Rejoinder to the Rejoinder

While we wait for the photographic evidence..

First, off, anybody who writes for a blog that endorses and justifies violence, (just take a look at some of the comments in that post, complete with smiley-faces) deserves to be called a twit. 

When that person then goes on to claim that a road with 5 traffic lights is equivalent to a road with 2 traffic lights and a flyover, gear-ratios and sex ratios be damned, I can think of no other word than twit.  

And then, when , it is obvious to anybody who spends 5 minutes on the BRT to see the blatant violations going on all around you (photographs provided for proof which the blind man refuses to see), while you are stuck in a river of vehicles, the word twit seems to provide precision in name-calling.

For the first two critiques, I would like to state that I have driven both a car and a motorcycle on Delhi’s roads. I haven’t driven a bus though – and I suspect neither has my critic.  As for the unearned wealth – after all how else could I afford to drive both car and a motorcycle (though not both simultaneously of course)? So yes, I am a fabulously wealthy member of Delhi’s middle class with a palatial house, three cars, a motorcycle and two purebred hounds that I use when I go out on shikar in my village up in the North.

Correct, I have not driven a bus. I am assuming the second half of this para is sarcasm….

Read carefully dear reader, as this is about as deep as his analysis is likely to go.  The lack of “general road sense” is something that is independent of the BRT.  In fact, it is a good reason why we should have it.  The BRT forces buses and cycles into opposite – physically demarcated – lanes; thus reducing the major cause for fatalities on the road.

Is the aim of the BRT to provide us with a good public transport system, or as an exercise in road safety?

Thus we realise that assholes with no road sense are safer in a system that offers them less flexibility to express the full potential of their latent flaws (the same unfortunately cannot be said for blogs).

Of course they’re safer. They can’t move more than 1 cm per hour during rush hour.

If his case is that people will not follow any rules ever – then no system will work. So we should just level all the unoccupied space in Delhi and let people drive around as they please on a vast tabula rasa.

This is not, and never has been, my case. But anybody with half a brain knows that in a city like Delhi, if you want to implement something like this, you need an army of policemen and traffic wardens, and there should be a blitz of information and education given to people on how this system is supposed to work. Not just for one day. Not just for 1 month. Not just for 1 year. Those policemen, traffic wardens, the whole apparatus, it needs to be going full-time for a long,long time, to make something like this work. But as usual, there is no enforcement. The cycles, and non-motorised traffic is using car lanes. When the car lanes get absolutely choked, tons of vehicles hop into the bus lane, for which they are NOT fined, or even caught.

 I don’t see how the generally poor quality of enforcement becomes a specific problem of the BRT. Like I said, if enforcement is poor, it is poor for all systems. This my friend is called an externality.

Apart from this person not knowing the meaning of the word ‘externality’, this has got to be the dumbest statement I have heard in a long time. The reason poor enforcement becomes a specific problem for the BRT (still unable to believe I have to spell this out for you), is because it is more dependent on discipline, and people doing what they are told than the non-BRT situation. If cyclists use the car lane, and cars use the bus lane, and the buses start using the safdarjung aerodrome runway, attempting to fly, the BRT is a complete failure (but maybe the buses will start to fly, so not a complete failure).

Bicycles are not spilling out onto the main road, so the whole idea isn’t a failure. Ibid my point on using the lack of enforcement as a flaw of the BRTS, rather than a flaw of the enforcement agencies.

Right. Bicycles are not spilling out onto the main road. He’s said it. So it must be true. (Please ignore all photographic evidence. It has been faked, apparently). And as stated above, and what shall be restated now, lack of enforcement is not a ‘flaw of the BRT’, it is a flaw which ensures that the BRT will basically be a failure, and ensure misery for all, except for the VIP cars who will get use it whenever they feel like. And our friend thinks this means that there won’t be any more roadblocks and whatnot as the VIP cars will be in dedicated lane. Again, if you’ve actually driven in Delhi, you know the police disable traffic lights, and stop all traffic to let the VIPs through. This throws the whole system out of whack. Giving them a dedicated lane doesn’t change anything.  Why should VIPs get special consideration at all is the question that should be asked. Why should they be called VIPs in the first place? Again, these are the ‘hard’ questions. The one that involves changes in the system, which may take upto 100 years, and lots of ‘angry young men’ (and women of course). But our author doesn’t want to deal with those, of course.

