Tag: Vehicles

Indian Drivers – Driving on Indian Roads

Back in 2007, when I went to USA for the first time, the first thing I appreciated and fell in love with, was the traffic. I had been a hollywood fan for a long time and so I was not amazed after seeing beautidul roads and 99% of
time orderly traffic. But as its said, its different feeling seeing with you eyes than reading, hearing, seeing pictures or watching on screen.
In December that year, the client was taking the entire team to a party to an Indian restaurant. I did not drive in Us during those days (many of us in the team, who were Indians, did not), and so was supposed to hitch a ride with one of the client managers. While I and 2 more of vendor guys were walking over to his car in the parking, this guy told us that the most frightening and amazing thing he saw in India was that animals (as in cows, dogs, horses and what not) shared the road with automobiles. That was said as a light remark, somewhat like a joke and we did smile on it. Nonetheless, I realized how true it was.
Whenever, I think of that statement, I figure that Indian roads are more like an ecosystem of their own. Maybe, a bio-diversity, where organisms from different species can share the same environment to sustain and thrive. Yes, Indian roads are like that. But, how and why is it like that? And what exactly I am talking about here? Well, I am talking about the dangers of driving on Indian roads and the part heroic, part dumb-ass Indian driving community. Well, don’t be offended, I am not addressing the “few”, but I used those two words for the majority of people driving on roads in our beautiful country.
I wanted to write about this for a long time, but the final push came today, when I was travelling back home in my office bus.
We all know, how dangerous is driving around in India. Some of you might argue that, driving is equally dangerous around the world, and I have no intentions of not concurring. Nonetheless, in India it is degrees higher than in most of the countries (Please don’t compare to under-developed countries. I would remind you all that, one should always compare oneself with someone better, in order to improve).
What are the actual issues here? What Government and we can do to improve the situation?

First of all, most of the times, I feel that in India, people don’t care about their lives, and obviously lives of others. What else could be the reason of jumping traffic signals, overtaking from the wrong side, driving a two wheeler without helmets, driving four wheeler without seat belts, and one of the favorites all over India – driving on the wrong side? We feel that, these things are just to add nuisance to our driving. People don’t want to wear helmets, coz maybe they want to feel the wind in their hair, not using seat belt can be connected to the desire of people to not spoil the ironing of the clothes! Well, these are what I can think of. Maybe there are altogether different reasons – maybe, there are some religious reasons, maybe superstitions, maybe a prophecy! Well, I can just wonder, since I cannot think of one reason which makes sense to me.

The first thing which I want to blame for all this is – lack of awareness about driving rules and regulations. Well, why not – it starts from the rules. Don’t you think. How many of us have seen the driving manual which contains the Do’s and Dont’s as per the Indian Motor Vehicle Act. Do you know all the rules which govern driving? Do you know all the rules which govern the upkeep of your automobile? Maybe a few do, but am sure enough that most of us have never seen that manual. I’ll again draw a parallel with US here. When you go for a driving license there, you need to take two tests (in phases). A computer based test of “rules awareness” followed by (on condition of passing) a driving test. The written test is what I want to focus on here. The DMV (what we have as RTO here) has a driving manual on their website (also available as a printed material from their offices) which lists down all the rules which one should know for safe driving. I want something like that in India. I am not saying that after having that, people will start abiding by all rules. No, they would not, but at least they would know, and at least some of them will try to adhere to rules, who might not be knowing what they’re doing wrong. Knowledge is the first step.

The second problem is lack of enforcement. Mostly, people break traffic rules since they know, they can easily get away without being penalized. I have seen many a times, when the traffic policeman is just a mute spectator (on his own will) to people breaking traffic rules. There are so many times, when these guys prefer to turn a blind eye to the offenders. Obviously, when people see and know their unwillingness, they will break the rules. In NCR, especially in Noida, jumping traffic signals is like a right of people! People in shiny and jazzy cars do it, so it cannot be blamed on bikers and rickshaw-wallas. Traffic police has a critical role to play in saving lives of people on road and unless they enforce the rules strictly and penalize people frequently, nothing is going to change.

