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.
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.
“What makes America so much more entrepreneurial and innovative than India?” That question has been in my head for many years now.
Obvious recent contributions including Facebook, Tesla, and the immortal giants, Google, Amazon and Apple come first to mind. But the world we live in stands witness to enduring American inventions – the airplane, credit card, transistor, laser, the computer and internet; with hundreds of inventions in-between.
Firstly, contrary to popular belief, the US is not the most innovative country in the world. They ranked 5th in 2015’s Global Innovation Index by World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Results by other bodies too put them in a similar ranking.
Two factors seem to distinguish them from the rest. They are perennially innovative across all fields of work. And, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit runs deep in the veins of its masses. For nearly two centuries, it has been one of the most fertile environments for creativity and innovation. This has resulted in the most brilliant minds from the world over to steadily gravitate to it. To Innovate. To Create.
YouTube (albeit American), is filled with the ingenious creations of their average people. Remote-controlled cars, planes, and numerous vehicles and even other unimaginable contraptions built by average individuals like you and me. What makes them impressive is that they aren’t built out of a kit, but using even scrap or materials found around the house. And their customer experience practices have delighted and inspired the world, and set global benchmarks.
So while we can brush-off some inventions as exceptions; what explains the creative and entrepreneurial spirit of the common American?
In my quest to find something that the average American might knowingly or otherwise be doing differently to induce this trait, I quickly concluded it had nothing to do with their super-sugar coated cereals or microwave dinners. 😀
Heredity too didn’t seem like the answer, given the large mix of world population that goes in and out of the US. So how do they maintain a consistent level of creativity even with the influx of foreigners? Is something happening in the background, that nurtures creativity levels?
‘What else are they doing, that subtly but consistently fuels creativity?’
I felt the answer might lie in the power of the right brain. We know the right brain is the seat of creativity. And which in turn controls, and is stimulated by, the left side of our body. So are Americans doing something differently, that might be stimulating innovation?
Left-handed people for one, have been known to have a higher probability of being more creative than right-handed ones. Quoting someone anonymous on Quora, “Lefties have a greater chance of being a genius- or having a high IQ. Researchers aren’t sure why, but those who are left handed seem to make up a disproportionately large part of those who are highly intelligent. For example, 20% of all Mensa members are left-handed.”
But they comprise only about 10% of the world population.
So, assuming a normal distribution of left and right handed people across the world, 10% Americans aren’t conclusive proof of their general creativity. Even if that 10% included the left-handed John D. Rockefeller, Henry Ford, Bob Dylan, Walt Disney, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Tina Fey. Because, for each of them, there have been other innovators, creative people and entrepreneurs who are right-handed. So while left-handedness might give one an edge, what explains its considerable prevalence in the other 90% too?
Still stuck on the right brain and the left side of the body, there seemed to be sufficient studies concluding that when right-handed people use their left-hand more, it tended to improve general creativity. To what degree, is a great topic for a debate at another time. But if using the left side more fuels creativity, is there something Americans do differently than Indians, that might help?
Then a possibility struck. Can their driving give them some edge in being more creative? As absurd as it might sound, read me out.
About 65% of the world population today, lives in countries that follow a right-hand traffic rule (i.e. where you drive on the right side of the road, and oncoming traffic moves on your left), as opposed to 35% in countries that follow a left-hand traffic rule. India, influenced by the British, follows a left-hand traffic rule.
Right-hand traffic countries tend to have left-hand-drive cars, and in turn, use their left hands more, especially for continuous adjustments of the steering wheel. Opportunity to rest the elbow on the side of the door makes that a preferred hand from comfort and proximity perspectives.
But that would mean that 65% of the world should on average, be at least slightly more creative than the others.
So then the only remaining variable would be –how many people in each of those countries drive regularly? That brought me to the vehicular density of countries. Here too, the US seems to have the edge (whether for the good or not). It has the 3rd highest motor vehicle density in the world; that’s 797 vehicles per 1000 people! The first two spots are taken by San Marino and Monaco. Both of whom seem irrelevant to our discussion, given that these city-states have populations under 40,000 people. This makes the US the largest nation with the highest vehicular density. Contributors are the lack of a developed public transport systems outside of major cities, and cheap fuel. This results in Americans driving cars for everything from buying groceries from nearby, to traveling to other cities and states.
