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Bombay Traffic: Rules of the Road Part 2

Here are the next Big Five Rules of the Road, following on the heels of Bigger is Better:

  • Use Your Horn – In Bombay (and pretty much everywhere we’ve been in India), the horn is used as an all-purpose driving device. It warns someone you are coming, it tells people to get out of the way, it signals annoyance /anger/irritation/ happiness, and it gives drivers something to do as they sit in motionless traffic.
  • Lanes Are Pretty, Decorative Lines – but certainly not anything to take seriously. We have never, ever seen traffic pay any attention whatsoever to lanes. Granted, it can be difficult at times, given the varying state of disrepair of various highways and byways – to encourage people to stay in a straight line, but that certainly does not explain everything. A two lane road invariably becomes at least two lanes each way, and forget about maintaining lane discipline downtown. In fact…
  • HawkersFill All Space – At any intersection (especially), vehicles will bunch up in a very predictable manner. The bigger trucks, buses, and cars will bunch to the front, creating at least an extra lane of traffic. Then the rickshaws will swarm in, cramming themselves between the larger autos. Then the motorcycles and scooters inch their way through everything, up to the front of the line, then the bicycles do the same. Only then will the beggars and hawkers start making their way through the crowds, selling their wares.
  • Things Behind You Don’t Count – Once the lines start moving (amid a cacophony of horns), drivers concentrate on things that are in front of them. Once a vehicle has pulled ahead of another, it is as if a switch has been flipped, and the dude behind you doesn’t count. Cutting left and right in front of other vehicles is not a ‘bad’ thing, as everyone does it and everyone knows that – while mirrors sure can be decorated prettily on the sides of a door, they don’t serve any practical function!
  • Karma Rules – Surprisingly enough, however, real aggressive driving is a rarity. Certainly it has to do with the fact that there is no room to do anything supremely aggressive, but I personally think that the Hindu mindset plays a role as well: well, there’s not much I can do about this, the other driver deserves a bigger car/a better position in traffic/a shorter commute, and what comes around will go around. This also comes into play with safety features, as we regularly see drivers with no helmets, long sari scarves flapping in the breeze, 4 (or more) kids balanced on a motorcycle, and big trucks with no doors. Ganesh or Sai Baba or Allah or Jesus (as a person’s personal religious belief dictates) will watch over me…

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  1. […] most people who have driven in India, there is a glaring omission in the “Rules of the Road” below. Where, oh where is the “Stoplights are Merely a Suggestion” rule? I decided to […]

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