OPINION

Driving on Bangalore's Wild Roads

December 20, 2007
Deepti Lamba

There is no subtle way of saying this – Bangalore roads are hellish and most drivers suffer from Road Rage. Everyone tries to squeeze into that extra space and the minute  vehicles scrape each other, people start fighting, they scream and some even start beating each other up. The past few days I’ve been virtually living on the roads of Bangalore, driving from one end of the city to another and I've come across four accidents in four days which seem to be a lot.

On Monday, I saw a three wheeler rammed into an Indica , Tuesday I saw an overturned bus on Hosur Road near Electronic City, Wednesday, I saw two buses hugging each other’s sides while the drivers fought and today on Sarjapur I saw a gruesome car accident.

I hate driving. The light drizzle we've been suffering for the past two days has made the traffic conditions even worse, add slush and flooded roads and what we have on our hands is a recipe for disaster. People are madder than ever. Instead of slowing down, they drive faster when they see a car turning or people crossing the road. It’s as if they have shelved their rational selves and become complete morons. No one is willing to give the other way causing jams and then just sitting in their vehicles expecting the cops to come and sort out their shit.

Indians have no concept of personal space and more so on the roads. There is always a biker zipping in too close or buses squeezing the car in from both the sides. I found myself screaming when two buses closed in – both wanting the middle space and who was in the middle? My dinky little Alto with the entire family sitting in it!

Today I had enough; I cannot bring myself to drive beyond the speed of 40km/hr or a maximum of 60km/hr. People keep honking behind me but I drive at my steady speed. Why speed up? There is bound to be a pothole the size of a cavern in the middle of the road which would have us all go back to the first gear or some massive pile up that would make us stop altogether.

Also, I honk judiciously, I find myself crawling behind a cyclist or pedestrians, the roads are slushy, and there aren’t any footpaths for them to walk on. Honking at them won’t get them off the road when there is nowhere for them to go. Seriously,  these fuckers people in their vehicles expect the two legged sods to fly their way home.

The biggest morons on the road are those who drive with their headlights at full beam. Even worse are those who get extra headlights fitted on their beastly vehicles and cause complete blindness for the next five minutes. Thankfully, until now I haven’t bumped anyone off the road at night and with me crawling at not more than 20km/hr in the side lanes, the chances of this happening seems slim. Another trick I have learned is to drive behind those mammoth trucks. Yes, it gets painfully slow but I rather be slow then go blind by those high beams!

Nowadays, I don’t mind getting those nasty glares from drivers who think they are the kings of the road. They are no different from the apes we see on the National Geographic Channel on testosterone overdrive. All I do is remind myself that what’s important is to reach home in one piece no matter how long it takes and then to destress with a cup of tea and some pakodas.

Deepti Lamba is a writer, an editor for Desicritics. She can be found at Things That Bang
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#1
temporal
URL
December 20, 2007
11:06 AM

dee:

heh - yes, indeed!

All I do is remind myself that what's important is to reach home in one piece no matter how long it takes and then to destress with a cup of tea and some pakodas.

best to ignore the imbecile's and stay safe

#2
Katpadi
December 20, 2007
11:50 AM

So you are a behavioral scientist too and a primatologist to boot. Wow! Don't use the roads dudette!

#3
Deepti Lamba
URL
December 20, 2007
11:55 AM

T, it sure gets crazy out there

Katpadi, thanks for delegating me such an honorable title, there really wasn't any need, unfortunately being a social animal I have to take the wild roads once in a while.

#4
Josef K.
URL
December 20, 2007
01:57 PM


I felt exactly the same when I came to Bangalore two years back after spending nearly 10 years outside India.. But the sad part is, I now have to consciously remind myself not to drive like the crazy people you talk about.. I am afraid I am becoming one of them after driving for less than two years in Bangalore.. :(

#5
Mark
URL
December 20, 2007
03:54 PM

Deepti:

The crazy, clogged roadways of Bangalore are the most obvious symptom of depths which this quite-recently wonderful, but now utterly unlivable city have reached.

My partner and I got taken out on a two-wheeler in January by the left front bumper of an impatient bus driver in all-but-stopped traffic, even though I was as far left on the roadway as physically possible. After knocking us to the ground, traffic began to inch forward and, ignoring the shouting passngers (who were paying greater attention than either the driver or his right-seat assistant), dragged us another five-plus meters.

The story of the accident and my sissy convalescence is told here.

Driving in India has always been a bit of wealth-has-the-right-of-way. Perhaps the problem in Bangalore, with its nouveau riches, is that too many people now feel that ugly sense of entitlement which makes the roadways overly aggressive and not a lot of fun.

Or maybe they are all just shitty drivers!

