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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Aamchi Vasai: Stunts on streets to spread awareness on traffic rules

An Aamchi Vasai volunteer walks up to the biker and crosses the road by stepping onto the footboards of bikes and bonnets of cars that have stopped at the signal, ducking under the forearms of bikers.

Written by Dipti Singh | Mumbai | Published: March 15, 2018 2:58:10 am
Stunts on streets to spread awareness on traffic rules Aamchi Vasai’s video is aimed at reminding drivers and motorcyclists that the zebra crossing exists for a purpose

Volunteers of Aamchi Vasai group may have found a novel way to reign in unruly motorists impeding on pedestrian crossings at traffic signals. While some may find it amusing, the members of the group say the issue is serious as children, elderly and physically challenged people were finding it increasingly difficult to cross roads. Inspired by a series videos shot in Europe that showed volunteers of a group teaching traffic rules to a few errant riders idling vehicle engines at a traffic signal, which went viral last year, the local Vasai group decided to take up the issue in their own way. Started in May last year, the group members approach those who stop at traffic signals, on zebra crossings and not before.

An Aamchi Vasai volunteer walks up to the biker and crosses the road by stepping onto the footboards of bikes and bonnets of cars that have stopped at the signal, ducking under the forearms of bikers. Aamchi Vasai’s video is aimed at reminding drivers and motorcyclists that the zebra crossing exists for a purpose. The volunteers in the video, after performing their so-called “stunts”, make the drivers and riders understand where to stop their cars and bikes when the signal is red and why.

“While one of them would shock the drivers and riders by performing his stunt, another volunteer would come forward and educate the riders about the purpose of a zebra crossing and what they were doing. People come to a halt right on the zebra crossings and it creates problems, especially for senior citizens, children and the physically challenged who sometimes risk their lives crossing the road. We have been receiving a lot of complaints on our WhatsApp groups and Facebook page,” said Hrishikesh Vaidya, a founder member of Aamchi Vasai.

Vaidya said the problem is a recent one. “Performing these acts and forwarding our videos has created a lot of awareness and there has been a lot improvement now. A couple of Vasai’s busiest junctions have no zebra crossings, or halt times for vehicles. It is our effort to help get the message across and things are moving ahead,” said Vaidya. The initiative begun after one of the members, Hemant Matwankar, a hotelier, watched a similar kind of video on a social networking site shot in Europe. He immediately suggested that this could be done in Vasai as well to address the traffic related woes.

“We were getting a lot of complains pertaining to the issue. As soon as I watched that video, I thought we could do it here to get the issue addressed and in a lighter way. We decided that the volunteers performing the acts will wear Aamchi Vasai t-shirts so that people take this seriously,” said Matwankar.

Thirty-two-year-old Vaidya, a priest and a resident of Vasai, along with other like-minded youth in the area, decided to form the group. “Not everybody knows about Vasai. There are lot of things, which we as residents know but people are just unaware. Besides, we wanted to be a connect between the residents and the civic body to address civic issues,” added Vaidya.

A volunteer said they have 250 members on the field and their Facebook page has around 57,000 followers. According to the group members, we have been on a short break but are all set to resume their drive in the next few days. A senior official of Vasai Virar Municipal Corporation said: “We did not approve of the way they are doing it. But it has created a lot of awareness among the people in Vasai. The videos were played in VVMC buses for people to understand the importance of zebra crossings and why halting on zebra crossings is wrong.”

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