The most common comment you hear from westerners visiting India is : “There are no lanes in India”. Of course this is only beaten by the other popular expression “There are cows on the roads”. You might not hear these from Hillary Clinton because she has been here before and she also has a bigger agenda.
Now let’s talk about traffic lanes. There are three things about traffic lanes in India which you should be aware of – whether you are visiting or driving. I haven’t travelled in all parts of India, but I have travelled enough to draw out three abstract things which can be applied across the sub-continent.
There are no lanes in India
Get used to it.
Though it sounds like I have a bone to pick with whoever says that expression, it is in fact true. I know hypocrisy is the word you are looking for, but that should be just fine.
The only real lanes you see on the road are logical lanes. Like a car behind a car or a bus behind a bus. Guess what? This is working amazingly well in India. Soon there will be a 16 lane highway between Gurgaon and Delhi. That would transform to some 25 lanes people use.
There are lane demarcation lines in quite a few parts of the cities but these are often viewed as beautification projects by the passersby. They hardly get the respect they deserve. In fact they would be derided for wasting tax payers money for petty things like painting the roads which would come off during the monsoons. There are white dotted lines, white solid lines and yellow dotted lines.
White dotted lines translates to waste, Solid line translates to double the waste and yellow is “getting cute, are we now”?
Signal after or during, not before
Lane changing, though a misnomer, is an art. Not science, not intuition, and definitely not common sense. Lane changing is 87% art and 13% guts. You can do all the right things like signaling your intentions, checking the lane for free passage, turning your head to check the blind spot and still might find another vehicle just kissing your vehicle.
Thesere are no rules to lane changing. These are some observations.
If you signal and then try to turn, chances are, the vehicle behind you will be alerted and wouldn’t want to cede even few inches for an out of the Towner. The real way to do this is to check the feasibility, don’t signal, get into the desired lane like may be 20% and then signal. The vehicle would have been alerted but you are already in so the inches have to be ceded. At best you might get a honk back at your feat. You can always take that as a compliment.
The probability of you changing lanes without signaling is much higher than the probability of changing lanes after signaling. Now this is a dangerous affair and don’t try it yourself just to prove me wrong. You can disagree with me in the comments and I will take your word for it.
Now that you are equipped don’t expect that you are the only game in the town. In fact this is the game everyone already plays. So expect some of this lane changing and signaling in front of you too.
If you signal before, expect delay
People might either be too scared to test above hypothesis or might just be too uptight and follow rules. Then they might expect delays. Sometimes very long delays.
This is not to say that no one ever respects a signal. Some do and some will. One might have to get lucky to find such a tailgater. But good luck anyway.
The idiosyncrasies of traffic lanes in India will continue to prosper. If you have any tips or such experiences, please share as a comment.