Aside from the pollution in Delhi, the next hardest thing for me to adjust to has been the traffic, and I’m quite certain there is a correlation between the two. With over 8 million vehicles a day on the road, the result is like Mr. Toads Wild Ride, a game of Frogger and the worst possible gridlock, all combined into one horrible nightmare. There are very few cross walks, so people just cross traffic whenever, and wherever they feel like. If you hesitate you’re screwed. You just have to do it with confidence, trusting that the traffic will go around you. It’s a new kind of adrenaline rush!
Traffic laws aren’t enforced
The next most notable thing aside from pedestrians crossing everywhere is that there appears to be no enforcement of any traffic laws. A three lane highway becomes five lanes of traffic with everyone squeezing in shoulder to shoulder and honking boldly and often. The honking basically alerts other drivers that the one honking is proceeding so they had better get out-of-the-way. It is non stop and very annoying. Most roads are one way roads, and it’s all too common to see people pull U turns and go the wrong way down a one way street just because they are fed up with traffic. I can assure you that when you see headlights coming straight at you at night on what is supposed to be a one way road, it will make even the most courageous tourist’s butt pucker!
No safety laws
Some aspects of the traffic here are actually entertaining, like seeing how many people they can squeeze onto (not necessarily into) one vehicle. They can also stack or load just about anything onto a bike cart or truck. I saw a bus the other day with guys sitting on the roof and it was going quite fast. I’ve seen a motorcycle with 5 people on it and a 4 seater tuck tuck with twelve people inside. In addition to all this, you have the inevitable cows, pigs, wild dogs and occasional donkeys weaving in and out of traffic. From what I can tell there are no real helmet, seatbelt or other safety laws enforced here, presuming they even exist.
The government is trying to make some changes to minimize traffic. For instance they recently tried an odd/even day rule for driving based on the last letter of your license plate. The experiment lasted 15 days and was a dismal failure. From my observation, traffic was minimized and air quality was greatly improved, but for whatever reason they decided not to continue with the change. Seems like it would have been a good a permanent solution. They have also have started a new motorcycle taxi service. They actually carry an extra helmet for their passengers, so I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before I try it out. Hell, maybe I’ll shell out a chunk of cash and go for a long ride out of the city somewhere! It’s been a long time since I rode on the back of a bike but I’m thinking I’ll make an exception.