Friday, January 30, 2015

Driving on a Camel's back - certainly not a solution to any problem

Almost ten years ago, crossing the road at at a college was very hard. It was a highway and traffic moved fast. The solution was obviously to slow down the traffic and what better way than a pair of speed breakers.

The net result - the traffic became slower but was it easier to cross the road. Of course not! As speeds went for 50KM/hr to 10KM/hr, the gap between the cars became one fifth. Now, there was a stream of cars - none of which were willing to stop voluntarily and let the students pass. If you took the risk of crossing partway, there was still the problem of negotiating the remaining half of the road.

It should be obvious that speed breakers are useful for low traffic scenarios and not a high traffic one. However, these are the solutions applied when the traffic flow becomes high.

I recently drove to Calangute from Mapusa and it was like driving on a Camel's back. The number and frequency of speed breakers is remarkable. I found myself to be far less inclined to show any courtesy when negotiating a speed breaker.

An experiment worth doing: I find that I cross a reasonable distance from a speed breaker. Never close to the speed breaker. Is it me only or is that a common practice?

By contrast, we stop at a stop sign in the US even if there is no traffic. We cross the road without worrying about whether the oncoming car will stop.

 I don't believe that we when in India are a worse people. We have created systems and processes which brings out the worst in us :(

The speed breakers do not encourage a socially desirable behaviour. They increase the irritation and frustration of a driver - especially as each one is designed to be as uncomfortable as possible to ensure that the drivers have no choice but to slow down.

Why not put an effort in to make sure that drivers stop at a stop sign or a pedestrian crossing. Even more so, make sure that the person behind does not honk or overtake from every which way if a person has stopped to show even minimal courtesy to pedestrians.

And once traffic is high, invest in traffic signals and teach people to stop even if the signal is not for vehicular traffic but for pedestrians.

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