Monday, April 20, 2009

Tips for driving in Bangalore

After two years of disciplined driving in Monterry - following lanes, waiting at signal, not honking and other boring traffic rules, I feel very much at home to be driving again on Bangalore roads infamous for it's traffic. Surprisingly with all that obeying of traffic rules, Monterrey roads were more prone to accidents and deaths than Bangalore ones...We Rock! I thought of giving tips to new drivers, both domestic and international, who're brave enough to attempt driving on Bangalore roads.

  • I hypothesize that the summation of stray dogs + potholes + speed breakers > number of vehicles on road. In case you find stray dogs, slow down your motorcycle if you don't want to be chased and attacked by the ugly pack of stray dogs. In case you're in car and you're not an animal lover I would suggest you to run over them.
  • Potholes have been very lucrative to orthopedists in Bangalore, for most bikers end up at an orthopedist after suffering acute back aches or disastrous fall. Try to visualize the road a priori and slowdown at potholes.
  • Speed breakers come in various flavours. At some places, there won't be any difference between speed breakers and the road dividers, they're as high and as abrupt...so keep your breaks in good condition. Some others are aimed at helping you digest your food quickly, they're almost like a high-frequency high-amplitude sinusoidal wave making every car part and body part vibrate rhythmically. Others are some kinda uneven patch of protruding asphalt, formed by an attempt to fill-in a pothole which would give you one quick random jerk enough to chuck you from your profoundest reverie. There are natural speed breakers too, holy cow!
  • If you're planning to drive in unusual hours (early morning or late night), signals don't mean a shit. If you see a green light, don't read it as a go...it may prove fatal. Watch out before you cross. For your own safety, follow this all the time.
  • Paint companies in India have been making excessive profits and they've been donating paints to traffic police. That's why you see white and yellow lines on the road at some places, which the cops call "Lanes". As a driver, they don't mean a thing to you, just ignore them to drive safely.
  • You may happen to see great deep chasms in the earth, as though the city has been hit by a terrific earthquake or something. Don't exclaim, it's the BCC's (Bangalore City Corporation) infrastructural underground work which was completed 5 years ago. Just that they forgot to cover up. Exercise extra precaution at such places during rains.
  • Some basic rules just don't work in Bangalore. Say you're on a crowded highway and want to make left turn, a guy on the right most side of the road makes the turn as easily and carelessly as a guy a guy on the left most side. He is always ready to take the curse of everybody along the width of the road, awaiting to go straight or turn right. Have patience, and curse if you like.
  • Honking is a part of our culture, you don't honk you're outlawed. Sometimes you feel that the green light at the traffic automatically presses the honking buttons on all vehicles. The moment there is a green signal, the whole area becomes a cacophonous chaos. If you don't want to be annoyed, you do the same...no noise cancellation audio phones work.
  • There are certain privileged vehicles on road which are exempt from all the road rules and regulations. They may crash on you, they may curse you, they can drive both ways on a one way, they can drive on footpath, they can drive on prohibited roads, they can overload their vehicles - they're always righteous. We call them auto-rickshaws or autos with love. It's easy to recognize them, they're three wheeled taxis painted yellow and black. Just stay away from them.
  • Indicators are misleading, you happen to see people turning right with left indicators on. Beware! And it's not too uncommon to see a car with it's right indicator ON having another car to it's right with the latter having it's left indicator ON and a motorcyclist in between them!
  • Maintain distance from the vehicle behind you, even though it sounds impractical. Throughout the world, when you're banged from behind it's the mistake of the person who banged you. But in Bangalore it's your mistake to break hard and stop suddenly. In fact, it happened to me that this auto guy smashed into my car's trunk and he shouted at me for stopping suddenly. I told him I had stop to avoid bumping into the car ahead of me. He then went to him and questioned the same...he infact continued all the way till the first car in the chain to demand justice!!!
  • May sound contradictory to the previous statement, but don't maintain distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you. If you do so, the gap will be tactfully occupied either by a biker or a auto driver...most likely the latter. Or maybe you'll be honked to occupy that gap. So stay as close to the vehicle the front as possible.
  • Maintain distance while overtaking a bus, you may be disgustingly expectorated upon by the passengers. You're lucky if it's normal spit, sometimes you may be colourfully showered by dashing red of the betel leaf juice or yucky yellow sputum or worse still you may be puked upon.
  • Don't speed blindly upon high speed flyovers or highways...we're too populated and we keep crossing roads almost everywhere. Killing a pedestrian on road, even if it's his mistake, may end you up in a prison. Worse still, you maybe beaten to death by others.
  • In case of accidents, don't expect your insurance guy to drive down and inspect on the spot. The best thing to happen, in case, you're physically and verbally stronger is to get some bucks from the person if it's his mistake. Worst thing to happen is to get beaten up and verbally abused despite others' mistake.
  • Stay away from huge lorries (trucks), coz the drivers are given license only when the make sure that they can't see the small motorcyclists on the road. If you're on a motorcycle, you may appear like a fly or a rat or something...maintain healthy distance.
  • A jacket is highly recommended if you don't want to be surprised by seeing a brown shirt in the office, while it was dashing white at home. Dust levels and pollution have raised to great extents, zip up your jackets and wear your helmets. They may save you from being hurt too.
  • Keep an eye on the calender, on some festivals the Gods land on the road and the cops protect them with barricades and hence either the routes gets changed or the roads get narrower, which would lead to the famed "Traffic Jams". It's the same case before elections, just that in place of Gods, unworthy politicians block the traffic. Watch out and start early.
  • Cops are friendly, just have smaller bills to deal with them. Don't expect them to treat you with respect like they do in other countries. You'll be treated like shit but they're nice by heart. But don't drink and drive, that may cost you more and your vehicle maybe confiscated, unless you have a sober friend with you who can drive.
  • Night driving is a nightmare in Bangalore. Somehow I feel most of us have congential night vision eyes, the headlights are switched on not at dusk but when it's pitch dark. Normally twilight in Bangalore is around 6:15, but the lights will not be switched on not until 7. Not just that, the beginning of the road dividers does not have any reflectors, out of the blue a the dividers start which is a killer on the road.
  • Pedestrians are the mortals who have absolutely no priority whatsoever on the road. Even a bicyclist does not stop for you to cross the road, forget about the motor vehicles. Crossing a busy road gives you as much adrenaline rush as bungee jumping or sky-diving. I'm an atheist, but everytime I cross the road in front of my office, I end up having God's name on my lips.
  • It's indeed an art to drive on Bangalore roads. It requires a perfect amalgamation of alertness, precision, responsiveness and deftness in your own driving and empathy, anger, kindness and brotherhood for others. Ain't no big deal driving on roads where rules are followed, for sure it's one helluva thrill to drive on roads of Namma Bengaluru
Related post: 10 Tips for Foreigners Driving in Mexico
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