Some HSR residents to hit the streets this Sunday, others worried

Do you remember a time when Bengaluru’s streets turned into playgrounds? Children would be out in hordes playing cricket or football. Pensioners would be out on their evening stroll. Grocery shopping meant walking to the neighbourhood angadi and back. Those commuting to work would either catch a bus or even walk the distance if office was not too far away.

The times are different now. The roads are almost always jam-packed, and spending at least an hour or two on commute has become the norm.

In a move to improve mobility in the city, several government organisations including Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT), BMTC, Bangalore Traffic Police, and others, along with local citizen groups and initiatives such as Cycle Day are organising ‘Open Streets’. The first of its kind in the initiative, Open Streets is being rolled out at HSR Layout on Sunday September 20th. On this day, private vehicles will not be allowed to ply in the area.

Open Streets: What does it mean?

Open Streets is an initiative to temporarily close streets to vehicular traffic so as to encourage citizens to walk, cycle, and use the streets for recreation. It has its roots in Ciclovía, where citizens of Bogota in Colombia blocked cars from a few streets in favour of runners, skaters and cyclists, on Sundays and public holidays. The Open Streets movement gathered momentum in the 2010s in the US and Canada, with several cities adopting vehicle-free days on certain streets.

Citizens took part in a multitude of activities at the Cycle Day at Yelahanka in July 2015. File pic.

In India, Gurgaon has had its own version of Ciclovía called Raahgiri Day – every Sunday, a network of roads is closed temporarily to cars and opened for people. Bengaluru too has already started adopting the Open Street culture since late 2013. The various editions of Cycle Day where a road or two in a locality are closed to vehicular traffic are proof enough that citizens are more than happy to reclaim the streets. The Bangalore Traffic Police too saw merit in the initiative when they made Cubbon Park traffic-free every Sunday.

Open Streets at HSR Layout

Between 6 am to 9 pm on September 20th, the movement of personal vehicles, including cars, motorised two-wheelers, autos and taxis will be prohibited in Sectors 1 to 7 of HSR Layout. The only vehicles that will be allowed to use the roads are public transport buses and other essential services like ambulances, fire brigades, police, water tankers and garbage trucks.

To encourage commuters to use public transport, BMTC is offering bus passes at Rs 50 for commuting within HSR layout, and bus fares within the area have been reduced from Rs 10 to Rs 5. BMTC will also operate additional feeder buses in HSR Layout, as well as special buses to areas like KR Market, Shivaji Nagar and Majestic. AC buses and Vayu Vajra buses will operate at normal fares.

Click here to view BMTC services within HSR Layout. Click here for outbound BMTC services.

Emergency contact numbers

  • Ambulance: 108
  • Fire brigade: 101
  • Police control room: 100
  • BMTC helpline: 1800-425-1663

Cycle stations are being set up at four points – Gnan Srishti School, Lakshmi Plywood, Srirangam Textile Showroom and BDA complex, from where citizens can rent bicycles to commute within the area. These cycles will be rented out from 6 am to 6 pm to folks who carry an identity card.

In addition, 19th Main, 15th Cross and 13th Cross have been earmarked as activity areas. Citizens can take part in various activities like storytelling, clay modelling, pottery, traditional games etc. Music performances and street plays will also be staged.

For answers to FAQs on Open Streets, click here. You can find more information here, here and here.

Will Open Streets work?

The idea of Open Streets does seem utopian. For a few hours, it will allow people of HSR Layout to travel back in time and reclaim the streets like they did before Bengaluru became the city it is today. For the 15 hours that the vehicle ban is enforced, HSR Layout will be free of the cacophony of traffic, and stressed-out drivers and pedestrians can take a break. People will walk and cycle, and get some exercise. For those who have never cycled before, this could be an opportunity to learn how to. Air pollution levels will dip with low traffic. The activity zones will encourage the community to get together, establishing camaraderie. Some people could even pick up new artsy skills.

Sameer Shisodia, co-founder of Linger, in a Facebook post, calls Open Streets an opportunity to reimagine the city, if only for a day. Although he is not a resident of HSR, Sameer will be cycling to HSR to participate in the day’s activities.

