One month later, mixed response to Church Street First initiative


People walking their dogs, couples enjoying al fresco dining, buskers performing, street vendors selling everything from peanuts to leather jackets… They have become regular sights on Church Street after vehicles were banned on weekends from November 7.

The Church Street First project, which will continue till the end of February, has been implemented by the Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT), Indian Institute of Science, and the U.K. technology innovation platform Catapult Network as part of the Clean Air Street Initiative. But, a little over a month later, the response to the initiative has been mixed.

Guitarist Byra, who is part of the three-member band, Metanoya, which has been performing outside Rasta Café after the initiative began, said it has been a positive experience. “I have been performing on Church Street for some time now, but people used to look at me like, ‘What is this guy doing?’ But after this initiative, people are a lot more receptive.”

However, Anirudh Nopany, co-founder of Brik Oven which has set up tables and chairs outside, says: “The idea is great but the orchestration and the timing of it is not. [This is] when gatherings should not be allowed or promoted. Also, during and post lockdown, there was a trend of people coming in their cars and eating in their own vehicles. We were seeing 15 to 20 cars every weekend. Obviously, that’s not possible now. We have seen a drop in our sales by about 20%.”

He added that they are working towards seeing if they can get “something positive” out of this. “We’re planning to post about it on social media; we haven’t done that yet.”

Krishna Gowda, owner of Bookworm which has set up a display of books on the street, echoes Mr. Nopany’s view. “The initiative is very good, but not the timing. Most of my regular customers have one question: is it safe to come there when there are crowds? Additionally, parking space has not been specified. Many of my customers also exchange books. They find it difficult to park somewhere else, and carry a heavy bag and walk to the store,” he said. He, however, added that a positive outcome is a rise in new customers. “People want to see what the initiative is all about so there have been many newcomers to Church Street,” he said.

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Vinay Sreenivasa, member, Bengaluru Jilla Beedhi Vyapari Sanghatanegala Okkuta, says, “We are saying invite more street vendors; let them come and sell their food and their wares. That will make it better and more inclusive.”

Artists and art groups are invited to send in proposals to [email protected] which will be considered for approval by DULT.

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Sagar Biswas

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