India’s Roads and Bottlenecks

Reading Time: 3 minutes

India’s Roads and Bottlenecks

Bottlenecks and traffic jams on the streets. Are they an unavoidable phenomenon, or something we caused or created? Same with the lack of lane discipline in Indian drivers. Are drivers always to blame? Or could it be, that some part of the problem is because of how our roads are designed?

Living in Bombay, I notice a few problems with our roads here. And if they exist in India’s second largest metro and financial capital, I suppose they exist in most other cities. Except perhaps in some planned cities like Pune.

Driving around Mumbai, one quickly notices that many roads do not have lane demarcations. And the ones that do, the lines are faded and almost invisible to the average driver. Then of course, there are those who think it’s easier to drive between two lanes, making this so much tougher for the rest of us.

If you live in some city or town in India, make sure to check if roads you frequent have lane demarcations. And also try to see how stretches that don’t have demarcations tend to make a driver’s lane discipline random.

Source: link

There’s another thing I noticed about the roads. They didn’t seem to be planned such that, in a particular area, say you have a three-lane main road, which, while going through a broader junction, widens into 4 or even 5, and then narrows back, which is still alright. What is a pain, however, is where they have randomly taken patches of road, such that for a short section, the road would suddenly widen an additional 2-3 lanes, and then go back to its earlier width. And knowing how we fill each available inch of road with car or bike, drivers squeezing in to occupy the suddenly available extra lanes, only to cause a slowdown as the road narrows back, going ahead.

The above image is of a stretch of road near the National Stock Exchange building at BKC in Mumbai. The road itself [blue] seems to progress from left to right in a relaxed wave-like manner. It feels far more curved on the actual stretch. And here’s what makes it interesting and amusing. The road has varying width, waves along, and even has gradual rises and drops in terrain. Add to this mix, the average Indian driver’s Formula 1 driving technique, where they always choose to maintain good racing line over lane discipline. That makes this stretch especially tricky to drive on. Especially if you try to stick to one lane, while speeding vehicles veer dangerously close on both sides, at different parts of this stretch.

Hoping this post helps some team in the municipal corporation take note and do something to fix the problem.

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Dark Knight Rising, Batpod Skidding

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Dark Knight Rising, Batpod Skidding

You know how we sometimes have a tendency to give our ‘expert’ views on something that already seems perfect, and how, according to us, it could have still been better?

Experts will agree that in areas of personal strengths and weaknesses, it is always better to focus on our strengths rather than our weaknesses. But in some other areas, the attitude can sometimes seem unnecessary. For instance, the way some people comment or curse when according to them, a sportsperson already giving his or her all, could have still done better. Where lazy beer-sipping spectators, with the other hand drowned in a bag of chips, somehow feel they know better.

In this post, I too am guilty of something to that effect. My views are about the Batpod design in a movies series that is already almost perfect. But don’t take it personally, as I am probably a bigger Batman fan than you are.

Christopher Nolan‘s franchise gave us the best 3 Batman movies ever. Apart from Batman himself, the brilliant plot, an eternally loyal Alfred, outstanding characters, an unforgettably dark Joker, Bane, Mr. Fox, and all the darkness; a treat for fans.

When it came to Batman’s crazy rides, I found something a little wrong with the Batpod, in The Dark Knight and in The Dark Knight Rises.

BatPod (1)

It is undoubtedly a neat looking ride, especially when you see it disengage from a badly damaged Tumbler. But there’s a scene almost immediately after that bit, that doesn’t make sense from the point-of-view of the Batpod’s design. You’ve noticed the guns on either side of the front wheel of the Batpod. And we’ve all seen how the Batpod skids to a halt, its wheels spinning on the axle. It looks especially neat when Batman comes out of a narrow alley, and you can see the lights on the forward guns spin with the tyre. In case that bit is a little hazy, here’s a video to jog your memory. [the spin happens after 0.55 secs into the video]

So, the bit I didn’t understand is, that when the wheels of the Batpod are spinning on a skid, how is it physically possible to do so with the guns present?

batpodwire

image: link

Because as soon is anything but rubber is in contact with the road, it would send the Batpod or any other vehicle, spinning anywhere but where you’d hope for it to go. No friction, right? And there don’t seem to be any rubber-like material on the outer side of the guns either. And neither are the guns shaped to make the cross-section circular, to make for a smooth spherical roll while skidding.

That said, I’d still most certainly own a Batpod if I could.

Batpod3

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See Ma, No Hands – Reviewing the Dettol No-Touch Soap Dispenser

Reading Time: 3 minutes

See Ma, No Hands – Reviewing the Dettol No-Touch Soap Dispenser

Here’s a product review.

