I am Sarika Panda Bhatt, co-founder of Raahgiri Day, India’s first car free day campaign. Raahgiri Day was initiated in Gurugram in November 2013 with an objective to promote safe walking and cycling in Indian cities and today the concept has grown to over 70 locations in India. I am an architect and urban planner and also have a major in sociology. I am currently working in Nagarro as Associate Director. I live in Gurugram with my husband and a 10 year old daughter.
How would you describe your mission?
My mission is to re-cycle Indian cities. Literally. India cities have of mixed uses and short trip lengths which is ideal for walking and cycling. However, the way automobiles are promoted and the infrastructure that they get makes cycling tedious and unsafe in our cites. Therefore, we need to re-cycle our cities, starting with our street design.
What are the obstacles and challenges you’re facing in your city?
The biggest problem is the that we don’t have safe infrastructure for cycling. Second, cycling is seen as a poor person’s mode of transport. Last, but definitely not least, is that there are no incentives from employers on encouraging their staff to cycle to work, in fact there are only dis-incentives like lack of parking, changing rooms, etc.
What are your next steps now that you are the Bicycle Mayor?
First, I would like to bring in my urban planning skills and work with city government of creating safe infrastructure for cycling in the city including safe intersections. Second is to promote cycling as a mode of transport for not only the poor. This can be done by encouraging high profile people in the city to cycle to work. Third is to work with private sector companies on creating facilities for cyclists like parking, shower rooms, incentives, etc.
What can other cities learn from your city?
My experience with Raahgiri Day has shown that engaging with public, private and communities can bring about positive change. This also helps in scaling the change to a much larger level. Therefore, I can bring the knowledge around creating impact at scale.