Traffic Sense

All posts in the Traffic Sense category

Our Traffic Jams – And Our Blind Eye To Them…

Published June 12, 2017 by vishalvkale

Roads… no, I am not talking of the quality – or lack of it – of our roads, for once. While that may still be a problem in more than a few areas, that is still small stuff, really – as compared to the far bigger issue that confronts us with regard to roads. An issue that is not too evident, and yet is increasingly a pressing concern; or, at least – should certainly be a pressing concern for all of us. Not just Indians – but every single resident of this planet.
We worry about the environment – or pretend to, at any rate; that, at least, gets into the newspapers with surprising regularity – not least thanks to a certain Gentleman bearing the first name “Donald”. It does deserve every bit of news space it occupies; that I grant – the environment, I mean. That we don’t do much about it in our personal lives is another matter entirely. I don’t blame the people – those who don’t do much, that is. The environment is going to be just fine for them,  in their lifespans, and thus, they have little to worry about, if you really think about it.
What I am referring to is something far simpler – the traffic, the abundance of traffic, or should I say, the rivers of traffic on our tiny teensy weensy roads. And I refer to the arteries as well – those teeny weeny 4 and 8 lane – aah-  {forgive me, Civil Engineering / English / Oxford / Merriam Webster et al} – Highways. My heart would ache for the torture they endure were they human. Luckily, they aren’t human, and they aren’t alive. Lucky for us – they would have run away to another Galaxy, leaving us Humans without Roads, had they been alive!
I have observed the bumper-to-bumper traffic in any number of cities in India; this spans Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Chandrapur, Amravati, Indore, Bhopal, Raipur and many more. The sheer waste of resources, time and effort is staggering; so much so, that I gave up my personal vehicle altogether. And I will try my best to continue to use the public transport as far as is possible. A 40 minute journey takes 2 hours – no,  am not talking of Mumbai. I am speaking of other cities. It staggers the mind, and leaves me wondering – is this really progress?
Furthermore, it is even more staggering to see cars with one driver on the road frequently… why not car pool? Not to save cash – but to save your time, money, effort, free up time for productive work – I do one hell of a lot of productive work in the commute, for instance – and much much more. But this isn’t limited to cars alone; why don’t bikers also pool rides? Sure, it will be difficult, will involve some compromises. But I have done it for 5 years, and from experience – I can say that it is doable, eminently so.
Sure, it requires compromise, sacrifice, a redefinition and redesigning for your lifestyle. You will certainly have to walk a lot more – but isn’t that great? I for one have benefited one hell of a lot from the additional walking. And no one is asking you to give up permanently – just cut down – even 3 days a week of a compromise to start is good enough. The time that is saved, can be used to better your enjoyment; like I use the time to listen to Marathi Music, or reading a good book; which I would otherwise not be able to do in a 14-hour day. For the commute time will remain essentially the same, given the traffic.
The question is, why do you need to do it? Because roads are finite; land is finite. And new vehicles are being added every day, numbering hundreds of thousands, in every city, street, town and village. Add to that the increasing urbanization rate, and population influx to the cities. Add to that the burgeoning population of India. Put it all together – and the picture becomes crystal clear. You need to do it, else in a few decades, maybe just one decade – the situation might become impossible.
Where do you think the new additional vehicles will be driven? What is the capacity of the roads we have, and how many are using them? Traffic Jams are already a regular issue in nearly every city; and yet, no one does anything. Oh sure, we complain about the Government. Question again is – what are we, the people – doing about it? Cant you get off the roads three days a week? I have gotten off for 4.5 of the past 5.5 years. Sure – it has come at a price. But, I have the satisfaction of knowing I, personally, have contributed albeit in a very small way towards building my nation.
Every additional vehicle on our roads adds to the pressure, it adds to the pollution, it adds a few seconds to the commute time; it adds to body stress, it adds to illnesses, it adds to wastage of time. It is quite possibly among the biggest productivity losses we as a nation are having. How many hours are wasted – a sheer total waste? And how simple it would be to find a better way utilize that time – admittedly at some inconvenience to our ownselves? 

The payback – time saved, money saved, and best of all – a decided improvement in the health parameter. Not just due to the additional physical activity, but most critically due to the lessening of stress, and more positive involvement of the mind! You deserve it, your family deserves it, and most of all your nation needs it. Give up your vehicle 3 days a week!

Is Something Seriously Wrong With Us?