You wouldn’t be reading this if you were fortunate enough to live a secluded life in the hills, which means you’ve most likely visited a reasonably-priced restaurant around. And you have probably noticed how the wash basins usually have water all around the tap/ faucet. Throw in some people who turn taps/faucets with soaped-up hands, or with food covered hands; and just washing your hands there suddenly becomes something of a daring act.

That being the case, and given that most eateries and homes at best have a press-the-pump type soap dispenser, Dettol, a household name in India, had a great business opportunity with a no-touch soap dispenser. Here’s what they did with it.

Dettol Auto Soap Dispenser #1

Dettol Auto Soap Dispenser #2

A big flaw with the design, beyond the drab form. The battery compartment placed right at the bottom, with a thin cover that has a slight gap in it. Now, if only women walked the earth, this wouldn’t have been a problem considering how careful and tidy most women are. At least the ones I’ve known. But with us guys around, it’s another story. Me for one, even after just washing my face I usually look like I got hosed down. And I’m the least of Dettol’s concerns.

Every few days, the dispenser at home either stops working, or dispenses four times repeatedly. That calls for wiping it dry, including the batteries and the compartment. Find me a restaurant or home who’s basin area is always dry enough to keep such a dispenser and not have water seep in. All the fancy hotels will be using fancier units anyway.

Let’s look at pricing. Given the potential customer base, filled with wet basin areas, they could have easily taken a shot at replacing  existing push-type dispensers, bars of soap and even soaps hanging from the wall by a rope [yes, you’re life’s incomplete if you haven’t used one of those] with an aggressively priced product. However, at INR 450 a piece, it is a little steep for the value shopper. It gets worse. The liquid is much thinner than most other brands, and the two variant choices you get smell between not good and horrible.

And finally, price of refills. A single refillbottle (250ml) sells at supermarkets at INR 150 (strangely INR 99 on some sites online). Compare that with a thicker and better smelling refill by another leading brand which sells at INR 140 for a 900ml pack, that is quite a difference. And you can’t use any other liquid soap in this one due to the way the refill has been designed. Which means, you have to pay premium to continue using this dispenser.

What Dettol could have done instead to get a bigger bite of the market:

  • Designed a better/ sleeker looking dispenser
  • Competitively priced base unit, aimed at making it a compelling option to replace bars of soap and push-type dispensers
  • Battery compartment placed higher up without causing the unit to get top-heavy
  • Used a thicker consistency liquid
  • Made it possible to refill with any standard available brands
  • Offered competitively priced refill liquids in 1-2 standard/bulk quantity options with at least 3-4 good fragrance variants

It’s one thing to attempt to shift the existing market with a quick first move that’s just ‘ok’, quite another to delight on your first shot. By the time you come around for a second pass, it might just be too late.

[1/5] For just dispensing a sad smelling liquid soap, and for disappointing on design, ease of use, pricing, and on refills.

Stir Up a Hornet’s Nest

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Here’s another product review.

I recently bought the a horn for my bicycle. The Hornit.

Hornit [the company], interestingly, is founded by a lawyer (yeah, cool huh?!) who felt the need for a loud horn while riding to and from work. He tested his first  prototype back in ’07, and it was only in 2011 that he got into it full-time with Hornit.

And what is Hornit? It is the world’s loudest bicycle horn. At a deafening 140 decibel, it does warn the average zombie behind the wheel who is about to drift or cut in front of you while you’re cycling. Or, like the Hornit people mildly puts it, “it gives the cyclist greater control over their safety, rather than passively hoping to be seen.”

I’ve tried it out, and it works. And well. You do feel a lot safer using it,  compared to other bicycle ‘bells’ by leading manufacturers that are barely audible even to the cyclist, let alone a vehicle a short distance away.

The horn itself is louder than the average car horn, so drivers do take notice, and while it might take them a few seconds to realize that a bicycle under 14 kg. sounded that piercing horn, it gives you sufficient space to pass through.

Hornit - 1

It has two sound modes (140 dB & 130 dB) for riding and parking. The sounds themselves aren’t very cool, one sounding like a bird, and the other just a deafening beep. Personally I would have definitely preferred an air-horn kind of sound (the ones used on trains or large trucks). But that said, the Hornit more than delivers on its basic purpose. It’s sleek, unconventional and good to look at, too. The horn button can be placed at a convenient position on the handlebar. The quality of the button’s elastic locking mechanism isn’t too great, but all in all, the Hornit is a great product and a must-have for any cyclist.

[4.75/5] For serving its basic purpose well, for the cool name, for a good speaker design  and ergonomic button.

And if you’re wondering what it sounds like, aufhorchen baby.!