People driving on high beam is like the most common thing in India – as if they don’t even know what “high beam” is and they too stupid to know that there is another “mode for the headlamps”. How often you’re blinded by the high beam of the moron driver coming from the opposite side? I can bet that, there would not have been a single day, when you would not have encountered this. I have never seen traffic police penalizing people for this, when they should. It has to be an offense which needs at least a warning!

Then many people, think that the side view mirrors is damaging the looks of the car, so some of them prefer not to open it while driving, and some intelligent ones, simply get the side view mirrors removed. After all, why the hell should they care about what’s coming on their right or left? A related thing here is, not using indicators. Well, but aren’t the indicators just supposed to be used on special occasions – that including when we park on the road (in such a case also, it should be used occasionally). After all, why does one want to care about other vehicles on road, which might be totally unaware of which turn I might take the very next second. After all, it’s their responsibility of knowing when the hell will I turn and not mine, even though the manufacturer has provided the indicators for this very specific purpose.

Driving on the wrong side of the road it totally cool and fun and makes you look smart in eyes of others on road, as far as it is saving you maybe a guided U turn which was far away! After all, why to take all that pain and spend fuel, when one can drive on the wrong side without being penalized? And what about, the oncoming traffic and safety of people who are coming from ahead, being on the right side of the road? Why should one care about them – Don’t they have eyes to see that there’s a car/jeep/truck/bus/bike coming towards them? Well, aren’t they paying attention to the road? Point taken douches!

Right of way – Yes, they know about right of way. It’s so simple. What’s not to know about it? Right of way, simply means that “I have the right of way always”. Others can go and screw themselves. If I’m travelling straight, and there is an intersection, obviously I have right of way. If I have to take that turn on that intersection (uncontrolled), then suddenly the “right of way” is transferred back from people going and coming straight to me, since “right of way” always belongs to me. I will never stop, if I see from a distance, someone trying to make a turn. Instead, I’ll speed up so that in case that other vehicle was planning to stall in middle of the road, I would be long gone! I will never give way to emergency vehicles as long as none of my family, relatives, friends are in need.

I can park anywhere. That also means right on the moving road, even though it can stall traffic and cause inconvenience to others. Others? huh?

Coming back to animals – I can (and I should) write an entire blog on stray animals in India. It looks so cool to have cows, buffaloes, old horses roam on the road. Once cows, buffaloes have been milked in the morning, they can be freed to roam on roads -after all, they also need to take fresh air and see the city. Leave them on the roads to block traffic, to cause accidents. As far as the animal is not harmed – the owner doesn’t give a damn!

Well, don’t think that I am all complaints about everything related to driving in India. I am not. Nonetheless, I am firm believer in that fact, that unless we confront the problems/issues, we cannot fix it.

I just wish and hope that, one day traffic and driving on Indian roads will be more smooth, more safe!

Traffic Woes – Part 1

Traffic congestion is a problem which humanity faces worldwide. There are different reasons though in different cities at different times.

Even in a world class city like New York City, congestion is a problem at times, though not always. Whatever I witnessed there was near the tunnels, mostly due to the toll. At other times, there was a breakdown, which blocked one lane and caused traffic snarls due to merging traffic from other lanes. And at other unfortunate times, an accident blocked some lanes during the approach to the city, either through tunnels or on GWB. This all is something which is normal and cannot be discounted from our life. Bad things happen and will keep on happening.

What I am writing about is how an ill-planned, illogical road network can ensure congestion every day! How people entrusted to keep the traffic streamlined, choose to turn a blind eye to those daily incidents, may be cause they are also frustrated due to the daily witnessing of jams.

Let’s turn our focus to Noida, a cosmopolitan industrial suburb of India’s capital, New Delhi. Noida which stands for New Okhla Industrial Development Authority was created in April 1976 during then Government’s urbanization drive. It is strategically located near the capital, just across river Yamuna. It started as an industrial city, with factories, workshops (which are located in and around Sec 1-12) and then during the IT boom, slowly converted itself into an IT hub. The city is no doubt very well planned when it was originally drawn on the draft boards.

I have been in this city for the last 9 years and so have seen fair deal of development here.

In last couple of years, to cater to increasing population, new sectors were coming up all within the geographical boundaries. During the same time, to cater to ever increasing rush of vehicles, widening of roads, flyovers, under passes started coming up. This is when some ill-thought projects were kicked off, which when came into existence, created more troubles than comfort.

