Friday, November 20, 2009

India's Roads

One of the great things about visiting a new country is that you become sensitised to reading about the place and hearing the news. It is almost as if there is suddenly an increase in the news - there isn't - you just notice it.

Today the Times Newspaper in the UK reported this headline:"India's pilgrims call for pukka pavements after monks die on road". Yesterday there was a news item on the BBC News website urging action to stop road deaths. The report noted that road accidents having overtaken malaria as the leading cause of preventable deaths in developing countries. This was yesterdays Times' report: "UN summit to halt number of people killed on roads around the world". The article suggested that around 1.3million people are expected to be killed on the roads and that the number will rise to 2 million deaths within a decade as car-ownership and road building programmes increase.

Sorry if I go on about it - but it does not surprise me. One of the challenges here in the UK is that many road-users simply have no idea of the vulnerability of cyclists and pedestrians. There is huge pressure to get where you are going quickly - as if it should be a driver's entitlement. We use legislation to try to fix the problem - but at the heart of the problem it is a cultural issue as well. A sustainable form of transport leads to a better quality of life for all, in terms of physical and mental health, reduction of noise and chemical pollution. Essentially I believe that our current economy encourages a high level of commuting and that commuting limits are defined by the amount a time an individual is prepared to commute for - make the system faster - whether it is road-building or faster trains and the consequence is that more people then commute.

So just as a reminder - here are some pictures of traffic in India - forgive me but I have not got examples of buses hurtling towards me on a steep hairpin - on those situations I focused on my safety.


Although I felt that the buses were the most dangerous of the other road users, in terms of unpredictability Auto-rickshaws won by a mile (1.6 Km). They would pull out - do u-turns in the street, stop or whatever without any warning whatsoever. They were also quite happy to pass by very closely in order to get a better look at the cycling oddities.


One interesting point that I have not made before is that there were many fewer roads signs and markings than you might expect to see in the UK. There were more speed bumps though and those were not made very visible. The lead cyclist would shout "bump" and the cry would move on down the line.


I hope that the focus on reducing deaths world-wide will not reduce the pressure on road-users in the UK to do better.

And finally: Bob T of "Far and Away Cycling" is now leading a tour of Laos - I've been following the blog rather wistfully - I wish I was there. I have also realised that I have been spelling Graeme's name incorrectly as Graham - my apologies. (He is also on the Laos trip.)

Oh yes - Ben is getting better - he went to the Doctor when we got back and has been on antibiotics since - the aches, pains and headaches are subsiding.

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