An initiative by Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority
Though Shakespeare ran under the skin of children and realized their agony as early as the 16th century, the picture he painted through these beautifully crafted words is still relevant today as it was. But, they do long for a day beyond their school, beyond the four walls of their home in a city, provided with little scope for ventilation. They do imagine a dreamy world - vast and open - where the kids with shining morning faces won’t creep like snails but fly like a butterfly. This is not just the story of children but the tale of people from all walks of life as well.
Fortunate as it may sound, they are endowed with a day having literally dawned for them. Children played football, ran merrily, did cycling and skating in the open air and left no chord of joy untouched. Adults, many of whom don’t even chit-chat with the next-door neighbour, meet people of two ends of the spectrum. Such a rewarding day is gifted to the city dwellers on the first Friday of every month. Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority (DTCA) has been organizing such a blissful event called, 'car-free street', for over a year. This December, Surf Excel, a brand of Unilever Bangladesh, has set out on a partnership in the initiative, jointly launched by the public and private sectors in association with Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP).
Since its inception on November 10 last year, the initiative had a promise to keep, which is closing 200 meters of Manik Mia Avenue road in front of the sprawling and splendid architecture, the National Parliament Building, from 8am to 11am on every Friday and dedicating the space to people for recreation. Children are free to bring their own sports equipment but are even endowed with some by the organizers. Apart from children, people of all ages are observed exercising, riding a bicycle, chatting, and playing games. No one would require a ticket to participate in this wonderful occasion.
'Car Free Street,' which marked its first anniversary on December 7, aims to reduce traffic congestion, strengthen the network among city dwellers and allocate a space for children to play under the sky. In addition, Surf Excel featured a handful of activities to make the children’s participation more rewarding.
While the street is easy to be stereotyped as a source of cacophony, it wore the most pleasant appearance on Friday, December 7. Rezwan-ul Haque playing football with his four-year-old daughter Sahir joined the orchestra of dreamers. With a beaming face, he said, “On any weekend, my daughter wants to go out. I came to know about this program on social media. I dream to see this event taking place every Friday instead of once in a month.”
Mahiuddin, a private company official who came by bicycle from Mirpur along with a friend, rejoiced at the outing. “I love this soulful gathering, which I haven’t missed out on in last three months,” he said.
Zeeshan Bayezid Rahman, Category Head, Unilever Bangladesh, said, “The society should come forward to ensure children’s right to play. This will pave the path for developing their talent. Kids have a lot to learn through outdoor play. That is why we have tied up with the event. We are expecting cooperation from all partners to expand the initiative and organize it in other parts of the city as well.”
Md Anisur Rahman, Project Director and Traffic Engineer, DTCA, said, “We are working towards enhancing the usage of public transport and reducing dependency on private cars. DTCA has taken up a handful of initiatives in this regard. The existing public transport is not enough. Though, if we can overcome this challenge and uplift the quality of transport services, we would be able to arrange events of this sort all throughout the day and not only for merely three hours.”
“The World Car Free Day has been observed on September 22 every year since 2006. In its continuation, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader announced to keep the road in front of the National Parliament Building car-free at least for a day. His announcement paved the path for this initiative having started its journey in the last year. It is observed on the first Friday of every month when around 500 people converge on this part of the city. This is an initiative undertaken for people from all walks of life. Though it is the first of its kind in Bangladesh, it had already been organized in many parts of the world,” said DTCA sources