Cheers,

MBJ

#6
Mark
URL
December 20, 2007
04:01 PM

Incidentally, your assessment of Indian vehicular insanity as a mechanized variant of the general disregard for what in just about every other culture would be considered a polite buffer of "personal space" is a canny observation.

#7
Deepti Lamba
URL
December 20, 2007
11:48 PM

Josef, I was in the US for five years, on returning I was shocked to see what had happened to Bangalore. Driving in Bangalore used to be stress free, being an ex-Delhiite I used to tell my family all the time what a pleasure it was to be on Bangalore Roads.

Initially I also became quite aggressive on the road but nowadays I take it easy.

Mark, the link didn't work. But it must have been a traumatic experience. I was once pushed out a moving bus and a car nearly ran over me. I was quite shaken up. I hope you weren't badly injured.

#8
smallsquirrel
December 21, 2007
12:00 AM

in the two years that i have lived in bangalore I have seen it go from a slightly hectic but livable situation to all-out chaos and danger at every turn.

I cannot overstate how ridiculous the driver behave here, the worst of which are the call-center drivers in their qualises running people off the road left, right and center. BMTC buses run a close second and are famous for sandwiching small cars between them without a care.

I am horrified by how people in cars behave here and for this reason I am glad that before my child is old enough to walk I will be gone from here.

#9
Mark
URL
December 21, 2007
12:36 AM

Here's the full-blown link: http://memestreamblog.wordpress.com/2007/01/17/getting-in-touch-with-my-feminine-side/.

Driving in India is such a great subject. I can't resist passing along my reflections, written several years ago:

Getting Ahead

Driving in India is not about reaching a destination, much less about reaching it in time. The concept of "in time" doesn't really exist. "Indian Standard Time" is the nationwide chuckle, as things invariably occur impossibly behind schedule.

Driving is about passing.

Pedestrians, cyclists, and other small vehicles are pushed from the roadways as larger vehicles overtake, and are then overtaken by each other. (As with all things in India, wealth has the right-of-way.) Bus drivers avert head-on collisions by centimeters as they battle to pass other traffic within 50 meters of their stop. At the rare urban intersection where red lights or traffic police stop the flow, two-, three-, and four-wheelers alike squeeze toward the front, filling the gaps as though they were water, trying to steal a few feet of advantage at the re-start.

It is not necessarily about being first, but about being ahead of the next guy, and then the next. It is a competition without prize, and without hope that anyone might ever finish as champion.

#10
Deepti Lamba
URL
December 21, 2007
12:42 AM

The solution is simple, at least in my mind- if we follow lane discipline much of the stress factor would be gone.

If the traffic lights aren't working then maybe civilians can pitch in till the cops come and they should fit in cameras at all the major junctures and ticket violators with heavy fines.

#11
Ledzius
December 21, 2007
01:40 AM

"The solution is simple, at least in my mind- if we follow lane discipline much of the stress factor would be gone."

An American colleague of mine, on a visit to Bangalore and seeing signs saying "Follow lane discipline" rightly asked "But where are the lane markings?"

Most main roads have no lane markings whatsoever. And if you blindly line yourself behind the cars in front of you, it is very well likely that _ALL_ of you are violating lane discipline.

Most roads in Indian cities are NOT standardised as multiples of lanes (as is done in advanced countries). You have road widths that vary all the way from 30 feet to 100 feet. Plus given the wide variety of 2, 3 and 4 wheelers, following the lane system would lead to inefficient utilization of road space. What works in Western countries (with an insignificant amount of 2 and 3 wheelers) may not work here.

#12
smallsquirrel
December 21, 2007
01:50 AM

ledz.. have heard that excuse too many times... the only reason it won't work is because of all of the damned excuses... if it works in LA/NY/Rome/Tokyo, etc it will work here. India is not *that* special! :)

#13
Deepti Lamba
URL
December 21, 2007
02:25 AM

Why do we need markings? There are generally three lanes. One for the fast lane, one in the middle and the last one for the slower vehicles. If we maintain adequate distance between each vehicle on all sides and wait our turn the traffic would move faster.


IF we are able to do it on roads when they are manually manned by cops why can't we do it without the law breathing on our backs?

And by road disciple I also mean not cutting into the lane where the on coming traffic drives. People tend to jam up the entire stretch and the oncoming traffic has no place left.

Then we have those who deliberately break the one way rule and fight back when we tell them that they could cause serious accidents.

Its this lack of discipline and free to do as we choose mentality that makes life difficult for all of us.

#14
smallsquirrel
December 21, 2007
03:58 AM

dee, I do think that the roads need markings.. especially since no one here gets the concept of lane discipline.. they will need some guidance... otherwise it will continue to be a free-for-all.. that is the major problem to begin with... no concept of space and how much is appropriate or safe!

