Monday, March 5, 2007

Bangalore traffic CAN be civil, if only we work towards it!

Anish Koshy's (now Aniisu Koshy) campaign on helmets is indeed the inspiration behind this. While his idea was to target two-wheeler riders, mine targets predominantly car drivers, though BMTC bus drivers can find something very very relevant here too!

The idea is to use creativity/ imagination to overcome the sheer annoyance of driving on Bangalore roads. And, bring some emotion, while we're at it! In other terms, Courting Courtesy is 'Gandhigiri on Roads'!

And no, I do not intend this as a campaign yet, but if it gathers steam, I'm not averse to getting a very good looking logo as a brand identity and printing appropriate, well designed stickers (at my own cost - no donations required whatsoever) and distribute it free to whoever wants to display (on their cars - windshield?) that they're consciously working on making driving in Bangalore roads better. Then of course, I can distribute leaflets outlining the following simple measures that you can follow towards this, in your everyday driving. The opportunity is endless!

Here's a 9 point list that shows how YOU can help?

01. Stop treating pedestrians like pests.
Yes, they can be pretty annoying most of the times and take undue advantage with their free movements on the road. But, instead of blowing your top, try slowing down your car and with a smile and simple sweep of your hand, let that motley crowd cross the road. Chances are that they have been waiting for the traffic to clear for quite some time. And you have consciously initiated the break in the flow, only to allow them to cross! Notice the immensely thankful look on their faces? That's exactly what a small sign of courtesy can do!

02. The Honker Overtaker
Stalked by a perennial honker desperate to overtake you - despite the fact that you're caught up in a serpentine queue of cars? Consciously move your car to the left and with a friendly smile, let the guy overtake you. Don't do this looking like you're going to answer a it so visibly and if possible, dramatically, that our friend is left wondering why you're leaving your vantage position . But thats the point! Chances are, he might not continue honking others out, at least till you're in sight.

03. Horn Havoc
Besides a compulsive honker out of wreck havoc on your aural nerves? Let him overtake you, with a smile and sweep of hand and then tell him go easy on the horn, again politely, with a smile. The tone is always, 'Could you please try not to...". The fact that someone takes the effort to roll down windows and tell him/ her something, that too with a smile makes a huge difference!

04. The Sign on The Road!
Follow road signs/ traffic rules - not out of compulsion but for the belief that they really help make Bangalore roads a better place. If you're stuck in the head of a traffic signal, with a possibility to move ahead since there's no vehicle coming on the other sides, chances are that you'd be honked & egged to make a move. Do not move and turn back and politely point the signal - please do not let their annoyance bother you. Also, let the world pass you/ overtake you, but be an example and move only after the signal indicates you to. There's a reason why a traffic signal exists, right? This is all the more relevant in the late nights.

05. No Kidding!
Stop/ slow down your car and let children/ elders cross, pass by. Always smile politely at them to indicate that you're consciously letting them pass by/ cross and not just because they're pushy. Again, be the first one to break the non-stop traffic chain and set an example.

06. Hidden Intentions
Use indicators even for simple lane change/ overtakes to clearly indicate your intention. Thats what being road-educated is all about.

07. End That Argument
A heated argument is bound to drain your energy and enthusiasm in general. Avoid it by ending the issue by saying a polite sorry and not pointing fingers on the other person, even if he's clearly wrong. Control the impulse to show the finger and use your smile instead. Yes, this is a dicey issue and may take many hues based on caste/ the state you belong to/ language etc. But, making a move first to avoid an altercation always puts the onus on the other party to follow suit. Or so I believe, from experience.

08. Drive with a smile!
Trust me, I really love it when I see someone driving with a smile - and its rather strange that such a sight is so rare! So, if need be, force a smile in your face at least while driving. This may sound ridiculous and simple, but don't underestimate its power. Try it, its bound to change the way you drive.

09. Wish cops!
Yes, wish them. Good morning, Good afternoon, Good evening or even Good night. Or it could be a slightly difficult, 'Officer, you're doing a great job!'...this one takes practice and overcoming inhibitions! Show the cops you genuinely appreciate the job they're doing...its bound to have a ripple effect on overall traffic management.

These are just a few suggestions that I've found to be extraordinarily useful in driving more peacefully and following the 'drive-and-let-others-exist' policy. I practice them as and when feasible and do it diligently. Particularly when it comes to dramatics, I do it with all heart - dramatically moving out of the way of a compulsive honker, slow down on the left and let him move with a animated sweep of my hands and the all-important smile!

If you have something more to add, please do, in the comments section.

The most important point is the awareness that you do not become a wimp by letting someone overtake or having pedestrians cross in front of you. Its as wimpish as Sanjay Dutt not fighting back Boman Irani with his fists and choosing flowers instead. If you liked and appreciated that idea, I'm sure you'd understand what I'm suggesting here!


Anonymous said...

Point number 8 really should be point number 1...driving with a smile... even if its a bummer...

Good points... the local newspapers should publish them...

Maybe TOI can help with a campaign where one day in a year (to start with) can be called a "Road courtesy day"... On this day BMTC drivers actually stop withing the white painted lines and do not overtake the one stopped just in front. A day when traffic ACTUALLY stops when someone is at a zebra crossing.... basically a day when all of your 9 points are practiced (even if its only for a day)



Karthik S said...

J, thanks for the comment.

