Holding the Thought

Surviving roads in India require a special kind of skill.
I read somewhere 'The safest way to travel in India, is on a cow'. It's true. That is the only living creature (besides the VIPs for a limited period of time) that gets right of way on Indian roads. 

You need oodles of patience, tons of skill, plenty of (good) luck, a loud horn, functioning brakes, hand to signal a turn, a roving eye (*wink*), knowledge of the local language (fluency in swearing gets you brownie points) and some knowledge of the MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) if you want to survive on Indian roads. 

But while we fret and worry about how our roads and traffic are archaic and belong to a century long past, the truth is we are probably going to be the only people who can and will survive anarchy when the T-virus strikes. We will be happy to mow down the living dead on our way to work and heck! we will even want to get out early so that we can spend more time on the road.

So my daily transcontinental journey to work and back gives me plenty of time to kill. Sometimes, I use this time to think of ideas. 

This page is my sandbox of ideas, when I am on the road.... 
  1. Restrict the number of times a motorist can toot their horn, either by limiting the number of times the motorist can honk or by charging a motorist a penalty for everytime they toot their horn beyond a certain number of times per kilometer.
  2. Use better traffic regulation techniques. Create 'smart' speed-breakers/bumps that can be activated when there is fewer vehicles or poor road conditions ahead. Automated barricades to control the flow of traffic during peak hours. And finally removing speed breakers that are as high as the footpath only defeats its purpose.
  3. Embed machine-readable smart chips in license plates that can be captured in by infrared/all-weather surveillance cameras.
  4. Okay, now this is not a new idea but I've always thought traffic fines in Bangalore in particular and India as a whole need an overhaul. Rs 100/- for not wearing a helmet barely pinches the pocket. Heck, that is less than the amount we pay for a quick meal at McDonalds. I propose we increase the fine by 100x. The second instance of the offence should be jail-term and the third instance - jail-term and fine 100x plus your licence should be canceled.
  5. Every traffic signal should have the countdown timer activated for both the Red (stop) and the Green (Go) lights throughout the day. 
  6. Okay, I know this is not new in the West and in progressive nations in Asia, but this is virtually unheard of here in India. Every traffic intersection must have a motion strip that will detect which car has crossed the yellow/white line and take a picture of the car and the driver irrespective of the time of the day.
  7. I've seen how people will jump the red light and break other traffic rules when they see there isn't a cop standing round the corner and at night, when they know cameras are virtually blind. There are 2 things I'd suggest: 
    1. Increase awareness about traffic rulesNew rules, regulations and laws are often ignored because not every road-user is aware of it. Advertisements are not always broadcast to all. 
    2. Make traffic/road education compulsory from kindergarden and ensure parents follow them as well. Children who aren't taught and disciplined while growing up become citizens that require constant correction and monitoring. Bangalore, like any other city/town in India face an acute shortage of law-enforcement personnel. While a lot of traffic violations can be curbed by installing all-weather radar guns/surveillance cameras that will function 24/7, I think making sure our children know traffic rules and learn it from their parents are vital.
  8. Common traffic courtesies like not using 'high-beam' headlamps except when on long dark stretches on a highway, not tooting your horn the second lights turn green and letting pedestrians and cyclists have the right of way must be enforced.
  9. One of the reasons why traffic in most cities in India pile up during rush hour is the abundance of 'intersection in medians'. Vehicles that wait to turn cause traffic to slow down and pile up. In the Middle East, this isn't a problem because intersections had scientifically planned 'round-abouts' which helped streamline traffic and didn't cause unnecessary pile-ups. 
  10. Roads in Bangalore are terrible for a lot of reasons - Unplanned growth and difficult terrain. Like most other Asian countries, many of the roads basically ancient cattle/grazing tracks, which means they aren't planned well nor are effective in sustaining a city that is exploding at the seams. Roads are laid and forgotten until the next elections. And when it's time to asphalt the road, money-hungry contractors choose to lay a fresh layer of bitumen and tar over the existing worn out stretch of road, instead of scrapping the worn out layer, leveling the ground and laying a new layer of asphalt. 
  11. Our civic laws have been at loggerheads with our city planners and environmentalists for far too long. Our idea of progress is to uproot trees that have stood for decades to make way for wider roads and more homes. And what do we do in return? We plant saplings on road medians and by the pedestrian walkways, which will be uprooted or cut in about 5 years from now to widen the roads again. While concerned citizens have managed to stop rampant uprooting of trees, I've seen authorities in other places kill trees that stood in their way by pouring sulphuric acid down the tree trunks. When trees die a 'natural' death, passionate tree-huggers will not bat an eyelid. So while the trees' superstructures are removed, their enormous roots remain underneath these roads. What you end up having a road with bumps that 'snake' across the roads. Why we choose to uproot/cut these trees that sustain us instead of transplant them is pure economics. It costs civic contractors 20x more to transplant a single tree. 
  12. Encourage bike/car pooling. I remember a company I worked in which encouraged and rewarded employees who car-pooled with shopping vouchers, priority parking and flexible working hours. Today, when I see hundreds and thousands of IT 'professionals' travel to work in their large sedans and SUVs, I wonder how their conscience allows them to travel all by themselves in a vehicle that could seat 5 or 8 people. These are the same people who will send tons of emails encouraging green living. O the hypocrisy!
  13. Enforce lane discipline. Our roads may be former goat tracks but our mentality is pure feudal. Our roads are like the great Amazon river, without a fixed width. Sometimes wide, sometimes narrow. Our traffic is equally haphazard. We have vehicles of all sizes and hoofs vying for their foothold of asphalt. When traffic slows down, bikes take up the few inches of space in between the 4 wheelers. The tuk-tuks try to follow the bikes into those spaces and get stuck. That arrogant car/SUV driver tries to close the gap. 'If I don't get to go, neither will he/she'. For all those of you who are astonished at how polite we are, watching Indian drivers jostle for space to get a few inches ahead of you will amuse and shock you. And guys, the pedestrian footpath is not your exclusive bike lane, so get the f*ck off it
So, I'm just getting started here.. 
I'll keep adding to this list everytime I see/think anything. But feel free to suggest your views/feedback as a comment below or here.

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