Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Kolkata Traffic Madness

Shubhrajit's day out: Busy, busy BT Road

Kolkata drivers are unduly aggressive while driving. I have seen that everyone wants to go first: eventually slowing each other down, hence traffic moving at a slow pace. Our traffic enforcement authorities are too callous in implementing a discipline, so that people can travel safely, and within a predictable time.

I think we should involve a stricter enforcment of the following violations. Also the amount fined is ridiculous. It should be atleast be increased to Rs. 5000/- per violation, to make people obey the rules. If a fine does not pinch the pocket, people will never follow rules in fear of being fined. However as I mentioned earlier, local authorities have no wish to improve, and of course common sense is buried in a lot of bureaucracy and responsibility shirking.

Listed here are some of the violations which people do, making them very very insensitive to other folks.

Driving in the wrong direction in one way traffic (and wrong side of the median)

It is both stupid and ridiculous that people violate this rule rampantly, often to reduce their travel to the next "U" turn by 100 meters. This slows down all the incoming traffic.

Not yielding to faster vehicles

Kolkata traffic follows British pattern, i.e. the automobiles keep to the left of the road. Now, I have often seen trucks driving at 40 km per hour, hogging the right side of the road. This creates a backlog of cars, and are people pass through the left, amid pedestrians and bicycles.

Buses stopping at the middle of the middle of the road to pick up passengers.

This is very very irritating. Buses stop wherever they are, paying no heed to the congestion they are creating at the back. And then, when a car tries to squeeze through the right, it sidesteps it, and pushes it towards the median.

Not obeying traffic lights

Traffic lights in Kolkata are applicable to cars, buses and trucks. Motor cycles, bicycles and auto rickshaws think that it is not applicable to them. It becomes very dangerous and even if it is green, a driver must look to see the road is really clear before merging in.

When you have read upto this ... you might have formed an idea that I drive a car, and blaming other vehicles for my plight. Not true... although I can drive a car, I never ever drive it (except 2 km everyday to stay in practice) in Kolkata. I prefer to ride beside my chauffer, who is more adept to this sort of driving.

Now some rule violations by car drivers


In Kolkata you will see people travelling bumper to bumper even at speeds of 60-70 km per hour. I have seen accidents where a car has braked, the car from behind has rammed into it ... and then the car from behind will give a logic that since the car in front has braked suddenly, it could not control.

Driving at unsafe speeds

You could have guessed it from the previous bullet. People drive in speeds of even 100 km per hour in congested city traffic. What compounds the problem is that some cars are driving the same roads at 40 km per hour.

Weaving between cars

Everyone wants to go first (Not only fast but also first). Hence all the cars weave in the traffic in a very unsafe manner. It will look almost like turbulant motion in fluids!!!

I would go on and on ... but I would keep the rest for the next episode.

The end result - Everyone drives aggressively, effectively slowing down everyone else, so the average speed of the traffic. There is no predictability ... at one moment you are driving at 100 km per hour and the next moment you have slowed down to 5. It is very very unsafe, though I believe since the average skill level of the drivers are amazing there is a very low rate of severe accidents. Though most vehicles look battered and bruised, the looks deteriorating as the car goes older, as nicks and dents are a very regular affair.

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