Friday, April 25, 2008

Something to think about this weekend.

This one's for Hrishi in India. I don't usually put videos in here but this one really got me thinking. It's a clip of about two and a quarter minutes in length. Someone was in an upper level room recording activity at a busy intersection. It may be from Bombay, but I don't know for sure. The guy who sent it to me said it was but I haven't verified it.

We have an exercise at the end of our Basic Rider's Training that is called "Traffic Interaction". Basically we set up a course for the students to ride. There's an East-West street and a North-South street. Where they intersect is a four way stop. The perimeter is a one-way path counterclockwise with no stops. Riders can merge into the perimeter path of travel at any of four intersections with a stop sign. With twelve new riders it can look pretty busy. The purpose of the exercise is to give the students a taste of interacting with other traffic. They can use their powers of observation and judgement to stay out of trouble. It's exercise number 20 for us.

Another instructor sent this clip to me. He called it "Exercise 20 in Bombay". Looking at the intersection, I can see the similarities to our students. That's the background for my having the video.

At first I thought it was a crazy scene. My first reaction was "Thank God I'm not riding there. These people have no rules. This is insane. I'm sure glad I commute on a bike in a so-called civilized area!"

Then it occurred to me that nobody crashed into each other. Even though you can hear horns beeping in the background things seem to get worked out. People are assertive but not obnoxiously so. Wait a minute. There's another way to look at this.

Maybe we have too many rules. Is it possible that we don't really need what we have? Are we more civilized because we have so many rules? Or are the folks in the video more civilized because they sort of look out for one another? There's a lot of smaller bikes in the video. In fact, almost all of them are. Should we look down on them for being too poor to buy big, impressive, bikes? Or should we consider them worthy of emulation? Maybe they're the ones who've truly learned how to practically incorporate motorcycles into everyday life. That can't be anything but smart. Interesting to think about, isn't it?

Anyway, you can watch the video here and decide for yourself.

Miles and smiles



mrs road captain said...

It's total chaos...but it works! That would never happen successfully in America. One traffic light goes out and there is a traffic jam for hours!

Anonymous said...

Maybe if road users had to take more responsibility, then they would pay more attention/not use their mobile phones?
There are plenty of stories in the UK about cases where traffic lights have failed and traffic has moved faster!


Anonymous said...

I think that this show how everyone respect one another. I doubt that it would work such sytem here in the U.S. Many of us are impatience when it comes to situation like that. That is why we need rules to keep us align.

It was amusing to watch though. One rider was just an inch getting nail by another car


Bryce said...

This uncontrolled traffic is probably one heck of a lot more orderly than any of us could imagine.

Every vehicle looks out for itself.
A Dutch street planner has advocated this same policy.

In downtown areas, no traffic
signals, stop or yield signs. Crosswalks are defined by brick outlines on the road, otherwise everybody looks out for themselves.

It makes good sense which in turn
promotes a lower speed as you are
watching for the other vehicle
or pedestrian as you traverse the intersection(s).

However with most people in North America unable to think for themselves when driving (or not)
utter chaos would be the ultimate result.

Look at the area where you dwell, and tell me if the removal of
warning signs, electronic devices
or other indicators were removed, would you either on two legs
or in a heeled vehicle attempt
the area?

Hrishi said...

Hi Dan,

Thanks for the post. You got me there. My first reaction on starting to read this was that this would be another of those "Ah look at what they do there" reaction.

So, first of all, i do owe you an apology for judging the post by the first para.

Coming to the point, it definitely is not Bombay, but in all probability one of the smaller cities. It really looks like a miracle that no one gets hurt.

I use my motorcycle for commuting every day. The traffic here, in Bombay, is much more disciplined, and safer than in the video. Even i feel scared to ride in other places, since the rider dynamics are very different. One needs to understand the accepted norms for a particular place, to ride safely. Like they say, when in Rome, do as the romans do...

The concept of having no rules can work, only if everyone is considerate. It will take just *one * impatient, inconsiderate person to cause harm. Unfortunately, that is the the way traffic sense in Bombay is heading, with people yapping on their cell phones, and driving under influence...

Sad, but true....

irondad said...

Mrs. Road Captain,
You speak truly! I've experienced that many times.

Good point. People would sort of become like successful motorcyclists. They would have to take responsibility for themselves or suffer more serious consequences. The burning question is how do we get drivers there?

Have you all seen that Allstate Insurance ad where people are in the streets at desks, etc? The ad says the other road users are people, not just things in our way. Interesting take.

You bring to my mind two oxymorons. Common sense and common courtesy. Both aren't. Common, that is.

Good to hear you weigh in. I was hoping you would see where I was going. We have to respect where other people are. The other day a guy was making fun of a man from another culture. He was poking fun at the halting English. I told this man that the fellow he was mocking spoke two languages. What about him?

We should all get over the differences and share a little more. Can't help think that what we learn from each other makes us all better.

Take care,

Hrishi said...

Amen to that!