New Delhi Traffic

Old Dec 11, 09, 10:25 am
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Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Ft Lauderdale,FL
Programs: Delta
Posts: 10
New Delhi Traffic

Here's a write-up from a recent trip...

Itís 5 AM and Iím in New Delhi, the capital of India. I need to get across town to the train station by 6 when my train is scheduled to leave for Agra and the Taj Mahal. So I step out into the street in front of my hotel and raise my arm signaling to the tuk-tuk taxis grouped down the street about three blocks away. The tuk-tuk motors spring to life beginning the start of what will be one of thousands spontaneous street competitions throughout the city that day as the taxi drivers jostle for fares.

The tuk-tuk driver third in line gets the best jump off the start and swings wide on the left gaining what will prove to be the winning edge. But the first and second tuk-tuk drivers make a fight of it. I watch as the rapidly approaching tuk-tuks fight for track position. No quarter is asked and none is given.

As the tuk-tuks near, its clear that the driver of the number 2 tuk-tuk has the strongest machine as he closes in on the leader. With about 20 yards to go the leader, #3, has no option but to keep accelerating in order to hold his advantage. Itís about now that a wave of panic overtakes me as I realize IíM THE FINISH LINE and about a ton and a half of metal and driver is racing full throttle towards me. Too late to make it back on the side walk, I prepare myself to leap and roll against the impending contact as brakes screech and tuk-tuks slide to a violent stop just inches from my knee caps.

Happily, the knees as well as the rest of me are still intact and the second stage of the contest now begins as the drivers start the negotiation phase. I must choose between the arrivers. Realizing that #2ís mechanical superiority will be negated against the trucks and full sedans that we will soon encounter on the roads, I opt for number 3 rationalizing his demonstration of quicker reflexes reveal the true survival skill necessary on this cityís roads.

I canít begin to explain how chaotic the traffic is here. You see things here that would make a seasoned NASCAR driver flinch. The natives donít even notice. Give the better taxi drivers from here a competitive race car and two weeks to get used to the speeds at Daytona and my guess is they'd blow the NASCAR drivers away. Bumping contact between vehicles doesnít even raise an eyebrow. Traffic lights are treated as mere suggestions and the city wisely doesnít bother to waste money painting lanes on the streets.

I only know one American that Iíd even given a chance of survival driving here. Iíll call him Joe (convenient since his name really is Joe). Joe cruises the streets of Miami in an oversized SUV. Miami has a peculiar problem that many unique international driving style blend, or rather fail to blend, together. When he encounters a driver threatening to do something stupid, Joeís unique driving survival tactic is to aim his SUV at the offending driver and gun the engine. He brakes or swerves just before contact, but the look on the offending driverís face is priceless.

A few days latter, Iím in Egypt where I have a hired driver for two days. Mohamed is a good driver and a knowledgeable Egyptian guide although he is baffled how I could possibly have scheduled only two days for sight seeing in Cairo. He strives to ensure that I donít waste any of my 48 hours stuck in traffic jams. Here, car to car contact is not acceptable and rarely seen although closing distances come to within a credit cardís width. He explains the 5 rules of driving successfully in Cairo.

First, start from the opposite side of the road. If you want to turn right, start from the far left side of traffic. Whatever you do, donít get in the right lane where slower cars waiting in a turn lane will impede your progress. Invariably, one will panic and never turn so youíll be stuck.

Second, Be aggressive. (See description of Joeís driving above)

Third, Ignore the other drivers. You donít really ignore them, he explains, but you want them prepared to react to your movement because they think you are ignoring them.

Fourth, use available space. Mohamed is very good at driving on what weíd call shoulders and sidewalks and he is quite adept at swinging out in front of on-coming traffic to get around slower moving cars.

Iím memorizing the list but I donít dare let go of the chicken strap to actually write these down so Mohamed happily begins to review the list and repeats rules one to four.

"But Mohamed, you said there were five rules." I remind him.

His enthusiastic laugh lets me know that I have fallen for his trap. "Yes" he says, "Rule number 5 is that there are no rules!"



Wishing all of you safe travels!
-tom
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