Yes there is guidance. Perhaps you have seen black and white strips painted on the road near traffic lights?  These designs are not, as you might think, an expression of abstract art. These are called Zebra Crossings.  This does not mean that they are designed specifically for moving Zebras from one side of the road to the other, you can use them as well.  The “Zebra” refers to the black and white pattern – which is similar to the pattern found on Zebras. A Zebra is a large horse-like animal with the aforementioned stripes.
The BRT also has pedestrian traffic signals. If you travel along it – you will find at least one dedicated pedestrian signal (apart from integrated pedestrian signals) and traffic marshals to help you cross the road.  Hmm…. I am beginning to see a pattern here: it  appears that our critic has never been a pedestrian.

Above we came across the dumbest statement I’ve ever heard. Let me revise that. Hmm, ok, let’s see. We painted white stripes on a road. Now everyone will cross only on those white strips. Just like the vehicles stay between the other white stripes – the ones demarcating lanes. And just like people actually stop when they see that red colour in that thing by the side of the road. Ah what lovely ‘guidance’.

As for the poor traffic marshals – do they have any power of enforcement? Can they fine someone? Issue a ticket? No? Well, they are, then, in effect, impotent wizards, waving their red wands in thin air, but producing no magic.

Who told him there is no fine for doing so? Of course there is. Perhaps our critic is one of those who drives noisy cars with tinted windows and  zooms off without paying fines.

Again, the question that should be asked is: Has anyone told anyone there is a fine for breaking the segregation (i.e. cars using the bus lane) ? Once upon a time, there used be signs under red lights, telling people they would be fined for crossing the red lights. Is there even ONE such sign anywhere on the BRT stretch? How about a traffic policeman who is ticketing people with this so-called fine? I still do not think there is a fine for breaking the lane. I have yet to see any public information on this.

Apparently, the fact that close to two thirds of the commuters along that stretch travel by bus – and do so in relative comfort and safety, is of no interest to him.  He assumes that a majority travels by car – and so a majority is affected.

For starters, I dispute the statistic that the number is 2/3. But even if it is 2/3, that is not the point. ‘They get to travel in relative comfort and safety’. They could do this even without the BRT – that just requires new buses, and possibly just a cycle / non-motorised transport lane.

There is however a problem there as well, since the number of cars is not constant. As we know, Delhi adds a 1000 cars a day to its roads. Therefore to compare before and after stats might be misleading.  However comparing two parallel roads – i.e. August Kranti and BRT – offers us a useful side-by-side comparison, which is what I have done.

IF the number of cars added is true, which I seriously doubt, then it should be extremely simple to account for the car growth when studying a before and after scenario. But to compare to ‘parallel’ roads the way this guy has done is not befitting somebody who is paanchvi pass. Despite that, I would actually say that the average speed on the BRT these days is MUCH, MUCH faster than August Kranti Marg. But the other thing is…IT ALWAYS WAS, even pre-BRT. And now, because most people have abandoned the BRT for other, possibly longer, routes, the road is still empty – at certain, off-peak times.

Finally he accuses me of not acknowledging that green cover in Delhi has increased. I’m sorry, but the point I’m making is that trees improve the quality of the air and roads detract from it. What is amazing is that after nagging on about how cars need more space, he accuses me of being anti-environment. The point about trees being cut for the BRT should be seen in the context of the trees cut to make flyovers to help car drivers drive longer and more unsustainable distances at clearly unsustainable speeds.  If I erred in not pointing out the trees lost to the BRT, he errs in not pointing out those lost to the flyovers.

Ah, but I don’t err in this case. The majority of flyovers in this city are constructed over intersections. There aren’t many trees near road intersections. Not many trees were felled to make way for the flyovers. If we have the BRT go the whole hog in Delhi has Sheila dearest wants, then that will mean a lot of trees along central verges and roadsides will be cut.

Finally, this whole idea was always doomed to failure, because it does not solve the real problem. The real problem is that the people who are sitting in those cars, should not be sitting in them. They should be sitting in buses (and, thank the Lord, the Metro, when it finally makes it to these parts). That is precisely why this post is about me, me, me. Delhi doesn’t need a fancy-shmancy bus system.