Sometimes, the projects kept missing deadlines again and again, and people kept on suffering due to the construction going on the affected areas. A case in point is the under pass near Rajnigandha crossing. This project slipped 4 deadlines (at least this is what I read) and was finally started just last week. 

There are some projects, which are going at such critical locations, and have a really long deadline! I fail to understand, how the Authority even agreed to have such long deadlines. This time the case in point is construction of an underpass and fly over at Sec 37 crossing. From what I have read about, that project is going to complete sometime in later half of 2012. So brace yourself for 2013 beginning.

I think this much background is enough on this issue. Let’s get back to the current bottlenecks and congestion points.

The above image shows you what some of you may know as Link road. The road (top of the image) is coming from Mayur Vihar and goes on straight to Greater Noida Expressway. Let’s focus on the points which have been numbered in the image to understand what happens during the daily morning commute.

The road at point 1 is coming from Sec 19 underpass. Due to the construction at Sec 37 crossing, this part of road is currently under lot of stress. At point 1 the road divides into two parts, one of which is actually meant to serve the Great India Place mall entrance. Nevertheless, at point 4, where this road merges onto the Link road, the traffic is controlled manually by traffic police, that point serving as a stop location. This means that, when the incoming on this road is heavy, congestion stretches up to point 1. Let’s see a detailed map of point 1.

 You can clearly see that there are two yellow lines moving towards left. When the vehicles start stopping at point 1, people start driving on the inner road (meant to serve the entrance of the mall). This road then merges onto the main road at point 2. Since there is no space for accommodating this merging traffic into the main road, a jam happens every day at point 2, where the vehicles on the inner road are trying to merge into the already choked main road, causing the leftmost lane on the main road to choke, which as a domino effect causes right lanes to choke, since people start trying to move onto their right. This was the first congestion point.

If you see the first image (congestion area 1), there is small slip road, at point 3, which is not exactly a road for traffic movement, but is kind of an embankment road for the drain. Nonetheless, light motor vehicles and two Wheelers can easily maneuver t he ditches on this stretch. What happens is, during congestion, when traffic is standstill till point 1, people start using this slip road at point 3. Since we don’t know the concept of lane driving and since there is incoming traffic through point 2, there are times when point 3 helps in creating a deadlock when vehicles cannot enter slip road at point 3, due to already jammed slip road, and vehicles merging onto the main road through point 2, are not able to smoothly merge in, and also due to some A-class shitbags, who are although in right lanes of the main road, but want to enter slip road. This was congestion point 2!

Well, after spending at least 5 minutes to cross this stretch you actually somehow reach near point 4. Since this is kind of traffic light, you have to stop here. Usually if you stop just near the flyover approach, then its more certain that you’ll pass point 4 in two bursts. The traffic policemen believe in unequal bursts for this part of merging traffic and the one which is coming from Delhi.

Anyways, once you pass point 4, you’re on a three lane road (on each side). Since there is no traffic light or manual traffic maintenance from this point, you’ll think that you’ll move fast. No, that’s the wrong logical assumption you made. The beauty comes here and our first bottleneck, and I mean it literally!

The stretch marked as point 5, is a three lane road, which turns into two-lane at point 6. At point 6, we have a small bridge over the open drain. This causes the traffic from 3 lanes to merge into two lanes, in order to cross over the roughly 50 meters bridge. A bottleneck! Obviously this causes congestion on stretch of point 5.

A solution to ease off traffic at this point would be widen the bridge to at least 3 lanes, so that the traffic can move smoothly. But, since we live in Noida, where city planners are so dumb that they can beat anyone at dumbness, they thought that since there are regular traffic jams on point 5, let’s widen point 5 to 4 lanes! The planners seem to have turned a blind eye at the actual cause of the jam – the narrow bridge at point 6! The widening of the stretch at point 5, will ensure more merging jams, causing more delays! Even if there are plans for widening the bridge, the approach should not be widened unless the bridge has been widened. But, then who am I to say that? Just a citizen living in a so-called world class city and commuting every day to work through hell!

The next post in this series will talk about the other congestion points.

Pour in your feedback. I have not focused on an effective writing style here, though usually I do.