Friday, 19 October 2007

Drive for the worst

For two years in Madras, I was little apprehensive about being behind the wheels. One day, to prove a point, I borrowed the car from my cousin who in turn had borrowed it from his dad. When my cousin's dad saw me behind the wheels from the balcony, he came down and remarked, 'You have driven in Delhi. You'll drive better than him here.'
My cousin looked annoyed but somewhere inside I felt happy. After all, the number of vehicles in Delhi was the sum total of that present in Madras, Bombay and Calcutta. If I could navigate through that, then this was a slice of the cake.
However, soon I was to realize that my biggest problem was that I'd driven in Delhi.

The traffic in Madras is as bad as in Delhi but there is something called lane driving in Delhi. Here, barring Mount Road and a few others, lanes are not marked on most roads including Sardar Patel Road on which IIT is situated. I always like staying in my lane unless I need to overtake. Here, with no semblance of lane driving, I felt crippled.

I had to be extra careful not to bump into the road divider. Here, the corporation's idea of a road divider is a string of hap-hazardly placed stones, most of them out of line. The best example: Cenotaph Road in Teynampet. Do they realize the implication if my front wheel were to hit that? Or worse still if I was driving a two-wheeler. If space is such a constraint, then it's better to have a yellow line rather than a divider. When you don't have a divider on flyovers (even Gemini Flyover just has a line) though that is considerably dangerous when drivers cross over for overtaking, then why have it on a surface road?

There are one-way regulations even on arterial roads which require massive lane changing operations at junctions though they remove traffic signals. Effectively, you need to pause if the car or bus next to you wants to change lanes. Better to stop at the signal! A case in point is the triangular one-way involving Sardar Patel Road from Raj Bhavan to Mount Road crossing, Mount Road from the S.P Road crossing to Little Mount and the road from Little Mount to Raj Bhavan. How does one go from the left-most lane to the right-most in peak hour traffic with buses beaming on you?
The fact is that these roads are wide enough to accommodate two-way traffic. Though the system does away with three traffic signals, you lose the time you save in traveling the extra distance (also leads to extra fuel) and the lane changing in junctions.
If a road needs to be declared one-way, I would say it should be Cenotaph Road which should be made one-way from Turnbulls Road to Mount Road.

The best part was that we still managed to reach our destination safely. Thanks to God, my cousin offered to drive on the way back. I lost the bet but no regrets here.

P.S. How can driving in Delhi be safe when Blue Line buses there claim a victim every second day? Valid question but you forget one thing. They claim pedestrians or passengers. The carwala is relatively safer!

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