Bangalore traffic

Crossing the street in Madurai.

Crossing the street in Madurai, in light traffic.

Having spent time in Mumbai and Madurai on this trip, I can again state that Bangalore has the worst traffic.  Still, it somehow seems better than last year, at least in the places I’ve been.

Bangalore is building a new metro rail system, and the first segment opened this year. I saw the trains gliding above M.G. Road last week. This line only serves a particular area, however, so it will take time before the metro system has a broad impact. People tell me that the Delhi metro has made a big difference since it was fully open a few years ago.

New flyovers are there, as well as subways. A “flyover” is a bridge or elevated roadway; a “subway” is a tunnel. They are both used to ease congestion at an intersection by avoiding the need for stoplights or avoiding cross-traffic.

[I just caught myself writing like an Indian would speak.  We might say “There are new flyovers”; they would say “Flyovers are there.”]

As a pedestrian, I’ve seen some new “skywalks”, that is, pedestrian bridges over particularly busy streets or intersections. Still, in most places, to cross the street is means weaving through moving traffic and hope that the traffic goes around you instead of over you.  But the biggest novelty is the advent of pedestrian crossing signs — those green and red lights that tell you when it’s time to walk. They seem to work whenever there is a traffic cop present – all the traffic stops and the pedestrians can safely cross. But at other times, I’ve noticed that the traffic ignores the walk sign and just proceeds into the intersection!

After three weeks walking the sidewalks of India I notice myself becoming more aggressive. I push my way through crowds, I bat away the touts who want to sell me trinkets, I step out into traffic as if I own the street. That’s just the way it’s done. Maybe it’s a city thing. Maybe it’s an India thing. But if I defer to either courtesy or safety, I’d never get across the street.

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About dfkotz

David Kotz is an outdoor enthusiast, traveller, and father of three. He is also a Professor of Computer Science at Dartmouth College.
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One Response to Bangalore traffic

  1. udeshpande says:

    Thanks for your blog Dave. I enjoy seeing your perspective. It is generally very kind 🙂

    People who came back from Delhi recently told me that the traffic in Delhi has improved immensely since 2 years ago. I think it has partly to do with the fact that most road related infrastructure projects in Delhi are winding down. Similar to the way Boston’s traffic improved after the big dig.

    The second reason is political. Delhi is an entirely urban state. The politicians in Delhi are elected by the people who live in the city, and them alone. This is not the case in other large metros. The elected officials in Bangalore’s state government have no incentive to spend money in Bangalore as their electorate resides in other parts of Karnataka state (of 60 million people). Same thing goes for Mumbai. (Note that you stayed in the fancy bit of Mumbai which has wide and clean streets.)

    cheers!
    -Udayan

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