By Janaki Murali
Multi-hued cartoon characters in costumes; children and adults skateboarding riding bicycles; live music, a drum jam! Phew!
But there’s more, entertainers and performers showcasing their talent through buskers, hiphop, break dance and stand- up comedy. There's an entire boulevard of street art and exhibitions; story-telling and theatre; and of course street food, games and a flea market.
Welcome to the Open Streets initiative organized by the Directorate of Urban Land Transportation, (DULT) in the heart of Bengaluru city. The event is taking place on the premier MG Road, and the entire street has been closed for traffic from 9 am this morning till 9 pm in the night. Some 30,000 people were walking on the MG Road and its boulevard with their families, when I went there around 2 p.m At 4 p.m, when I left, the road was choc-a-bloc, with live music playing near the Rangoli art centre and the promise of a drum jam later in the evening. Around one lakh footfalls could go through MG road on Sunday before the fest ends at 9 p.m.
Said U.A. Vasanth Rao, Chief Public Relations Officer Bengaluru Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) that the idea of the open street initiative came about with the intention of encouraging people to use public transport. “Air pollution is very high in the city, with some 54 lakh vehicles on the streets. Our people have forgotten to use public transport. So we thought something has to be done to attract people to use public transport. At least let’s make a beginning on a Sunday.”
The DULT started with cycle days in smaller areas. The Rangoli Metro station on MG road which is already a showcase for art and music, was selected for the Open Streets initiative.
“Closing down MG road was a big challenge. On a Saturday, life is on till 1 am and the road was handed over to us after midnight. Over 300 of my people, including me haven’t slept through the night. They had to put up the stalls and get the infrastructure ready. Each stall has fire tenders, ambulances are standing by. I have a doctor on call. Garbage is being cleaned up every hour on the hour. A lot of the people involved did it for their love of the city,” said Mr. Rao.
The Metro rail, which gets about 5000 passengers on a normal Sunday had already 20,000 passengers by 3 p.m. The Bengaluru Metro Transport Corporation is running special hop on hop off buses till 11 p.m in the night. To encourage people to use public transport to commute, they’re also offering people gift coupons on producing their bus tickets.
The DULT now plans to do an Open Street initiative once in six months, going by how it goes today and also replicate the same on other major streets.