Public space has been lauded for its ability to help people experience nature, engage in physical activity and relax. First launched in November 2013, Raahgiri Day is celebrated across Indian cities for exactly that. ‘Raah’ is literally a journey towards a goal, and ‘giri’ is adapted from the ‘Gandhigiri’ concept. The initiative, which started in the city of Gurugram and has now spread across the country, promotes sustainable means of transport like cycling, walking and public transport. The day also makes a statement by reminding citizens that the street belongs to them. It promotes healthy living and environmentally-friendly practices, as well as bringing the community together to highlight inclusion and diversity.
Raahgiri Day is known for its crowds and has adopted a culture of dance, exercise and meditation. The streets identified for Raahgiri Day are cordoned off for motor vehicles and designed for citizens to cycle, walk, run, skate, and play, allowing them to take full ownership of their public spaces. Stages are set up at the identified areas to host zumba, aerobics and yoga sessions.
Sometimes authorities also use Raahgiri Day for political purposes. Earlier this week on September 17, Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG) and district administration officials used Raahgiri Day as a platform to ensure a high turnout for the elections.
The philosophy behind Raahgiri Day is adopted from a tradition that began in Bogotá, Columbia, when a few streets were opened to the public for recreational activities in 1974; the tradition has been maintained ever since. Now, every week, 121 kilometers (76 miles) of roads in Bogota are closed for the community to enjoy cycling, walking, or just the car-free space breathing in clean air. Ciclovía (cycleway) is a weekly, city-wide, car-free day in Bogotá that makes many main roads, including La Septima – the city’s main commercial centre – off-limits to motor vehicles.