Maharashtra States, the Guwahati program held their first event in 2019 and was a huge success in terms of creating awareness among bureaucrats, policymakers, media houses and the general public about the need to adopt a healthy lifestyle. As a result, the partners decided to hold the event on monthly basis at different locations in Guwahati city. Unfortunately the pandemic interfered with these plans and were postponed during the national lockdown imposed in March 2020. However, the events have started again and we are hoping to organize them regularly moving forward.
As a result of the Guwahati program, they saw an increased number of people using bicycles as a mode of transportation for short distance travel. Notably, there was also an increased number of women and children cycling and walking in the neighbourhoods where open street events were organised. Approximately 50 women and children started cycling and walking in the neighbourhoods, and they saw a 51% increase in the number of women and children participating in the events overall.
ESAF is now organizing such programs in 8 cities in India and it is through such events, they create awareness among policymakers and bureaucrats. Key messages emphasize the point that streets are not just for vehicles but for pedestrians, cyclists, children, the aged, and those living with disabilities