Published May 9, 2016 by vishalvkale

Another day, another month, another year – and yet another display of cruel insensitivity by us Indians, this time watching as a person burns to his death on a crowded street, with no one coming forward to help. It is one thing if you try to help, and were not able to – or if you try to help but were prevented by the intensity of the fire, but just standing and watching is quite another. What were you watching? It wasn’t a street drama; it was a dance of death being played. Either you stop to help – or bloody well move on so that other, better people than you can help!
Insensitivity, callousness, fear – or all of the above? Just what is the problem that causes incidents like the one in the article from The Indian Express below? We have seen many, many such sad and cruel responses from the public over the years, some of which I myself have documented on my blog from time to time. Each time, I think and, rather, hope – that these are isolated incidents, ones which are reported due to their transparently callous and cruel nature; that we are a nation of 1.3 Billion plus, and that isolated incidents aren’t the barometer…

But when similar happenings take place again and again and again – one has to conclude that there is something seriously wrong with at least some people among us; that we need to look in a mirror and see for ourselves what we are increasingly becoming. We have seen it before – driving on by a couple of victims, watching accident victims and more; and have demonstrated magnificent inaction and the ardent followership of it-isnt-my-problem-so-why-should-I-care.
But what happened in this episode just beggars belief; a display of inhumanity and cruelty beyond words, beyond description and beyond comprehension. I am frankly stunned, with bile rising in my throat and shocked numbness in my mind as I read the unbelievably shocking display of inhumanity, crass selfishness, callousness & total lack of empathy, and mind-numbing insensitivity on display in this terrifying episode.  People just standing and watching!
If this was all there was to it – it would have been routine for India – as we shall observe later in this article; what takes the cake here is that not only were people watching, they were taking videos and further uploading them on Youtube! This is something that you want to have a Video of? What for, pray tell? What makes it so fascinating? A human being is burning to death, an agonizing and horrific way to go, and the best you can think of is taking a video? What happened to plain human decency and feelings? And let us not forget common sense, which, by current evidence, is highly uncommon?
We have seen this many, many time before; this shocking inhuman behaviour by Indians of all hues, colors, education, livelihood, age and gender. Everytime there is a small road accident- even a biker falling – you will see crowds gathering and watching. Watching – mind it; doing nothing, precisely nothing, and just watching. In doing so, they clog up roads, disturb and delay people, waste resources as well as time – but they watch all the same.
What curious fascination, what amazing pull others’ misfortune holds for us as a people, isn’t it? We unfailingly watch, each and every time. But no- we never, ever, stop forward to help, to lend a helping hand. Why do you watch – do tell? Is it fun? Someone is hurt, is in pain, or is dying – and you stand and watch? How does that help? What satisfaction do you get from it? And if it is curiosity – what good will satisfying your curiosity do? Why don’t you help – or move on, if you don’t want to help? Moving on it actually preferable if you cannot actually do anything to change the status quo!
In fact, the act of standing, of just watching, satisfying your “curiosity”, is actually quite harmful to the situation. This first of all prevents access to those people who are real “men” so to speak {sorry, ladies, no insult intended – just using an old English idiom}. These real men or women can help, want to help – isn’t it possible that their access is prevented by no-good bystanders who are creating a crowd? Further, crowd inaction might also dissuade those in the crowd with real humanity and guts, those who have feelings, but don’t act since the crowd isn’t doing so.
Not only that – let me go further. If you stop to watch even a small accident on the road just out of curiosity – please don’t. What good can you do? Either help – or don’t stop, be selfish – and move on. Clear the space for those who can help; that will be your contribution to the cause, and will be genuinely appreciated. What gets me is why be curious at all? It is fine to be curious, see and then lend a hand; it is not so fine if your curiosity leads to you watching! Why watch? You have seen the misfortune – so move on; why does someone else’s misfortune hold such a magnetic attraction? What does it say of you as a person? Not a lot, to be brutally frank.

If this article has touched you in any way – please think of how you respond and behave under such circumstances. This applies to me as well – I have also soul-searched, and asked myself – what would my response be? I know for a fact that I don’t stop if there are bystanders or a crowd, since it will only add to the clog and confusion; but how will I react when I am the first on the scene? I hope I never have to answer that. Whatever the reason for your inaction – callousness, cruelty, fear, other issues – they are your problems; the best you can do is not stop to watch, leaving the space for others who can help. And videos – boss, it isn’t cool to take videos of others’ suffering; it is cruel, callous, inhuman and shockingly sad….

Eyes On The Road!

Published June 27, 2014 by vishalvkale

Eyes On The Road… Not On Your Mobile. If Not For Your Sake, Then For The Sake Of Innocent People Around You, Who Pay With Their Lives Due To Your Stupidity And Irresponsibility!

I can approach this post in several ways – I can either quote worldwide statistics of deaths caused by Mobile Phones usage during driving, or I can give scientific reasons behind why using mobile phones during driving is dangerous, irresponsible and downright stupid.

