Driving in Bangalore – 101

Today we drove out to Infosys campus, about 1hr 30mins away from where we are staying. It’s a distance of 25km, so that puts it in a bit more perspective.
Of course, that’s not to say that an average speed means anything, because the speed tends to be “70km/hr wild weaving, stop, crawl at 10km/h, stop, crawl, crawl, wild weaving, stop, stop, stop” rather than a more pleasant “amble along until you get to your destination”.
First of all, to make things perfectly clear, lane markings are there for decoration. Under no circumstance should any driver in Bangalore be confused they might mean anything. Going around a corner, crossing to the oncoming traffic, all are times when the lane markings are there to look at, and really don’t mean anything. When lane markings “might” indicate there should only be 2 lanes of traffic heading in any direction, that should be ignored, and it is clear that as 5 can fit, it must be 5. (At one point it was 7, but really, the 2 lanes of motorcycles on the footpath probably shouldn’t be counted).
The horn, a vital part of Bangalore driving pleasure has a number of uses. The first, and most common is the “toot”. This just indicates that I am near you, and you probably shouldn’t try and run into me. The next is the “toot-toot”. What this means is that it appears that you didn’t hear my “toot”, and have started to drift towards my car. The next is the “bloooooot” where it means that you’ve ignored my “toot-toot” and there is about to be impact, be warned. The final use of the horn has been the “twoooooooooooot” when driving really fast. I’m not sure what it’s for, but people do it a lot.
Motorcycles. Not just for 1 or 2. It’s not uncommmon to see 3 or more people on a 100cc bike. Helmets are definitely optional. I did observe the carriage of an LPG cyclinder on the back of a bike and wondered exactly how safe that really is. Of course, _I_ wondered how safe that is, and probably nobody else even had that thought. The 3 people I saw today were a father (driving), mother (sidesaddle) and baby (no more than 12 months) in mothers arms. All happily weaving down the road in the tangle that was 5 lanes into 2 for at least 10 of the 25 km that we travelled. 4 people can easily fit on a 100cc bike, young child on tank, father driving, older sister, mother on the back.
Now, while all of that seems a bit crazy, the things I really liked about it is the number of women riding scooters, often with their mothers (presumably) on the back. Really, really cool.
The indicator does not mean “I’m thinking of turning”, it means “get out of the way, I’m moving over now”. For all you Sydneysiders, that’s not much of a change, but for the more sedate Melbourne drivers, be warned !
While this all seems completely insane (and in some ways it is), I’ve not yet seen any accidents, nor are there many vehicles bearing the scars of impact. In some strange way it all works. There is enough respect (if that’s the right word) on the roads that plenty of room is made for vehicles of all types, the pedestrians, cows (yes, cows), dogs, pushbikes, and carts that are found in a typical trip.
I don’t know if this is good or not, but I really enjoyed today’s trip, not even a little bit scared, but just sat back and soaked up the drive. Loving it all so far.


6 thoughts on “Driving in Bangalore – 101

  1. hi jon,
    welcome to india — welcome to the developing world!
    are you gonna blog like that Jbossian who wrote about his days in Bangalore. There was also the Thoughtworker who blogged about his time in Bangalore.
    will be nice to see how your thoughts and days are similar/different.

  2. Hi Anjan,
    I’m only here for a week, so I’m blogging as many observations as I can. I’ll be back again at some stage, so expect some more thoughts then 😉

  3. Jonny, you could have come and visited me. I’m disappointed. Not only do you get traffic weaving, but it is in landcruisers not little cars. There is also the threat of imminent explosions. Speaking of which I hope you are giving the water (and ice in drinks) a wide berth……..Qatar is kind of on the way home.

  4. That’s not just Bangalore, it’s a lot of Asia 🙂 Phnom Penh = same same, people driving the wrong way up the road, 5 people to a bike (including the aforementioned babe in arm – though what you didn’t mention is that the mother is usually holding a bag of shopping in the other hand, sitting side-saddle, feet dangling over the edge, and not holding on in any way shape or form other than balance!).
    People dont stop at intersections, they just push through and cross traffic flows around.
    I actually found it fascinating. The traffic is like water, flowing all around and through objects rather than being forced to stop. I guess that’s the advantage of so many smaller bikes.
    The other crazy thing i really admire is the balance of the bike passengers. Presumably because they are introduced to it from such an early age, the female passenegers have insane balance, they just sit sidesaddle, feet dangling, never holding on. Very impressive.
    I’ve also seen the lpg cylinders, as well as tables, 5 foot high stacked boxes, 4 chairs, 5 people, tvs, etc. A cyclist i met in cambodia had a puncture and repaired it but forgot his pump, so he got a lift making for the driver, a passenger and the cyclist _carrying his bike_
    Crazy people – you gotta love it.

  5. Hehe!
    That is what town planning in India is like! no lanes! can you imagine! NO LANES!!! I remember sitting with my wife today as she drive, I avoid the frets and fumes, better to pay a rick chap, and whooshs bang on inner ring road, she who was doing a speed of 50, was being overtaken from either side with guys zig zagging and cutting their lanes like crazy!
    I think the govt should ban any vehicle bigger than an SUV from the city limits till 11 p.m at night.

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