Campaign : Road Safety Week 2019

The Annual Road Safety Week (4th – 10th February) was celebrated across the nation with great fervor. Initiated by the National Safety Council in collaboration with The Ministry Of Road Transport & Highways – Government Of India, the motive of road safety awareness drive is to reach out to all motorist and sensitize them on various issues such as speeding, lane cutting, seat belts, helmets, use of mobile phones, driving under alcohol influence, illegal parking, entering no entry zones, breaking signals, excessive honking and other actions which often lead to traffic chaos and accidents.

Firoza Suresh founder of ‘Smart Commute Foundation’ (SCF) and Bicycle Mayor of Mumbai partnered with ‘Mumbai Traffic Police’ and ‘Hero Cycles’ and came up with a novel idea of emulating cars to communicate the message of road safety. She along with her team presented a thought of using a ‘Car Cut Out fixed on a Bicycle’ and cycle through the city to create awareness and connect with the masses. The Mumbai Traffic Team wholeheartedly welcomed this unique concept and formed a core group where SCF members along with other stakeholders worked as one unit to make the Road Safety Awareness Week a grand success.

The Situation:  Mumbai the commercial capital of the nation is a highly populated city. Due to high real estate cost a large part of it’s population resides in far ends of the city and travel long distances for work. Many small, medium and large  business centers are fragmented across cities geography making it difficult to depend on a single transport mode to reach workplace. Cars therefore have become a preferred mode of commuting for the affluent and the middle income group. Likewise, the lower income group and the poor majorly rely on public transportation which is local trains and buses. And then there are public taxi services popularly known as ‘Kaali-Peeli’ (Black and Yellow) which ply on roads and work as ‘connecting mode’ for travel from stations to offices. The Auto Rickshaws aka three wheeler’s are also identified by the same color combination and utility.

With India opening up Foreign Direct Investment’s, international players have also launched their transportation ventures namely – American brand ‘Uber’ which is mostly used by corporate professionals and Young Turks for office commute and client meetings. Further there are local players like ‘Ola’ and ‘Meru’ cab services which are used by many tech savvy citizens and tourists to reach desired destinations. Aside these app based companies, public and private vehicles and two wheeler’s are prominently visible on busy streets everyday. And adding to Mumbai’s already congested roads are – commercial vehicles, logistic and cold storage trucks, food and e-commerce delivery services, packers and movers and several others. At times, Fire Brigade and Ambulances also helplessly get trapped in congestion with patients inside. In totality, the streets of Mumbai are heavily clogged and dominated by motorized transportation leaving little or practically no space for Cyclist’s and Pedestrians to walk.

The cycling community in Mumbai is continuously increasing with #cycle2work project initiated by Firoza and cyclists are making fearless efforts to reach office on a bicycle. But excessive dominance of cars and their merciless driving is making it difficult for the cyclists to find their way to office especially during peak hours. The cyclist on road are ignored big time and the drivers care least about them. Even though they hardly consume space and pedal through the corners of the road, motorist’s don’t hesitate to squeeze them aside and show little remorse for their actions. Despite unfavorable conditions and real time hardships, the cyclist’s are somehow fighting their way. They are determined and positively progressing with a mission to increase cycling culture and recruiting more people to use cycles for commuting.

But unfortunately, there have been recent cases reported of serious accidents where cyclist’s were hit by cars. In one of the accident, a cyclist lost his life which left a serious impression with the entire cycling community of Mumbai. This triggered a need to start a road safety awareness campaign and directly engage with the motorist.

The Plan, Strategy & Team: The idea was to get noticed in the peak hour traffic and make an impact. The only way we could do this was to speak in the language they understand or rather become like them. This thought sparked the idea to create a Car Cut Out which could be fitted on a bicycle. Such kind of a disruptive road activation has never happened in India and we are the first ones to execute it.

To execute this plan, a team of six cyclist was set-up to brainstorm and develop the concept further. The traffic team believed in this idea and backed us with all the permissions. With all approvals in place, the team began working on the design of a car cut out. The material finalized was Sunboard (sunboard or foam board is light, strong and can easily be cut. The material is good for mounting of vinyl prints and framing). The sunboard will than be fixed onto a bicycle and will be strapped on shoulders. This plan was simple and we felt it should work so we locked it.

On 7th morning I reached the printing workshop with my bicycle to measure the exact size. The owner refused to take my bicycle inside and I had a tough time convincing him. Once I managed to take him into confidence, I tried the the cut out to revise our measurements. Now the new size finalized was 8x4x2.5 feet. We went ahead with the printing and cutting process with a single piece to test it out and later, balance five cut outs were printed and made ready.

It was evening now as it took at least ninety minutes to prepare one cut out. With all six cut outs and the cycles, we arrived at the fabricators location and explained him that we want to build a car out of these pieces for an event happening next morning. Another round of brainstorming began as the task wasn’t as simple as it appeared and the worst part was we didn’t had much time to get all six pieces ready by morning. The fabricator formed a technical team and we all went to the Mumbai Traffic headquarters with their tools and material.

It was half pass midnight and we all were on the ground with freezing cold trying to fix up the model. With initial hurdles and much deliberation, we finally made the first model ready. Firoza successfully took a test ride at around 02:00 am.

Click On This Link To Watch The Test Ride Video

From a panic atmosphere and intense nerves, it was a moment to relax. The technical team started working on the rest of the five models and tireless worked in mission mode  and completed all six models by 08:00 am. This was possible only because of their hard work and passion to make it happen.

Event Day Euphoria: When the cyclists took to the streets the reactions of people were amazing to see. The car cut out cycle made heads turn, many motorist’s smiled, children ran and came to talk to us. The bus drivers, cab drivers, pedestrians, shopkeepers and every other person on street appreciated the brave show put up by us. We stopped at signals and multiple points to talk to people. At every location we were surrounded with questions. The traffic police on duty at several occasions smiled and gave us the first right to cross at junctions. We were elated with this kind of response and it further motivated us to ride.

The six cyclist were split in to a group of two and moved towards different locations in an attempt to cover maximum areas of the city. Finally in the evening, we all regrouped at the Traffic Police Headquarters with great JOY, PRIDE AND SATISFACTIONThis was indeed a Superb Effort Put in by the team.