ORA

The Arteries of Cities

The city has often been thought of as a body — with different organs performing their various
functions, all brought to life by the circulatory system of streets. Like arteries and veins, streets
snake through the city transporting everything a city needs to survive and thrive. Their
configurations play a pivotal role in creating a city’s ‘footprint’, offering a tangible glimpse into its
history, priorities, and power structures, all woven within the urban tapestry.

Streets function as the lifelines of a city, providing light, air, and movement while serving as
conduits for human activity. They facilitate travel between neighbourhoods, act as sites for
public events, historical commemorations, and spontaneous gatherings for various
purposes—from celebration to protest. This amalgamation of ingrained use, historical
significance, and structural permanence explains why streets persist, often outlasting adjacent
built structures even in the face of calamity or conflict. After upheavals, these streetscapes, with
their subterranean infrastructure, often serve as guiding templates for urban reconstruction,
acting as anchors for the city’s revival.

The enduring historical, social, and economic role they have played for centuries points to the
pivotal position streets hold. To truly realise the potential of a city as a living, breathing entity, it
is imperative to prioritise people-centric design principles and infuse our streets with safety,
accessibility, and vitality. When we design our streets with the most vulnerable road users in
mind, we design a society that protects those with the least physical, financial, mental, and
political protections afforded to them. Embracing a ‘people-first’ approach in street design entails
placing pedestrians, cyclists, and public transit users at the centre. It involves crafting spaces
that cater to everyone, irrespective of age, ability, or mode of transport.

In our work at the Raahgiri Foundation, we infuse our commitment to fostering a living cit
everything we do. From community engagement to infrastructure redesign, we prioritise the
people who inhabit and bring life to the city. Started over a decade ago, our flagship initiative
was Raahgiri Day. Raahgiri Day is India’s first sustained citizen initiative that makes streets
exclusive to pedestrians and cyclists promoting road safety, healthy living, and connecting
communities by reclaiming city streets and public spaces, to eventually reclaim urban lives. By
involving the communities we serve in everything we do, we keep their needs and wants at the
forefront. Making the street safe and accessible to all, transforming it into a place with activities,
sports, space to play, it becomes an inclusive space for people of all ages, all physical and
mental abilities, all communities, and all backgrounds.

Beyond community engagement and outreach, Raahgiri Foundation is working on redesigning
existing intersections to make them safe and accessible for all road users. This works towards
our aims of road safety and inclusive infrastructure. These intersections include Hero Honda
Chowk, IFFCO Chowk, Khushboo Chowk, Krishna Chowk, Valley View intersection,
Farrukhnagar Chowk, Hailey Mandi Flyover intersection, Dhankot Chowk, and Kanhai Chowk.
Problems with the existing infrastructure are researched, road traffic trials are conducted, and
then permanent changes are made to provide pedestrian and cyclist safety, designated pick-up
and drop-off points, traffic signals, lane balancing, slowing down fast traffic among other
changes.

Some of the intersections redesigned come under our long-running involvement in the global
Vision Zero movement. Vision Zero aims to reduce the number of road deaths to zero by
identifying black spots (streets or intersections with high numbers of deaths), conducting crash
investigations, fostering community engagement, and promoting technology-driven solutions for
improved road safety. Raahgiri Foundation is and has been involved in three Vision Zero
projects in India. Haryana Vision Zero was launched in 2017, Punjab Vision Zero in 2018, and
Gurugram Vision Zero in 2022. Gurugram Vision Zero is a partnership between Raahgiri
Foundation, Gurugram District Administration and Nagarro. In one year, as a part of Gurugram
Vision Zero, due to our street redesign efforts, three black spots have been resolved, reducing
pedestrian deaths by 12.7%.

Currently underway is our holistic effort to redevelop the road formerly known as ‘Anath’ (“the
neglected and forgotten”) Road. This 2.4km street lacked proper infrastructure for the over
20,000 pedestrians and 3,000 cyclists who use it on weekdays, the corporate offices that lined
the street, as well as the people inhabiting the urban villages bordering the street. Renamed
Sanath (“reclaimed”) Road, the road is now being transformed into a model street that will serve
as a blueprint for streets around the country. The transformation aims to create a model street
with a carriageway, footpath, dedicated bicycle path, space for vendors, and designated pick-
up/drop-off points. Additionally, a green belt will separate the road from adjacent office
buildings. Other streets that have been redeveloped by Raahgiri Foundation include MG Road,
Sector 58 to 67, South City I, and Sector 56. By putting in place pedestrian and cyclist friendly
infrastructure on these streets we make them inclusive and safe, bettering public health, city
accessibility as well as road safety

This multi-pronged approach strives toward our mission to promote safe, accessible, and
sustainable streets, mitigate traffic congestion, reduce CO2 emissions, and enhance urban
liveability. As inhabitants of the city, we all have a deep vested interest in tending to, and
bettering, its health. As we transform the network of streets our cities depend upon, we
transform lives.

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