So is it possible, that frequent use of the left-hand while driving, in a country with the highest motor vehicle density, contributes to their innovation and creativity in general?
Honestly, I don’t know the answer. I don’t know if driving of left-hand-drive cars is ‘the’, or even ‘a’ contributing factor at all, to explain their creativity, innovation or entrepreneurial spirit.
However, in the absence of other conclusive factors, doesn’t it beg another look? Perhaps autonomous cars will help observe change if any?
I’ll look forward to your views on this. Also, hit the ‘Follow’ button if you’d like to receive more such posts from time to time. You can also connect with me on Twitter.
India has seen a meteoric rise in the number of vehicles on its roads. And with it, driving sense and etiquette have disappeared into oblivion. I’ll agree I’m not too great a driver myself. But few things anger me as much as bikers riding on the wrong side of the road.
And it’s still ok if a rider only risks his own life. But many of them even dare with their family sitting pretty, pillion. And then there are those that ride on footpaths (sidewalks), risking lives of unsuspecting pedestrians too.
I’m not sure how you deal with them, but if it’s just a bloke riding alone on the wrong side, I normally go straight at them, with lights on high beam. I might swing out at the last moment, or just slow down but continue, making them stop and pull to the side as I drive past. I’m quite sure that makes no difference though. The cops don’t seem to be in any hurry to even start addressing these riders who risk lives to save insignificant minutes or fuel.
Ok, now imagine this. A holographic projector fitted on a car that creates a very real-looking holographic image of a bike or car next to it. The purpose being to deter bikers from riding on the wrong side of the road.
Obviously the image would be unbelievably real enough and appearing to leave no space for the bikers to squeeze through. The image obviously wouldn’t stop or slow down, just keep coming. I wonder if that could be enough to frighten the hell out of the rider? And while the rider would eventually pass through the image, it would hopefully frighten them out of their skin, leaving them puzzled and horrified enough never to ride on the wrong side again.
Sure it is a slightly more expensive alternative to good old effective traffic enforcement, but I’m sure it would be fun to experiment with while the enforcers get their act together.
And this below, isn’t a ghost car, just an insanely cool see-through 1939 Pontiac Deluxe Six.
This post is long overdue. And it is inspired by a dialog from the Hindi movie ‘Ferrari ki Sawaari‘. I had wanted to post about it soon after watching the movie when it had released several months ago. However, it’s screening on tv a few days ago reminded me to complete this post soon.
The movie, is absolutely brilliant, and if you have missed watching it, I strongly recommend it. It does get a little slow along the way, and a tiny stretch of imagination at times, but all in all, there’s a lot to take away from it.
What I liked most about the movie, was a dialog somewhere in the beginning of the movie, where the hero, Sharman Joshi is taking his son to school on his scooter, when, he accidentally crosses a signal light that has just turned red. Both father and son look back with shocked expressions, and the father (Sharman) expresses his mistake and repeatedly regrets it. They both look around but there are no traffic cops there.
The next scene shows both father and son at the nearest traffic police station, where Sharman tells the cop that he jumped the light by mistake. The confused cop asks Sharman if there was a cop around at the time, to which Sharman replies a no. The baffled cop then tells him that since no one saw him break the light, he is free to go. To this, an almost embarrassed Sharman replies that his son saw him jump the light, and that “jo dekhega wahi seekhega” (translation: whatever he sees, he will learn).
That is the most priceless and powerful line I have heard, ever.
In case the meaning or effect of that line was lost out in my poor translation or explanation, essentially what Sharman means is, that even if no one else saw him make a mistake, his son was there and that he has to set an example that his son will learn from, so it was extremely important for him to confess his mistake even if no third-party or enforcing body was around to correct or punish him.
Imagine if each one of us had an internal ethical mechanism that would make us take the right or correct or just choice, irrespective of what the herd does, and irrespective of whether anyone is around to judge or monitor us or not. We could choose our own reasons or purpose for doing so, be it our parents, children, fellow citizens, our country, or just because a particular choice is the right one to begin with, and we know it.
Imagine what we could all achieve, and imagine what a different and better world it will be… Imagine.!