Thursday, November 11, 2010

Quasimodo says, "The Horns, The Horns"

I'm on my second day where I feel relatively jet-lag free.  This is as good a time as any, to mention what is different about Traffic in Bangalore.  There seems to be a whole new (but not all new to my experience) rules for traffic navigation.
  • Despite what the numerous signs and dotted lines suggest, lanes are defined by the width of the vehicles next to you right now.
  • Traffic signal lights are suggestions, that you follow only so far as someone in the other direction is tired of waiting for a green and is willing to put the front of their vehicle in front of your movement.
  • Driving here is on the left side of the road, but this is based on the steering wheel being on the right side of the car.  Seems this is basically followed, except by:
    • Bicycles
    • Mopeds
    • Motorbikes
    • Autorickshaws
    • Cars that are small enough that they can "probably" not cause too much of a tie-up by going in the wrong direction
    • ...Even on a divided highway.
    • ...It still causes major tie-ups.
  • Pedistrians cross the street in designated crosswalks
    • and in non-designated cross-walks
    • and in front of on-coming traffic
    • and where-ever pedestrians can walk.
    • Notably, it's very rare for a pedestrian to cross by climbing one of the high fences on some divided roads to keep people from crossing.  No, instead, the pedestrian will walk along the center for some time from the last designated cross-walk so they can walk out into on-coming traffic.
  • Pedestrians walk on the right side, left side or between ever-shifting lanes.
But, most important, is traffic communication protocols.  Most commercial vehicles have, on the back (instead of How am I driving, Call xxx) the words, "Horn OK".  That sets the tone for this.  Some of these rules I have confirmed as actual suggested traffic training, others, I'm merely guessing:
  • There is no traffic control suggestion, and you are coming to a cross-road.  Honk to warn that you are crossing.  It appears there's little difference between a main road in a cross-road, so people on either side will honk.  See also traffic signal lights being suggestions ... so people honk at those too.
  • If you are about to overtake (pass another vehicle), honk so they know to watch for you.
  • If you are coming upon a vehicle who has chosen a lane that is not aligned to the vehicles directly next to them, honk to suggest that they re-evaluate their lane position.
  • If you come upon one of the pedestrians, also honk, even if they see you, and are getting out of the way.
  • Stray dog crossing the road, yes, honk.  There are more stray dogs here, than anywhere else I've been.
    • Stray cows though, don't honk.  They just panic and freeze like a deer in headlights, so just go around, and hope they move on.
The result, however, is that no matter where you are in the city, the background sound is merely a symphony of horns.  After five days, I'm still hearing it.  It's not like the rumble of an A/C, horns are built to be irritating on purpose.  It does seem though, that after years of exposure, Indians themselves no longer notice the horns.

...Even while driving.

3 comments:

  1. Maybe the video in the link would give an idea of your Bangalore experience? :)
    http://www.microhoodsf.com/a-symphony-of-horns

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  2. @Anil, the Vid is not quite as bad as outside the office here, in BLR.

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  3. I wonder if some enterprising Bollywood producer would consider making "The Hunchbank of Bangalore", replacing the bells of Notre Dame with the horns of Ford Motor.

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