Indian roads are one big chaos. Once dominated by the high and mighty, the four or six wheelers (sadly the majestic sixteen wheelers are not in India as yet. Where is the place??), today the pedestrians rule the road. More often that not, they are the sole cause of any traffic snarl. This is an observation made during my month and half tryst with roads in Chennai.
Not a two wheeler, not a cyclist. Its the common man on foot. Indian rules are lenient enough to permit them to cross the road at any damn place, hell even stop traffic and move across even when vehicles are zipping across at full speed. Entirely oblivious to the presence of something called a traffic signal (forget the zebra crossings). Its not uncommon to hear screeching brakes at traffic signals just missing a group of pedestrians crossing the road at their own free will. No longer are the pedestrians wary of the traffic. It is the other way round. The other day we just crossed a traffic signal when a group of ornately dressed women crossed the road. Cmon! Look left, right and left again. Whatever happened to all that??! We screeched to a halt, coming four or five inches away from the lady clad in a plastic silkish saree, carrying half a flower-show on her head. Unabashedly, she moved ahead stopping three odd buses and a truck which also screeched to a halt. All the drivers did swear and raise their voices where as all she did was giggle and move ahead with her friends. In any case, if anything were to happen, who would the blame fall upon?? Of course, it is the privledged motored party.
I also noticed once, two office workers standing on either side of the median in Adayar at 8:30 in the morning when traffic is the heaviest. Not on the median, but on either side. That puts them in the lane of the fastest traffic. They invited angry looks from all the people driving to work, but hey they stood there! Not a care in the world. I noticed they were well-dressed and apparently laughing about something. This was the educated India. Did they miss out a few crucial lessons on road behaviour ?
Two wheelers are only marginally better. They are not afraid to travel in the lane reserved for four wheelers and trucks. Once, they were scared of being run-over. Despite that possibility holding good, I fail to realize where the extra rashness has come into existence. They are the frequent reasons why traffic never moves fast thanks to their meandering in and out of traffic.
One morning, after taking hour and half to cross just two odd kilometers, I was extremely agitated at knowing the reason for the inching traffic. An auto had almost scraped the sides of a man’s two wheeler sending him into a rage of sorts. Again, the man was obviously in the lane meant for cars, all this not-noticing, he parks his bike there itself, bang in the middle of the road and stops the auto (same place). This stops traffic for kilometers behind them leaving one small path open for vehicles to go through. The funny part being, no one had time to ask them to leave the argument and let the traffic pass. It took one hour for a traffic cop to get there and sort the matter out. (When i crossed the place, the cop had just arrived!)
So, owning a vehicle gives no control or advantage over the roads these days. Frankly, if the public transport system had been better, I wont mind doing this exercise as well. Its loads better than driving these days.