BEST TO WATCH THE SHORT VIDEO (1 minute) FILMED IN BANGALORE (India) BEFORE READING THIS!
Watch here: https://vimeo.com/409423869
SINCE THE ‘LOCKDOWN’, and the worldwide decline in road usage, what is written below has temporarily become historical.
Crossing main roads in Bangalore and many other Indian cities requires an act of faith and is quite an adventure. There are, of course, some pedestrian crossings controlled by traffic signals that are usually but not always obeyed. Once we were in an autorickshaw in Ahmedabad. The driver hardly ever stopped at red signals. When we asked him about this, he told us that there was no need to stop at red lights unless there was a policeman nearby.
Despite the availability of controlled pedestrian crossings in Bangalore, most people cross busy roads wherever they feel like and however hectic the traffic, putting life and limb at risk every time.
Now, I do not want you to think that I am singling out Indian road users including pedestrians for their exciting approach to road safety.
Long ago in Rome, I got the feeling that pedestrians who expected motorists to stop at pedestrian crossings mostly stimulated drivers to drive more rashly when they were trying to cross the road.
In another former imperial city, Istanbul, which I visited in 2010, motorists drove fast and recklessly. When drivers paused at pedestrian crossings, it was only briefly. They were like energetic dogs straining on their stretched leashes. I had the feeling that at any moment cars would charge forward to crush the people scurrying across the road.
Indian drivers, although seemingly undisciplined, expect anything to happen on the road, be it a cow that suddenly strays onto the carriageway to vehicles driving in the opposite direction to the rest of the traffic and people who have decided to dry their grains on a sun drenched flat road surface. Most Indian drivers, expecting the unexpected, seem to have good reflexes. So, pedestrians wandering across the road wherever and whenever they feel like it do not pose a great problem for drivers. That said, I feel that crossing busy roads in Bangalore requires much courage and faith in the skill and care of drivers.
My approach to crossing busy roads in Bangalore is as follows. Quite simply, I look for someone else nearby who wants to cross. As these strangers are often locals, I assume, perhaps naively, that they are experienced in crossing the road. I join them to take advantage of their supposed experience and because any sensible motorist would rather injure one pedestrian rather than several at once. Foolish reasoning, maybe, but apart from making long detours to find allegedly controlled crossings, I will willingly accept better suggestions.
Well, at the moment (April 2020), the streets of Bangalore and London, where I live, are pleasantly devoid of traffic apart from occasional cars, delivery motor bikes and public service vehicles.
Even in London, where drivers are not mentally prepared for pedestrians wandering into their paths away from controlled crossings, traversing the street ‘Bangalore style’ has become possible. My worry is that when ‘lockdown’ is unlocked, will people in London be able to get out of their newly acquired habit of crossing wherever and whenever they feel like it?