Ashish has written a post, It’s summer so it must be road rage. As far as I know only he can argue why Indians don’t need more number of psychiatrists because they make good use of their vehicle’s horns!!
The bad news is that Natasha Mitchell, reporting for ABC news has reported that India has only 3500 psychiatrists; that is something like one psychiatrist to every three million of us Indians. In comparison the US has something like one psychiatrist to a few thousand.
The good news is that the burgeoning middle class now owns 80 million motorized vehicles and at the last count almost all of them had a functional horn. Our friend Natasha need not be alarmed at the lack of mental health alternatives in the country, we have 80 million horns and pounding all of those should lead to a copious catharsis and consequently well rounded individuals.
The average commuter on a day honks 20 times; From the crickety tweet of the Bajaj scooter to the brain curdling staccato of the pressure horn on your friendly neighborhood blue line. So that would amount to 1.6 billion honks a day or about 500 billion honks a year. Now that is quite something.
Honks is one thing, but road rage that seems to transform bovine looking middle aged gentlemen into Gabbar Singh on steroids is quite another. The honks and the road rage define the problem as one of competence, essentially saying that people don’t know how to drive and are basically stupid and need to be told as much and as loud as possible. Now this may be true in parts, given the way driving tests are conducted and the licenses procured but there is also another element. There seems to be a basic design/requirements flaw in the way we model/design and implement transportation systems.
Back in the early 90′s we were doing a course on transportation planning in IIT Delhi. Now in one of the labs we were supposed to compute the volume of traffic at the Hauz Khas crossing near IIT gate. The volume of traffic would have been an input to modeling a transportation system or its components (say a round about or a merge lane). The way to compute the volume of traffic is rather simplistic, at least for that lab students man different corners of an intersection and then simply count the number of vehicles over a period of time and come up with the volume defined in vehicles/hour. You could do it at different times to factor in rush
hours and lean periods but essentially at the end of the day someone would need to stand and count the number of vehicles.
Now the problem as I see it today is that we counted only the cars, that’s correct only the cars. If you take a cross section of traffic on any road, there are at least a dozen types of vehicles and we are not even talking about the extremes of vehicle types that can be found while crossing Bhangel in NOIDA. There is the scooter, the bus, the truck, the auto, the cycle, the curiously titled private carrier which actually is the lifeline for small merchants, it is easy to see a tractor, some indigenously crafted vehicles that is called rather appropriately “jugad” in western U.P. and of course the pedestrians. There will be the RTV the rural transport vehicle and a whole bunch of others.
In short the requirements analysis of the phase missed out on all except a few use-cases and we know what that means, chaos during implementing the project and customers screaming after the implementations. Now you know why we honk it is the primordial scream of a dissatisfied customer. Ideally it should be directed towards the folks who failed to read the usecases.
Dr Geetam Tiwari is a professor at IIT Delhi for the center of transport studies. She has been publishing a number of research papers and has been on the media NDTV did a short story on her that deals with this issue. Essentially, she says that our transport systems are unsustainable the most important elements of traffic are pedestrians, the cycle and the non motorized rickshaws and our models of transport systems are rather blindly copied from developed nations who have a much more uniform traffic pattern and do not factor-in all the other use-cases.
Obviously the solution to this problem is a well near impossible one. one cannot just do away with all the roads and then build again, you’d need some political will apart from technological challenges to fit all these disparate vehicles (motorized and non-motorized) into a serene smooth traffic flow.
But that is another story- what we could do when that hand moves towards the horn or you get the itch to mouth some of the choicest remember the guy you are screaming at was probably not at the requirement analysis committee when they were designing this road.