Bangalore traffic: A Survival guide

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Driving in Bangalore? It’s a myth. Who says one can drive in Bangalore? And even if you do, you have the wrong kind of car for Bangalore traffic. It’s high time carmakers started making city-specific cars. Here are a few handy tips on how you can survive Bangalore traffic.

bangalore driving guide

Over the years, the traffic volume has expanded in Bangalore many-fold, but the roads have remained just the same. So much so, it takes specific skills, dear readers, to drive in Bangalore.

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Guideline #1: One way or my way

I’m an infrequent Bangalore driver now. And I pride myself of my photographic memory of roads in the city. But every time I am in Bangalore, I find a new one way. I once ended up on a road which had a sign that indicated “no left turn”, “no right turn” and “no straight ahead traffic” – that’s when I realized I had been driving up the wrong way on a one way street, which I distinctly remember as being the right way around when I last visited the city.

Guideline #2: Measuring distances

In Bangalore, people never measure the distance between two points in the city in kilometers. Instead they talk minutes and hours. For instance, the distance between the new Bangalore airport and Richmond Town is 45 minutes, but can increase to 1.5 hours unexpectedly. Similarly the distance between MG Road and Richmond Road is about 25 minutes by car or about 15 minutes by foot (scientifically it’s just 2 kilometers, but never mind).

Guideline #3: Keep no distance

In driving school they teach you to keep at least one-car length distance between the car in front and the one you are driving. In Bangalore, if you do so, you’ll find that you will remain stationary for the better part of the day if you do so. Every 10 mm of space that you yield between the car in front and you, will be instantly filled by one autorickshaw, one motorcycle and half a scooter.

Guideline #4: Seek no speed

So you have this swanky six-speed sedan that can do 0-60 in under 5 seconds and promises over 20 kmpl? Forget it. All you need in Bangalore is a 2-speed sedan that can do 0-60 in 5 minutes… oh, wait, that’s also too powerful.

Guideline #5: Workout on the go

I wonder why more people do not buy automatic cars in Bangalore. Probably it’s because driving is an exercise in fitness itself. With the crawling bumper to bumper traffic and many roads with slopes, your feet are constantly doing a three-legged dance on the pedals. One can easily spot a Bangalorean by the size of his calf muscles from the constant clutch work out. One can also easily spot a Bangalore car, by the number of clutch repairs it’s had in its lifetime.

Guideline #6: Seek no mileage

The general rule of buying a diesel car for high-milers does not really apply to Bangalore. In Bangalore, because of Guideline #2, anyone driving even kilometers a day now needs a diesel car that gives a fuel economy of over 20 minutes per litre. A car that has claimed fuel efficiency of 15 kmpl on diesel in “city” traffic, would barely chalk up 10 kmpl in Bangalore during the day. Again, when buying a car for Bangalore, forget about the number of gears it has, you don’t need more than two speeds at best. Speedometers in Bangalore need not have kilometers per hour – they should be calibrated in meters per hour.

Guideline #7: Watch out for car breakers

Speed breakers in Bangalore come in three sizes – wheel-breakers, car-breakers and back-breakers. The first kind are actually rumble strips, that are unpainted, unmarked and neatly camouflaged by the road. The most-common kind are car breakers, which are speed breakers the size of road dividers that emerge out of nowhere (signage is virtually non-existent) and you only know of their existence after you hear a sickening crunch of the underbelly hitting the apex. And then there’s the third kind, the back breakers, an example of which I recall in Jayanagar 4th Block in Bangalore, which had the capability of launching any car into the air, only to have detrimental effects on the spines of passengers.

Guideline #8: Subterranean exploration

When driving in Bangalore especially during the rains, watch out for whirlpools and fountains as you cruise down the waterways that were formerly roads. These are indicative of open manholes or a pre-historic BMC project that is still being researched or wrapped up tightly in red-tape.

Guideline #9: Light is might

The brighter your lights the mightier you are. With many street lights remaining non-functional in many parts of town, you really need light to see where you are going. The problem is so does the oncoming car (and most interior roads are non-divided, 2-way traffic). The one with the brighter light wins. Low-beam? What’s that?

Guideline #10: Communication skills

Driving in Bangalore requires communication skills. At a traffic signal, before the light turns green, honk so that the car ahead gets moving. If you are the first car at a signal, don’t worry about watching the light. You’ll know, because within a taxi-second of it turning green, you’ll hear the orchestra of horns urging you to move. If at all you engage yourself in a verbal duel with a fellow motorist, one of the easiest ways to get off the hook is to just turn on a 1000-watt smile and say “Solpa adjust maadi”.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to exaggerate the traffic problems in Bangalore, and is in no way meant to hurt the sensibilities of Bangaloreans. It comes from personal experience of the traffic.

Please post any further driving tips you may have for driving in Bangalore.

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