#15
Ledzius
December 21, 2007
04:20 AM

"India is not *that* special! :)"

SS, India *is*. Where else do you see so many two-wheelers? Tell me, do you expect not more than one two-wheeler or even auto per lane? That would cause traffic to extend almost twice or thrice the current length at any intersection (possibly blocking the neighbouring intersections). It may not be the most orderly, but Indian traffic is the most efficient in terms of road space utilisation.

What I am against is traffic spilling over into sidewalks or the oncoming side at intersections. But within the same side, the free-for-all system somehow seems to work.

#16
smallsquirrel
December 21, 2007
05:17 AM

OK, well thailand for example, has as many 2 wheelers and they maintain lane discipline... also places like hong kong have an extraordinary amount too.

while you might be fitting more cars in at once, you are not doing so in an orderly fashion. this causes traffic to move at a slower speed with more interruptions of travel when people cut others off or pull in and block traffic, so in the end it will take longer to get anywhere. so you choose... more vehicles in one space but slower... or fewer vehicles in a space but faster travel....

#17
Mark
URL
December 21, 2007
05:38 AM

And there is every reason to want three wheelers to proliferate over cars. The ubiquitous, inexpensive, flexible, point-to-point option of autorickshaws, along with a functional, comfortable public transportation system, provides the nearly perfect model for urban development -- in India or anywhere else.

#18
Deepti Lamba
URL
December 21, 2007
07:21 AM

Mark, I am more in favor of Volvo buses.



#19
Mark
URL
December 21, 2007
07:25 AM

Deepti:

Excellent Volvo sleepers between Bangtown and Pondy. Come cycle our slightly more peaceful streets.

MBJ

#20
Deepti Lamba
URL
December 21, 2007
07:53 AM

I've heard about those luxury buses and would love to try them out.

Pondy was a nightmare during the month of June. Though I loved the place but it was so hot and damp that I suffered from a nasty heat stroke through the trip and lost my digicam:(

I love driving through Tamil Nadu in fact the Southern countryside is far more beautiful than its Northern counterpart.

#21
smallsquirrel
December 21, 2007
08:51 AM

my husband just got eaten by some kind of ugly bugs last night on the volvo sleeper from chennai.

that being said, I rode a nice one from hassan (although there was a massive cockroach playing stowaway)

I had the same experience as you, dee, in pondy. beautiful, but I nearly died of heat and humidity. that being said, the drive there was amazing and the people in the villages along the way were the nicest folk I ever came across. they literally chased the car to give us mangoes as presents (I still had my wedding mehendi)

#22
Chandra
December 21, 2007
09:19 AM

lagtha hain...none of you have ever driven in Delhi....:-).....Having lived in both cities I can confidently state that Delhi drivers and traffic is 10 times worse than bangalore's. Everytime I get an outstanding job offer from Delhi, the only factor that dissuades me is the traffic...even Kolkata is tolerable....Bangalore is heaven BTW :-)

Anyway that apart...Dee has made some valid observations...one point that bothered me while driving in bangalore was two wheelers cutting across your car suddenly..very dangerous......apart from traffic..one other hobby that some bangaloreans have is scratching car surfaces with stones when parked.......

However, the shocker is this....I think most people 'intend' to drive carefully and safely......A few Autos, many Qualis wallahs, a large number of BMTC buses a few car and two wheeler guys combine to make it a hellish experience. Over and above, the width of the roads is too small for mobility.

#23
Deepti Lamba
URL
December 21, 2007
09:29 AM

Chandra, oye!!! I have Delhi coursing through my veins;) And I drove there for seven years before I got married;) A Delhites motto is- if you can drive in Delhi you can drive anywhere and then I went to Kolkata where they break in high speed right in front of your bumper!!

#24
Deepti Lamba
URL
December 21, 2007
09:36 AM

SS, those bed bugs can be nasty. I got bitten by them when I went on a trek, my sleeping bag had gotten wet and the organizers provided me with one and for the next ten days I was fodder for those little bugs;)

#25
Chandra
December 21, 2007
11:43 AM

Dee....

You should not be complaining about Bangalore Traffic then ;)

Ya, Kolkata is an adventure....for example..take a yellow cab for the Airport during peak hours....

#26
Anand Menon
December 22, 2007
08:28 AM
#27
Deepti Lamba
URL
December 22, 2007
03:19 PM

Hey Anand, good to see you after a long time:) The link doesn't work.

#28
Anand Menon
December 23, 2007
06:48 AM

haha...it feels good to be back..maybe this should help..try copy pasting the link

www.mysterindia.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=112

#29
Dingabrat [DG1]
December 28, 2007
05:51 AM

I love Bangalore roads. I love challenges & it keeps me AWAKE. Its like playing in alarge video game. Love u guys who drive out there.

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