Feb 25, 2006

Delhi delite/destroyed? U decide!

A friend wrote me this email:

I just spent a week in Delhi and was both thrilled and filled with trepidation. Thrilled because of the clean wide roads, a mecca for riders coming from the day-in-day-out bumper-to-bumper break-a-back traffic-ed cities like Bombay.

Delhi poses a delightful 'track' situation for motorcycle riders given the roundabouts and the considerably lesser number of traffic lights vis-a-vis Bombay. Quite frankly I think it's ideal for a kind of abridged tourist trophy without too many corners but nice sweeping roundabouts on tarmac, and not bloody concrete.

But what you taketh with one hand in glee, you giveth with another for free! A kind of zero sum game. Despite the enormous amount of space on the roads for everyone to comfortably stay out of each others' path, I am sure the number of vehicles with dents, scrapes, broken lights etc. are at least 50% lower in Bombay. Same goes for public transport like buses and autos. Not a single one of them is without some form of scarring.

These buses and autos were upgraded after the supreme court order in 1998 to compulsory CNG, latest by April 2001 and which was extended till December 2002. However, with the shortage of gas, most of the conversions took place nearer the deadline. But in the short span of 3-4 years since, the buses and autos all look like they have been running for the last 20 years and due for scrapping.

This only points to the poor regard that motorists in Delhi have for their vehicles. And let's not even mention safety awareness. Talking on the cell and not wearing seat belts is rampant. While people in Bombay at least use Bluetooth devices to avoid getting caught. Delhi, being the political capital, flouts these rules blatantly.

In addition, I didn't notice a single rider wearing any reknowned brand of helmet, especially the new ones like AGV, Bieffe, Safetymet etc. Maybe they have not yet been launched. [actually, Bieffe is made in Delhi, and AGV is definitely available there] They can be excused for that, but I don't think it would make much of a difference.

If it is a delay in launch, then it also points to the low expectations that these brands have for offtake in Delhi. This, in a city with the more than the number of vehicles of Bombay, Chennai and Calcutta combined.

Which brings to mind a scary thought...will the hugely expensive, ultra-modern Metro go the same route! I hope not!

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