Abdul Ahad was pretty enthusiastic about playing cricket on an empty road under Dhaka North City Corporation's "car-free street" initiative. But, he lost his enthusiasm instantly when he saw that the venue selected for kids' outdoor sports on an Uttara road is very small.
With a cricket bat in one hand, a downhearted Ahad on Friday morning was standing beside a lane of the Uttara's Sonargaon Janapath road where the mayor of the DNCC inaugurated the programme around 9am.
"The place is too small to play cricket," said Ahad, an 8th grader at the Radius International School in Uttara. In his expression, there was an appeal that the children's playing zone could be on a wider road in the area.
DNCC Mayor Atiqul Islam inaugurated the car-free road in Uttara after obtaining motivation from his first such initiative launched on May 22, 2017 on the capital's Manik Mia Avenue.
As per the DNCC plan, a lane of Uttara's Sonargaon Janapath road will be blocked for traffic movement from 8am to 11am every Friday and will be kept open for children's outdoor games.
Many guardians took the initiative positively.
Roji Khandaker, a housewife living in Sector 13, said, "I will be able to bring my 5-year-old son here every weekend. He can enjoy some soft games with other kids like him here."
"Sending so little a kid to a big playground or park is risky as many elder boys play there," she added.
On the occupied lane of the road on Friday, many children were seen playing games like badminton, basketball and football. Meanwhile, some were drawing pictures sitting on the street, while some others were playing indoor games like carom with street children.
But the occupation of this narrow lane of the road for outdoor sports has created concerns among many as it may bring about a traffic mess even on weekly holidays.
On the very first day, a medium level of traffic jam was observed on the road as both-way vehicles had to use only one lane.
One of the traffic police personnel in the area said, last Friday, there was no visible traffic jam on the road but this week was different.
"When both-way vehicles use a one-way road, traffic jam will occur obviously," he said, on condition of anonymity.
Besides, playing indoor games on the open road minimised scope for children's outdoor games.
"There are lots of activities in one place [the road] along with some indoor games too. Why should we block a road and play indoor games outdoor? Here, we should play only outdoor games," said Abdul Ahad.
Ashik Mahbub, a 12th grader, said, "We need our parks reconstructed. We should not block roads for kids' entertainment and play some mini versions of big games or indoor games."
Dr AKM Abul Kalam Azad, professor at Jahangirnagar University's Urban and Regional Planning department, said selecting places and time for such a purpose is very important.
"Such an initiative should not be implemented by obstructing roads. One problem cannot be solved by creating many other problems," he argued.
He suggested ensuring an alternative route for a smooth traffic movement during the playing hours. "Otherwise, the initiative may cause various complexities."
In the launching programme, Mayor Atiqul Islam said, "I know residents of this area will suffer due to temporary traffic jam every Friday, but if at least one child gets out of depression and finds a healthy heart by playing here, our initiative and your [residents'] sufferings will be successful."
"Twenty-five percent kids in Bangladesh suffer from depression and 80 percent spend two hours in watching videos daily," he said, adding "We want that our future generation grow up in open places, not by scrolling down mobile phones."
Many countries have implemented same initiatives on their important streets, the mayor said, adding this is a silent protest against those who have grabbed playgrounds around the city.
Syed Mohammad Shohidul, an inspector of the Uttara Traffic zone, said, "Usually, most people stay at homes on Friday to make their holidays. As a result, very few vehicles come out on roads. But, we will deploy more traffic police personnel from next Friday to avert any unwanted traffic congestion."