Mountaineer and Social and Environmental Activist, Kavitha Reddy, a resident of HSR Layout says, “This is a great initiative, a good start to not only reduce traffic, but also promote the usage of public transport. I hope this initiative will lead to setting up permanent shuttle services in HSR and surrounding areas, thereby encouraging commuters to take public transport and reduce the number of cars/two-wheeler traffic on our roads.”

A frequent bus commuter, Tejaswini DR, says, “Open Streets is certainly a good idea, especially considering that there will be more buses in the area. I currently have to walk up to Agara or the BDA Complex to catch a bus. That said, people may find it inconvenient to be solely dependent on buses, especially if there was an emergency for which they needed to use their own vehicle.”

Current infrastructure inadequate to support Open Streets

Not all residents of HSR Layout are enthused by the Open Streets initiative, and there are enough reasons for them to be wary about it. While the general consensus seems to be that such an initiative certainly has merit, many are of the opinion that the required infrastructure to support it is inadequate.

What would happen in case of a medical emergency or if someone needed to get to a hospital; would people be allowed to use their private vehicles? For those looking to get to the airport with luggage, BMTC buses don’t seem to be a practical alternative to cabs.

There are also concerns about the repercussions of blocking traffic in an area as large as HSR Layout. What kind of impact would it have on the traffic in the areas surrounding HSR Layout? Areas like Koramangala and Outer Ring Road may see an increase in traffic as a result. The duration of the event—6 am to 9 pm, 15 hours—also seems like a cause for worry. As one user on Facebook puts it, “While I support the idea of less automobiles, I feel that it is over reaching both in terms of area (too big) and time of closure (too long).”

Maithreyi Nadapana, a resident of HSR Layout examines Open Streets through a wider lens. She calls it ‘a meaningless effort in the existence of some glaring lacunae – absent footpaths, unregulated parking, insufficient feeder bus services’. She clarifies that what the residents of HSR Layout really need are good footpaths, regulated parking, frequent feeder bus services, parking facility for cycles and cars at bus stands, and signages on roads; fixing these issues would encourage people to use public transport.

Tejaswini too expresses her reservations: “Blocking traffic in seven sectors does not seem viable. The organisers should perhaps try this out in a smaller area, a few streets maybe.”

Will people reclaim the streets?

Sunday will be a day of reckoning for residents of Bengaluru. The Open Streets pilot in HSR Layout will be a measure of whether citizens are able to stay away from their dependence on private transport. If it is successful, Open Streets could very well become one of those events like Cycle Day or Lake Day, which have become a reflection of Bangaloreans’ conscious need to improve the city. If not, there are obviously lessons to be learnt before a next edition is organised.

What ultimately will work for people on both sides of the fence is for them to look at it as an experiment in figuring out alternative, sustainable modes of transport to improve mobility in the city. As Sameer Shisodia eloquently puts it, “The focus is not on ‘blocking traffic’, but on ‘enabling other traffic’.”

Related Articles

Cycle Day: Reliving the spirit of old Bangalore
2K run, history, song and dance mark Underground Festival at K R Circle
HSR Open Streets: Many happy, some bugged, all vocal

About Ganga Madappa 0 Articles
Ganga Madappa is a Staff Reporter and the Community Manager at Citizen Matters. She loves cats and books and travel. She tweets at @pulicatmonster and blogs at Random Rambling.

16 Comments

  1. Hello, we are writing an analysis of the event, what went well, what did not, what can be improved, etc. If you are a resident of HSR Layout who was privy to the event, and would like to weigh in, please hit the Write to Author tab at the bottom of the article and send me your number. Will give you a call. Thanks, Ganga Madappa.

  2. This is just poor planning, its a shame that such a concept has been handled in such a way that it has created more hatred then awareness. 6am to 9pm and Entire HSR was the dumbest plan ever…

  3. It was chaos. Why shall one impose his ideas on other citizens. That too forcibly. stopping vehicles carrying aged and weak was ridiculous. It shall not happen again. You give publicity to walking and cycling and one need not impose it on others.

  4. @skeptic: I completely agree and I guess this is some so-called “babu” group’s initiative. Apparently these guys strive for attention from public and this is one of the lame ways they make it happen. Next time this happens (IF it happens), obviously there will be more serious takes against this – at least in social media – and that will probably put a stop to these idiosyncrasies.

