Commuting on a road in Chennai by a two wheeler or four wheeler is an experience by itself. Reaching one’s destination safe and sound is more or less assured when you are driving a four wheeler with maybe some slight injuries/superficial abrasion to the body of the vehicle except for the ECR and OMR roads or should I say a racing circuit. But for a two wheeler with majority riding without helmet no such positive statements can be made. It is all a matter of luck in not encountering any mishap while on a two wheeler.
Two wheelers in Chennai are exceptionally good in gap management. The slightest opening between two vehicles would goad a two wheeler rider to move forward in the gap. It is immaterial whether in the process he /she abrades your vehicle door with his handle. He is born with the right to overtake you from all four sides of the vehicle. You need to be a mute spectator to his action. And the very notion of only a rider and pillion travelling on a scooter/bike is a rarity. You can see the entire family on a motor cycle and the manufacturer would be feeling proud in providing adequate extra horse power to carry more than 4 persons on his contraption. And hats off to the head of the family for the balancing act on the road inspite of carrying double the number of persons on the move. And sometimes one also comes across illegal bike racing on the roads with dare devilry by the rider and pillion riders.In case one is un lucky may get hit by one of these bikes.
Will you expect a Tier 1 metro city to have bullock carts.Well Chennai has plenty of them and they move on busy roads during peak hours. The steel frame of the cart is rectangular and is quite oversized.It must be definitively cheaper to transport material by this mode and who cares if this inconveniences everyone on the road. My personal experience in encountering a bull run resulted in my pockets being lighter by few thousand rupees. The bullock cart was coming downhill and I was going uphill.As usual because of heavy traffic all round something went terribly wrong and the end result was my rear door car glasses got hit by the sharp and long horn of the bull and the bull got away quietly along with its owner and I had to take my car to the garage since the rear door got jammed.
Similar is the case with cycles. They also try to move fast by pedaling and expect a vehicle to stop moment they show their hand not realizing that fuel driven vehicles have a minimum breaking distance before they come to a standstill.And they need not take a U-turn.They just lift their cycle and cross the divider to go the opposite side. And in case a cyclist gets hit no one can save the person who may be the cause of the mishap. All sympathies would be only with the poor cycle owner.
During my earlier days someone told me you tell me the name of the employee and I will tell you what personnel policies and rules are applicable to the particular person. On the so called traffic rules and regulations we can draw a similar parallel. The rules are not same for all road users. Auto rickshaws can overspeed ,can overtake from any side, can block a U- turn by standing at front and can also openly jump red lights. They are authorized to break any rule without batting an eyelid. Well autos are definitely a sore point of living in Chennai and no one is able to bring any change in this.
It is very common for vehicles particularly rental cars to move when signal changes from amber to red thereby blocking the way forward of oncoming traffic. Well who cares as long as one is not caught by the traffic cop.
Someone told me that zebra crossing is for Zebras. And in Chennai where Jaywalking is quite common the quip on zebra crossing may be appropriate. Pedestrians climb on to the divider in order to cross the road. They have a taken a vow with the blessings of God not to use pedestrian conveniences like subway, foot overbridge etc and to cross the road anywhere and everywhere.
Can we ever imagine Chennai with a separate cycle track. All vehicles following lane discipline.Vehicles not jumping the red light. Pedestrians crossing only at earmarked places. And auto rickshaws following traffic rules and not overcharging passengers. Looks to me like a utopian dream and not happening in the near futue. May be our grandchildren will be lucky to see such a transformation. And till then we need to grin and bear with chaotic traffic day in and day out.