  • It just needs buses which stop at bus stops,
  • Buses with low floors and air-conditioning.
  • Buses that will use contactless smart cards
  • Buses that aren’t over-crowded

As a despicable, middle-class taxpayer, I have a right to object to any stupid idea the government attempts to foist on me, as it will affect me directly. So when I see that money being wasted on destroying what was a perfectly good road for a half-baked system that currently takes the bus from nowhere to nowhere <- Nowhere to nowhere in MY narrow universe, I will object. But it’s not just me, it’s my whole ‘class’ apparently that is this misguided. Again – The aim of any public transport exercise should be to get people OUT of their cars. We shouldn’t have to shudder or tremble at the thought of having to get onto a bus, or groan about the next 60 minutes of our life wasted trying to find an auto rickshaw. Of course, our communist friends believe we should all be ‘equal’ and endure the same ‘hardship’ that the ‘masses’ are forced to go through. Clean, comfy seats, air-conditioning, and buses actually stopping at bus-stops are for wimps. I am glad that the guy who went ahead invented the cellphone didn’t subscribe that attitude. I wonder how the ‘masses’ feel about that particular invention….

All the government had to do, was scrap the blueline system, and issue 2/3/4 licenses to provide bus services in Delhi, like they did for cellphones (and which they are in the process of doing as the blueline permits expire. I think). The rest would, for the most part take care of itself. With a little nudging, of course. That, and find a solution to the autorickshaw problem. If that means handing all autos over to a unified entity, then so be it. If it means just proper enforcing, then do it. But no. They would rather just do a ‘drive’ which is the equivalent of the annual trip the chowkidaar makes to your doorstep, asking for money.

Of course, with the Metro coming to South Delhi, this discussion will become academic. To a great extent, the BRT and buses augment the Metro, not compete with it (which, of course, is the govt’s aim for C’wealth Games, and also why there is finally a unified solution for transport in the form of DIMTS).

But again, simply transplanting Bogota to New Delhi was never going to work.

More pictures on pedestrians, and lane-segregation-breakers coming.

 

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4 comments

  1. Phoenix

    Dear Aarti,
    this blog doesn’t function at your whim and fancy. While I cannot speak for what you do with your time, I generally tend to take a vacation around the festive season, because I have better things to do than put your in your place, and that means that I will post all comments trackbacks and whatnot whenever the hell I feel like it.

    My claim about Kafila is not unfounded at all. In the post I refer to, in fact, Shivam Vij had to reprimand one of your commentors for what he was saying as inciting and approving of violence. Further, in the body of the post itself, NOWHERE in that post does it say anywhere that the murdering of a man is an unfortunate incident. As that despicable sample of human being of an author seems to state: ‘the party is over’ and ‘there were no other avenues open’ and the ‘cheerleaders of capital had it coming’. This is disgusting language, and if I replace ‘mistreated workers ‘with ‘islamic funadmentalists’ or ‘frustrated hindus’, then the arguments in that post sound exactly like what the idiot shiv sena or Indian Majhideen use.

    Whether or not your site approves trackbacks or not does not change the funadmental nature of the kind of people that you are. Just because you don’t use abuses that I do, you are far quicker to judge people by their actions, divide people by class, justify the actions of anyone so long they don’t have a full stomach, and basically treat ‘the middle class’ and ‘the rich’ with disdain and a patronising tone, dismissing these people as below human. I am simply matching that tone, but doing it in a language more fitting of your intellectual level.

  2. Aarti

    Dear Tarun,

    Perhaps you would be interested in a response. I notice you have neither approved my comment, nor the trackback to Aman’s rejoinder. I wonder why. If you are actually interested in getting into a debate, then don’t you think you should express some fidelity to your own beliefs in free speech? Or free speech only extends to yourself, I presume? I take strong exception to your contention that Kafila supports violence. If you actually spent some time reading the posts on Kafila you will see that in the past we have taken strong positions against violence: whether it emanates from the far-left or the far-right. And I notice that having made this totally unsubstantiated claim, you do not not even allow me to counter your allegation.

    So much for your free-market fundamentalism. Clearly the market of ideas in your case is highly controlled. You would be the delight of Stalinists everywhere.

    On the contrary, you will notice, despite our being “communist fanatics”, we happily and freely approve trackbacks to abusive posts by you. There is an old saying, if you can’t take the heat don’t get into the kitchen.

    Warm regards
    Aarti

  3. Pingback: Buses, bad ideas and Bambi « Kafila
  4. Aarti

    Nowhere does Aditya justify violence and you know it. The”smileys” you point to occur in four places: one where Manash corrects my spelling of his name, the second where I end a comment on the nature of the commodity, the third where Manash speaks of Umberto Eco and misreading and the fourth where I query Prashant on an interpretation of his comment.

    Truly they must be the sinister grimaces of the rich-hating communist fanatics that people Kafila!

    regards
    Aarti

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