Or I can quote 2 real life cases of people I knew who died due to irresponsible, and from my point of view, criminal idiots who were yacking on the phone when they should have been focusing on the road. 2 families destroyed. At least one child I know who is fatherless. One dead child, one dead parent in another case. They are dead because some irresponsible idiot thought his career, his family, his friend was more important than the lives of people on the road. 

3 lives snuffed out, several hopes dashed, several lives irrevocably destroyed and several families deeply impacted. Just because some idiot thinks his chatting is more important than other people’s lives. Just because some – excuse my language – idiot thinks he or she is more important than the life of others. For such people, so self-centered, or so congenitally stupid; their time is too important to pull the vehicle over to the curb, and attend to the call. 2 minutes of the time of such – excuse me – idiots is more important than the entire lives of some people. 

Those of you who have read me before will be surprised at my anger, and usage of rough words. What else am I supposed to do when one of these 3 deaths is of someone I know, and have known for 43 years – all my living living life so far. Now, whenever I see some genius jabbing on the phone while driving a bike, or driving a car – I can visualise the last moments of that person who was family, as told to me by people. Personally, I do not indulge in such behaviour; thanks be to God; I immediately pull over. What was conveyed to me by people – the other person jabbing on the phone – shall stay with me a very long time. 

Sad part is that despite this being an obvious fact and something that is known and apparent to all, it is ubiquitous on our roads. For the past 4 years at least I have made it a habit to stop people from indulging in this. In the early days of Mobile Phones, I too was guilty of such idiocy, to be perfectly frank; but the various police drives to educate got through to me, as did my own intelligence in equal part. Similarly, while some people – a good majority, to be honest – sheepishly keep the phone aside, or stop the vehicle; a small minority actually swears at me. Boss – I am not trying to save only you; I am trying to save my bloody skin, and those of others on the road. I am trying to save others from your irresponsibility!

Even sadder is the fact that this happens openly, and no action is taken on this in large parts of India. There is a law against this – but is it implemented? We continue to openly flout this law, adhering to it only in front of the cops, and blissfully and daringly flout it when no one is looking. There is no hint of awareness of the serious risk such overgrown kindergarten school kids are exposing the people on the road to. In doing so, we are putting other people at risk; it is fine if you are stuck in traffic in a jam – you can use your phone. It is not so fine when you are driving your bike or car. 

Why does this happen? Why are we as a people unable to confront and accept this simple reality that usage of Mobile Phones on the move is dangerous – both to our own selves, as well as to others. It is our responsibility to our family, to our community and to our nation; we should realise, understand and accept this – and stop using phones while driving. Is it too much to expect a human being to behave rationally? 

Frankly, yes – it is too much to expect that. This realisation came to me while studying a research paper on behavioural economics, which looks at a similar issue in economics – that a man / woman considers many  aspects in life, and the expectation of rationality is bookish. This applies here as well : the absence of rationality. In the humdrum of daily life, rationality takes a back-seat. The immediate concern  – getting to office on time to avoid a confrontation with the boss, or to get to the meeting on time takes precedence. Since accidents are by definition a rarity, their occurrence is never factored into the equation.  

In such a reality, firm strict and decisive action against misuse of Mobile Phones while driving and heavy punitive penalties is the order of the day. Only the fear of the law, and the attendant loss of the driving licence / thousands in cash can act as a strong deterrent. The need of the hour is to increase the penalty from the teensy-weensy 500/1000 to magnitudes of that amount : say, 2500 or even 5000. That should be effective as a deterrent. Add to that the cancellation of the mobile number and confiscation of the phone with all its data and numbers deleted, although a copy in a data device can be handed over, but only through the court. 

This needs to be supported by social media awareness campaigns, hoardings, Television advertisements, Print advertisements – which is currently happening in almost every town of India. But the evidence of the road suggests that these measures are enough, which is why I am calling for stricter measures on the punitive side. People are dying almost daily – due to this irresponsible behaviour on our collective parts. This article is itself an attempt at adding to the fight against this bad habit on social media.

We are talking about lives here; we are talking innocent lives. Take it from me – closure is hard to come by in such cases, even though the person who died was not my father or mother. What will it be like for the immediate family of the deceased? Spare a thought for them! And spare a thought for those countless, nameless and faceless people who have died because someone else was using a mobile phone! 

If you are reading this, and are habitual of using phones on the move – please desist. Your habit can and has caused inconvenience to others. I can understand the pressures of modern life – at one point in time, I too might have been guilty of the same. But in the past 4 years and more, I have not received the calls – but have called back the callers immediately on reaching my destination – or have stopped my vehicle. And I dont recall people objecting on hearing the explanation. If I can convert even one person through this article, my effort will not have been in vain.