How poorly managed construction & traffic is causing woes to road users

Traffic rapidly started piling up, and was at a complete standstill for 30+ minutes.

BHPian Mustang Sammy recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

Today I and a couple thousand others had the misfortune of being stuck at LBS road for almost an hour. The reason can be seen below.

A BEST bus had broken down in the left lane, and another bus attempted to jam itself into the right lane from the wrong angle, getting stuck as a result, as its space was constrained by the metro construction barricades. Traffic rapidly started piling up, and was at a complete standstill for 30+ minutes. Then our two wheeled and some three wheeled friends started turning around and driving in the wrong direction, which I am sure didn’t help the situation behind me.

Broken down bus in the left lane, idiot in the right. Squint and you can see the excavator in front.

The Mumbai traffic police woke up at some point, and commandeered a JCB excavator to try to pull the bus out (no tow trucks available??) but failed.

They did manage to get the bus in the right lane to un-jam itself, and traffic started moving again.

I am sure this story has repeated itself in other parts of Mumbai, and in other towns and cities around the country.

BS6.2 or not, this is BS

What would have helped:

  • Proper bus maintenance: BEST is far from being the worst in this regard, but it is depressingly common to see a broken down bus on city roads.
  • Better construction planning: Our roads are narrow anyway, and the metro barricades and construction makes things exponentially worse, as it is planned and executed with no regard to the flow of traffic or pedestrians.
  • Considerate drivers: In most other countries people self-regulate in traffic jams, letting alternate vehicles pass before entering the open lane. Here it is every man, woman (and scarily sometimes child) for themselves – get ahead at any cost without regard to others.
  • Smaller buses: These will be better able to navigate our dug up cities and narrow lanes. Am seeing more of them on the road, but too many buses are still large unwieldy monsters.


Here’s what BHPian vigsom had to say on the matter:

Metro construction will probably never stop in major cities; the headaches will just shift from one area to another. As an example, Chennai faced huge traffic woes when the first phase metro construction was on (around 2011-13). Now the pain has been transferred to Arcot Road and OMR. Mumbai and Bengaluru will see the same.

Having used BEST extensively in the 90s, I can safely say that the then RUBY and ANTONY built coaches were of optimal width – just the right width to accommodate a 2×2 seating with an aisle (the older BEST regular and double Decker coaches were both just the right width). Later, coaches on Tata and Leyland chassis, built under JNURM and otherwise, were impractically wide making navigation even in normal traffic a pain. This extra width did not translate to extra comfort. I opine that width of all buses must be optimized to make the job easy for both the drivers and fellow road users. Some private sleeper coaches, and the latest Volvo 9600 can be cited at examples of optimum width (I don’t have measurements but to the eye, they look just the right width).

Here’s what BHPian am1m had to say on the matter:

I’m very puzzled by why city transport corporations don’t buy mini-buses and tempos. For a city like Bangalore, with narrow side-roads, those will work well for last-mile connectivity. I’ve even seen private company transport mini-buses and tempos moonlighting (illegally) in the morning and evenings carrying passengers (non-company employees) and doing quite well.

There must be some economies of scale reason, or per passenger unit cost why the official city transport departments don’t follow suit. But to me this makes better sense than the bigger buses for city transport.

Here’s what BHPian NomadSK had to say on the matter:

I can completely understand your plight, read on.

There’s no straight answer to this precarious condition. It is not easy to drive among Trucks, Buses, Autos, Bikes, Tractors, Bicycles, Carts, Animals and Humans. Everyone is a projectile of different speed in different directions. It’s a Real Life BNCAP testing conditions. We drive like a serpentine in motion or an Oprah performing on a stage. We have developed eyes of Chameleons which could help us see nearly 360 degrees. Our knees and ankles will out-run any mechanical part in fatigue testing. Trucks with protruding bars/materials is letting us to know how a real 3d Movie should feel. Our nerves have become of steel and don’t forget the disregard for the traffic signals which is there to waste our “crucial” time. One good thing, you won’t get Driving Hypnosis, because it will always keep you on your toes. (I mean on Clutch/Brakes)

While our Transport minister is busy constructing super-fast highways and roads, the police takes pleasure to congest these roads by barricading or installing non-engineered traffic calming devices (Just read a thread here of Barrels for traffic calming). The decision makers in our country doesn’t know whether they want us to go fast or slow. The priorities are misplaced. Design on paper/codes/standards pose a rosy picture and is an altogether different meaning than that what is being implemented on the roads. Anywhere seen 3.5m for a single pavement width and with extra shoulders. For that width, a bus, a car and a cycle guy will be fighting for the space. Do you think a smaller bus would help? Whenever a road gets blocked by traffic (or any other reason), we could discover an alternative route quicker than an ant. Sorry to say, but we have just grown tolerant to this type of system. Nobody teaches us in detail on how to drive or ride on Indian roads, except few basics that is how to protect ourselves on the roads and to reach point B anyhow.

In cities, we have to share the roads with walking guys at 3kmph, cycles at 7kmph, Rickshaw at 30kmph, buses/trucks at 40kmph and finally the cars which can easily go at 80+. The problem lies in sharing the infrastructure with all kind of slow and fast vehicles and then we have speed breakers (non-regulated ones) to slow everything down. Many bikers/rickshaws/drivers have special rights to cut abruptly into lanes without any signals -They can start and stop suddenly wherever they wish -Some of our countrymen would suddenly cross the road testing the limit of our reaction time. Roadworthiness of vehicles is no consideration in India, because maintenance costs money and we aren’t ready to spend a dime on that. If it works it works. Do you think we are environmentalists when we say “kitna deti hai”.

Who said we are just humans? When we drive on Indian roads — we are more powerful than normal human beings. It’s very rightly said that if you drive on Indian roads and come back home without raising your anger quotient, voice or blood pressure, you have truly attained NIRVANA.

Should I start on License/Traffic Police/Traffic Fines/Honking/Construction Practices/Poor Design, Oh No, let me leave it at that. I sincerely hope driving experience becomes a pleasure one day. Till then I would just say, “Patience is a Virtue.”

Sorry for the Rant, Reason is I just drove in India last week.

Check out BHPian comments for more insights and information.

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