Saturday, June 24, 2006

It must be love...

‘Whoa! Look at them go!’ exclaimed a Latin colleague of mine when he experienced his first visuals of Bangalore traffic. We were looking at the Internet-based cameras that have been installed to monitor traffic conditions across the city. As we watched the delirious pattern of metal crisscrossing each other on a bustling tar strip, I could not help but smile for having participated in this chaotic ritual for many years myself. Watching my city’s traffic from atop a building was like watching a one-day international cricket match. What always seemed like an easy ball to strike would end up getting through the wickets. The ground reality however was a different ‘ball game’ apparently.

Hailing from an organized chaos of a traffic system in Bangalore my migration to western lands had me puzzled initially. The similarities between the two patterns of traffic were plain and simple. The traffic looked and felt the same. The roads were definitely built with pretty much the same engineering skeleton. The traffic signals behaved the same way with the same set of offenders equally distributed. The distribution of four-wheeled, two-wheeled, HMVs and public transport too was not a major concern either. Then why was it that the traffic in Bangalore seemed so much harder to deal with? How could it be possible that I was able to cover a distance of 10 kilometers without working up much of a sweat when the same in Bangalore meant an entire day’s energy? What was the one thing we seemed to be doing that others were not?

Geography is the only proof we have to try and experiment with what the roads will look like in the next 10 years. Fair enough. But what about the constant migration happening in the city? Studies show that an average of 80 - 100 new families are entering the city each passing day and at this rate it will not be long before Bangalore alone starts to resemble the apartments dotted across China. With such a mammoth increase in the city’s population it is only natural to notice near impossible traffic situation at ground zero. Everyone wants to reach his/her destination first. Why? No one knows. How? By squeezing into each available crack in the traffic. But is this necessarily a bad thing? Adding to the already established geographical proof a mathematical theory emerges.

Let us take an average of 10 vehicles, which include two Kinetic Hondas (or any two wheeler), two auto-rickshaws, four four-wheeled vehicles (cars, jeeps, vans etc), one truck and one BMTC bus. Considering the bus is the largest of the lot, the average length of the road’s area covered would be that of the bus - 35 feet. This again means that the remaining 9 vehicles will have to huddle around or within this area. There is also a good chance that some of them will peep out of this 35 feet boundary due to variations in individual length. Now multiply this total area with, say, a hundred thus calculating for 10x100 = 1000 vehicles. Given the finite length of the roads there might be instances where some vehicles will have to stand sideways or in irregular positions to make up for the lack of space. There are also bright chances for vehicles to use the footpath for extra comfort. Pedestrians will have to oblige since they too are a variable part of this equation. Considering this mathematical approach, I think it is safe to assume that we Bangaloreans have indeed followed this rule with a lot of enviable jingoism. To the untrained eye we look like an anthill but the reality is that we too, as crazy as it might seem, have a system. This truth dawned on me as I sat watching my city from above a building the other day.

‘So what if the roads are finite? Can’t you have a lane system? This way there might be delay but at least there will be some order. Democratically designed traffic?’ reflected my innocent colleague when he noticed smaller vehicles hastily buzzing around larger ones in a bid to take over. What he did not seem to understand is while keeping our scientific logic in place, we also travel dangerously close to each other since there is so much love and affection in the land. We don’t want some regulated system to take this away do we? What possible cutting edge traffic concept can help preserve this unique feel we spend an entire day on? Right?

An edited version of this piece was recently published by Deccan Herald in their daily.


3 reflections:

Deepa said...

Till when are you in bangalore?

shakri said...

I am here till the first week of August.

yashanon said...

Great article..
Thanks for calling it love my friend.
The chaotic and aggressive driving style, that we've developed, and seem to enjoy it. :)