  5. “Success!” has been parroted by the media and other voices, effectively drowning out the “aam aadmi”. Anyone could have foreseen all the problems caused to many, many, people due to this experiment, no, strike that, tamasha, if only they had cared to listen and plan well ahead for all the possibilities. One has to remember the demographics of this area: most of the influential, ARROGANT, babus and their like, live here. If nothing else, this shows how the system works. Another lesson will now be apparent, all the mistakes will be ignored by the self-serving “leaders” and no lessons will be learnt – the self congratulatory messages are already flying around.

    Next, ride rough shod with the help of the police (and hey, why not bring in the troops too, so many defence babus live here) and the state govermint workers like BMTC who will “convince” people with their own unique “logic” – I’m sure a bribe will help.

    Soon, you’ll see this repeated all over Bengaluru and in other cities in India. Why? You’ll have to keep guessing, but the one reason you can safely keep out of your reckoning will be “encouraging public transport!”

  6. Sorry Brig Murthy…intentions may be good but there was no practical insight into the planning and execution…We would have loved IF our beloved CM/MLAs/cinestars/BBMP top personnel were there throughout as a part of this program, spending time with people, cleaning up roads in lines of “Swacch Bharat”…
    What actually happened was – The irritated policemen (because their Sundays were spoilt), the angry residents and the stupid volunteers (many of whom were from other areas) made the day miserable to MOST of the residents…ONLY a few were there on the streets for a short while…Medical cases, people with real needs to travel out or come in, elderly people were put to utter discomfort…People said use buses for the 1-1.5 km to get out of HSR but what about the area after that ? Who arranged for transport to get to the end place ? I took a stroll questioning volunteers and police on the way and most of them were really arrogant and reverted with abuses or said that they were under orders to do so…the funny part was, at 7 pm, the people in Ganesh pendal on 13th cross were allowed to light fire crackers for 3+ minutes immediately after this…Could the cops have stopped this ? Looked like the whole saving of the pollution was so that the crackers could be lit…

    Definitely not a success…As residents, we can come together and address various issues together – state of roads, footpaths, security, bus connections to areas among other topics…Illegally imposing residents is not a solution – (My thoughts and looks like lots of people agree to this)

  7. Apparently the people who “organized” this “idea” actually has no idea what environment is, what commonsense is, what pertinence is and finally what is meant by freedom ensured by the constitution of India.

    Why?

    1. The amount of paper they wasted for advertising this ironic idiosyncrasy – at least 10000 trees and 50000 gallons of fresh water is wasted for this paper alone. And the artificial “rangoli” they made throughout the streets… All this for saving environment… my foot!

    2. Any person with commonsense would not make a decision to interrupt normal life on a Sunday for FIFTEEN HOURS blocking all traffic – people with infants, elders, people with ill health – all had to ask permission (and in some cases show proof!) to avail transportation other than BMTC buses. What are these guys think about themselves? Kings? Trust me guys, this is free India. What I saw here today is a mild version of fascism or TALIBANISM.

    3. Who are these BMTC guys and other NGO guys and so called “supporters” to be arrogant and threaten ordinary law-abiding people? Come on guys – you are JUST ANOTHER ORDINARY CITIZEN like me and if you are eating a part of my money as tax – as everyone does. Whoever behind this kind of “activities” must be having a minimum level of understanding how the concept of society works.

    To conclude this, let me assure the so called “organizers” that you exposed a very ugly picture of yourselves today with this “movement”.

  8. Any initiative which does not trouble anyone should be appriciated and continued. .. it is evident that a lot of people were unhappy with what they saw today.. I had to take my mother to a place far from the city today to visit a doctor for her treatment on paralysis… it was terrible to see that all pathways were blocked and I had to arrange an ambulance to take my mother out of HSR…. I felt terrible. .. I felt as if I m living in a place which has not got its independence yet…. are we going back or forward? I m extremely demotived by this initiative and would request not to continue this…

  9. Why don’t think of stopping new registration of private vehicle in Bangaluru ?
    Road Tax and registration charges are highest in Bangaluru as compared to any capital city of India,but the conditions of the roads are worse than any C grade city in India.
    Think who is responsible for all these mess ?
    Is banning of movement of private vehicle is the solution ?
    Definitely NO ,its escaping from the real issue.

