Media Coverage

CONNECTKaro: Making it happen for sustainable transport in India

EMBARQ India's second annual CONNECTKaro conference brought hundreds of stakeholders in sustainable transport and urban development into conversation with one another. The conference saw over 300 participants while thousands more joined sessions online. Through 15 sessions across two action packed days, CONNECTKaro brought together academics, students, bureaucrats, and practitioners on a common platform to discuss how to make Indian cities more livable and sustainable. Set in Bangalore, one of India's fastest growing cities, the conference addressed ways to make Bangalore more pedestrian and transport friendly. Fitting with the name Karo – which means “make it happen” - the conversation at CONNECTKaro focused on creating real impact and change for Indian cities. CONNECTKaro emphasizes cities and streets built for citizens.

Highlights from the two-day conference included two creative sessions at end of the first day, on Gender and Public Spaces and Bangalore Buses, respectively. In the session on Bangalore Buses, Ashwin Prabhu and Arnab Roy of EMBARQ India gave an overview on the effective use of communications and marketing by public transit agencies. Prabhu emphasized "the way big reforms are communicated to the public is important." The session involved brainstorming in three small groups on the topics of user information, marketing, and user education. Through the brainstorming sessions, the groups came up with interesting strategies and campaigns for information dissemination for the launch of the BMTC BIG Bus Network at various stages of the project.

The session on Gender and Public Spaces began with EMBARQ India’s Sonal Shah framing the context of cities being gendered by providing critical data from publications on women’s travel patterns and limited access to public spaces. The participants sketched their experience of a public recreation space they visit often and their inputs were collated by dividing them into two groups of men and women. The moderators for the groups presented the collated information and distinct patterns were observed in how men and women experience public open space. Men’s concerns pertained to level of comfort and presence of amenities in public spaces. Women’s primary concern was about safety and their experience of the public space with respect to the five senses.

The biggest crowd puller of the conference was keynote speaker Gil Penalosa's presentation. In his keynote address on Non-Motorized Transport on Day 2, Penalosa began by pointing out that walking and cycling should be the primary concern today; the largest public space available in any city is after all, the street itself. In his presentation, Penalosa, compared dull streets, which had not incorporated walking and cycling as activities and vibrant streets, which did include walking and cycling, and asked the audience about their preference. Needless to say, the audience preferred the latter. In talking about Cicolovía in Bogotá, Colombia, Penalosa pointed out that such initiatives help in changing the mindset of decision makers and citizens, pilot projects are a good way to sensitize and gain acceptance for sustainable causes. He reminded everyone that Cyclovía changed mindsets. It demonstrated that streets can have different uses while dignifying pedestrians and protecting cyclists. The key, he emphasized, is to provide citizens with the infrastructure to access and fully enjoy public spaces. As Amit Bhatt, Strategy Head- Integrated Urban Transport, EMBARQ India said while discussing Gurgaon, India’s Raahgiri Day, “If you give people safe infrastructure, they will come out and walk and cycle.”

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