Sunday, February 20, 2005

Call me a ‘defeatist’ if you please... I have taken my car out

Call me a ‘defeatist’ if you please... I have taken my car out

The Times of India

Ever since I learnt about cities and transport planning, I realised that the real villains in urban chaos are personal vehicles. Data also substantiates this — over 82 per cent of vehicles plying in the five metros are personal vehicles. Based on parameters like per passenger contribution to congestion and pollution, two-wheelers are our greatest enemies followed by cars. Under such circumstances, buses turn out to be angels on the road! I also learnt that flyovers and MRTS are not only detrimental to the city in the long run, but require heavy financial investments that burden our fragile economy.

Therefore, as a conscientious citizen and a student of urban development, I upheld all principles I learnt during my education and resorted only to public or chartered buses, autorickshaws and, of course, walking for my commuting needs. I admonished policies that propagated construction of flyovers, setting up of MRTS, roadwidening, traffic one-ways, etc, and pledged never to use my personal vehicle. This is where I fell flat on my face!

For, where were the public buses? The ones on the road had routes written in the local language. What if I headed in the opposite direction? And with the kind of one-ways prevalent in the city, my chances of getting lost were greater. Autorickshaws would oblige only if our stars were appropriately aligned. The killer combo of their driving skills and potholed roads made me rattle long after. And let’s not even get started on the meters that they have.

As for roads... I think someone should have explored giving them their technical definition. Meanwhile, all I would want is not 80 or 100 ft roads, but one where I could ply without breaking my neck. I didn’t want to zip at 60 kmph, I wanted to travel at 35 kmph like a human atop a camel stuck in a sand dune!

As a pedestrian, I deserved most sympathies. Bangalore perhaps is the only city in India that has luxurious pedestrian weather. But try walking other than in a park. Stone slabs on the sidewalks would wobble, their undulated surface would make me trip. My motto: walk on the road, then vehicles would at least try and save you; walking on the sidewalk is a sure-shot death trap.

Imagine the sidewalks encroached by debris of construction material. If not by private developers, then by local authorities who deposited the material on the road to ensure that the hope of a road rekindled in the hearts of citizens. Considering that the rate of road-digging supersedes the rate of construction, I doubted if it was just mismanagement or some treasure hunt game that the authorities were engaged in.

The garbage collection lorry and street sweepers would be bang on time each day... in time for all office or school-going people who made earnest attempts at grooming, not realising that they needed to look real. And beware of rainy days. I cannot say if it was good news to droughtprone Bangalore or bad news for citizens who jostled in slush to reach office and back.

The stray dogs that make love on the street and occasionally even bit were too much of a scene to behold, specially if one had to rush for work or was with family. And while most of the people learnt their lesson much before I did, I confess I was a slow learner, hoping that someday I’ll witness some common sensedriven city and traffic management policies being put in place.

In the meantime, call me ‘defeatist’ if you please... I have taken my car out.


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