  10. It was a huge inconvenience for people coming from and going to airports. the volunteers were not friendly and I even asked the help of a traffic jeep parked inside HSR layout to help with my luggage and they refused and were rude.It should be planned better and the timing of till 9 pm seems to be unrealistic, even hartals are till 6 pm for a reason for people to buy groceries or other essentials. It was like a hartal feeling usually people experience in kerala.

  11. Well, I think the idea and thinking is in the right direction, except the thoughtfulness and details on being able to effect the same on a city like bengaluru :

    – Imagine silk board on sundays
    – Imagine old people and medical visits required on those days
    – Imagine not having rickshaws for short distances
    – transport not available near many apartments..

    So first get a week-day like a wednesday to do this say for a half-day or 8 hours..
    Get more buses to near apartments to reduce buses, even if they are shuttles to get citizens nearer silk board, bda or main bus stops..
    Do it for once in 15 days for 3 months in south bengaluru planning each area like Koramangla, belandur, hsr, btm,bommnahalli etc
    Make payments completely proper and get roads to function without potholes..
    Try in otehr parts of bengaluru around orr.

  12. I don’t even feel like appreciating the idea since : People among the organizers talk about pollution and environment showing their lack of knowledge about the same hsr roads; how filthy it is still with garbage, open manhole/potholes, stray dogs and above all chain smokers. The secondary smokers gets affected more, while everybody knows about this very well, today it was extreme on the roads. Nobody is bothered to ban them. There are many doctors in hsr layout on call who use private vehicle to get to their destinations, won’t you be surprised if a volunteer on cycle getting into aggressive mode and comes against you stops you on the middle of the road. Similar incident has happened today. Moreover the christian community who wants to go to church is completely forgotten. There are no direct bus services to any of these churches from hsr layout.

  13. I appreciate the idea but I am surprised that no respite has been given to people like us with infants. It is difficult to travel around with infant without a private car. And though it can be still be planned for day , it is highly inconvenient for a feeding mother. She has to stay indoors full day due to this.
    Also I think there are no church goers in the organizer group, else they would pointed out against scheduling it on a Sunday , that too starting from 6 A.M.

  14. I am resident of HSR Layout. Experienced it today. I think its a 100% success. Must be repeated every now and then. Great motivation for all. Very well executed.Hats off to all involved. Agreed we have limited infrastructure, however,it’s a beginning. All things cannot be perfect to start with.I request all not to get demotivated by negative voices. Please do it on a regular basis.

  15. What a pointless exercise. Without any adequate infrastructure to access other parts of the city this is as burdening as a Bandh organized by political parties

  16. World over the concept of use of public transport to ease traffic congestion is the order of the Day. In India too it should happen in all our towns and cities.
    Directorate of Urban Land Transport invited our RWA (besides other RWAs groups and individuals) on 02 Sep 2015 requesting us to participate in a community meeting on “HSR Layout Vehicle Free Day”.
    The Government of Karnataka in its wisdom has identified HSR Layout amongst other areas for this huge exercise involving coordination by many Departments and citizen groups.
    We put forward the following points/thoughts at the meeting for success of this pilot exercise.
    • As a concept private vehicle free day is progressive and need of the hour.
    • It is necessary that every resident of HSR Layout and neighbourhood areas understand the rationale for this pilot exercise.
    • For this exercise to take off, the first and foremost factor is awareness and publicity in the Layout and neighbouring areas.
    • Provision of sufficient number of link public transport to important places from and to HSR Layout and surrounding areas to would be the key to success of the exercise.
    • Integrated working of civic agencies is a must
    • Effective /efferent management of public transport and police control important
    • Parking issues at link transport terminals need to be addressed
    • Transport for emergencies should be catered.
    • Availability of cycle tracks obstruction free footpath for walkers/cyclists to Agara /BDA complex
    • There would be resistance to change but with proper planning g by concerned authorities this concept of private vehicle free day would be accepted by citizens
    Our RWA is sincerely attempting to tell our members/residents to support this exercise by way of messages, e mails, WhatsApp posts and telephonic conversation.
    Our RWA will also be providing volunteers to the DULT team from our Sector
    We sincerely hope that this kind of exercises /trials would be useful in any community and help towards the concept of use of public transport..People should start accepting the change and move out of their comfort zones and support the Day.Even if the Day is 15-20%success it is a great achievement .
    All of of us must think of ways in which we can support this initiative of GoK and make it a sucess.

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