I do agree, something as basic as point 8 should indeed be no. 1.

Will try and work out a broader media promo plan and try to implement it too!

TSE said...

There is nothing like strict laws from the government.

I like that idea of “Road Courtesy Day”. All “foreign returned Indians” could help improve the traffic by not using a chauffer. If they don’t have the confidence of driving in B’lore roads, let them surrender their DL or take a bus or auto on that day! You would definitely see a lot of improvement then.

TSE said...

I suggest the government should ban the sale of any non-compliant horns for 2 and 4 wheelers.

Karthik S said...

TSE (Aadhavun): Firstly, thanks for the comments.

Forcing anyone to drive may not be a fair idea to start with. Even as I personally do not enjoy driving in Bangalore and prefer being driven around (no luck yet, tho!), its less to do with an aversion to driving than any lack of confidence. More like a personal preference. Plus, many people would want to spend the commute time doing some work, which is fine actually - as long as they get their drivers to drive decently/ courteously!

My earlier boss used to instruct his driver to drive very carefully - he used to instruct him not to cross yellow lines/ pass signal boundaries etc. Thats a very good start and shows you can be an example despite not being on the driver's seat.

Karthi said...

- Never spit on the road or people.
- Please follow straight line path, it more predictable
- Never cross those dividers at will (Anybody seen driving on ORR ?)
- Please do not listen to FM/Music this applies for drivers and pedestrians alike. You are going to pay with your life

Karthik S said...

Karthi, thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment.

Instead of sermonizing/ reiterating the obvious rules (yes, nobody seems to take note of them anymore!) can we look at ways to tell people who break the rules that they are wrong?

All this with a smile so we don't end preaching to/ antagonizing them?

Courtesy comes out of maturity. Education helps to. Most people break these harmless (and sometimes deadly) rules since there's no one to tell them not to. The other extreme is the cops - who rightly use the law to take these people to task.

Between not caring for rule-breakers and the powerful cops, can we look at a median - a polite communication that they're doing something wrong?

V.P.Jaiganesh said...

I am an alto driver in Bangalore and I find Bangalore traffic much more courteous compared to what happens in the name of driving in Chennai roads. The decibel level there is to be heard to be believed. The roads where you have trouble in Bangalore (that you have mentioned) are the ones affected by bad planning and poor traffic management. If the government can correct that, then poor Bengaluru folks will get back to their old gentle ways of driving. If at all I have to point fingers at people for rash driving and behaviour, it would be aimed at two wheelers at high speed and Travel vehicles that test fellow drivers on their BP. If police can control these sections from over indulging, we will all have a pleasant drive.
Just as an aside and not with an intention to flame, I want to quote an incident that happened 3 to 4 months back. It was a peak hour drive to Marathahalli for me via the sarjapur road. My driver (I was not confident back then) was driving and the traffc was pretty thick and the movement was slow to medium. In one moment, an innova came from our back, overtook on the right hand side and went past a group of cars in a flash. The speed was definitely in the "rash" category and we were curious to see "Art of Living" symbol on the rear of the Innova. My driver told me that "Swamiji" was inside the vehicle. I said "Nah, why would he allow his driver to drive so rashly?". Then the traffic came to a stop near the sarjapur road signal and my car stopped right next to the Innova and my driver was beaming for we could clearly spot "Sri Sri" inside the car!!! Even divine souls need dhoom2 speed!!!

Karthik S said...


Very interesting comment. Let me not dwell on the Swamiji part but I do have something on the Chennai angle. From what I've seen/ sat next to my brother-in-law in Chennai, I can never think of driving there.

Ok, I may sound hysterical here, but that level of organized choas on roads is way too much compared to Bangalore...I agree. But, while its almost anarchy there, I find people not blowing their fuse so often there...its almost like they've given up and are willing to play along. Neat attitude!

But here, I find the fuse to be really really short. Just today morning, on the busy, narrow Vivek Nagar road, there was a massive jam just outside the entrance of Vannarpet, thanks to a Innova fighting with some two-wheeler 'cos he scratched the Innova. And Innova parked right in the middle of the road to carry on with the fight causing a MASSIVE jam for some 15-20 minutes. Thats where we need courtesy and understand others' perspective.

And when educated people do it, it sounds far far worse.

V.P.Jaiganesh said...

Sometimes it is downright futile to argue and place blame. Today I happened to take my car out to the office and while I was taking a right turn with indicator on and all, i found to my horror that there was a garbage can kept in the center of the junction leading to Jayanagar 9th block and that was blocked by a car going ahead of me. So going at 20 Km PH I slowly turned around only to see a scooter ramming right onto my vehicle from rear and to the right side. The guy was an elderly guy and he fell down. Thankfully since I was driving slowly, all the damage was on my car. The guy stood up and started to yell. I pulled over and apologized to him, even if it was not my mistake. His scooter was old and he couldn't brake it properly. Quickly 5 to 6 auto guys came around and I thought that I am going to end up paying up for no fault of mine. However the auto guys were reasonable and they told the scooter guy to drive slowly. General rule of thumb in such incidents is that the bigger vehicle guy has to pay up or face the fire. Thankfully common sense prevailed and I drove to office with some low impact dent and scratches on my car. The officially right thing to do - that is calling the traffic cops is in 90% most stupid thing to do. Probably you can write more in detail the lazy nature of Bangalore Traffic cops.