Buses, Bad Ideas and Bambi

Some say that if you give a man a long enough rope, he will eventually hang himself. Others say that when you’re in a hole; stop digging. Given the stubbornness of our friend from a 2.5 world country, chances are he will be one of the first to hang himself in a hole.  A truly horrible image that – but worry not fair readers; he can still be saved yet.

Scrolling through his latest rejoinder appears frighteningly like watching your neighbour’s child – in the other building across the road – assemble a shaky platform of poorly imagined arguments, test the strength of his rope of ignorance, throw it about his neck in an attempt to force his parents to say they are sorry for screaming at him and then, just as he is getting what he wants – HORROR. The platform is shaking, the legs are trembling, the noose is tightening, are his parents even watching? And then suddenly you can almost hear this crack that makes you want to scream STOP!!!

But hold on, before we get emotional let’s go back to that footage one more time… What is the man saying?

Perhaps we could start with a memorable quote:

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

he asks with wide eyed innocence.  Ah my friend, if you were just the dumb wide-eyed animal you sound like, I would call you “Bambi” and ask Disney to work you into their next cartoon.  But alas, since you aren’t, I will just have to point out that 2000 people died on Delhi’s roads last year – of which pedestrians and cyclists accounted for 53 percent.  Car drivers – such as our friend – accounted for only 3 percent.  So perhaps he could consider asking the question to people who take buses; I have a hunch that they would put safety pretty high up on their criteria for selecting a good transport system.

He then disputes my statistics – which come from DIMTS, the vehicle registration office (the RTO), the Delhi Police (for accident data) and DIMTS/CSE data on ridership.  It seems he disputes the fact that two thirds of the commuters on the BRT stretch use the bus.  He also disputes the fact that Delhi adds a 1000 cars a day to its roads – a figure derived from vehicle registration statistics.  Why? Because he just does; and in Bambi land people get to dispute things just because they want to and feel like.  And in Bambi-land people get to make wishes and sometimes they even come true …

Then we are faced with an impregnable thicket of logic. He refuses to accept the validity of comparing traffic on parallel roads – one with BRT, and another without – a proposition that seems fairly plausible to me and then makes a stunning volte-face on the average traffic speed on the BRT stretch.  After whinging, and whining and sulking and crying about how messed up the BRT is, he says

“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.”

Okay, so according to our author the BRT is much much faster than its comparable non-BRT parallel stretch. But that is due to the fact that it always was so. So in that case, the BRT has not affected traffic flow, at least not by much. And even if it has – it is still faster than alternative routes. Not only is it faster – it is also more convenient for 2/3rds of all commuters. So, to belabor a point – WHAT WAS THE FUSS ABOUT?

A further analysis of this marvellous piece of logic suggests that people are somehow insisting on taking other routes, despite the fact that the BRT is faster – out of spite I presume; and so, the BRT is getting faster and faster, while the other roads are getting slower and slower; till one day the entire city shall stand still and watch buses zip along Delhi’s only demarcated strip. Wow – dystopia ho toh aisa.

While I am at it, I would like to unpack his foolish notions about public transport and communism. See, the “public” in public transport is not the same as the “public” in Public Sector Enterprise. Yes yes I know the two are spelled the same and sound the same – but trust me – they denote different objectives. One day when you are old enough, you will find many such words, like … say .. “lead”. One the one hand, lead could mean “to show the way” – like you do when you write such illuminating posts; “lead” could be the black shiny stuff in your pencil, but, and this is important, it is not made of “lead” – which is the poisonous post-transition metal that is found in paint in old houses.

So coming back to public – in public transport – it basically refers to vehicles that are not owned by their passengers. See? Simple! It has nothing to do with the government owning them. So everyone who supports public transport is not a communist.  Remember – 2/3rds of Delhi travels by bus. If they were all communists, the CPIM would be dancing from the roof tops. So, anyone who has travelled by an airline – any airline, public or private – has used public transport. Anyone who goes on a luxury cruise. Hell anyone who takes the cable car in Ooty (is it still there?) uses public transport. So don’t worry –  you can have a private company running the BRT and you can travel in it everyday, and i will still support it.

And finally his pictures. I have reproduced them below – I hope he doesn’t mind. Note: These are his images; and if he objects, I shall be happy to remove them.

In looking at his pictures, I finally see the stuff our young Bambi is made off. Now don’t be fooled by his doe-eyed demeanour.  Our Bambi is no namby pamby.  He is a warrior – in fact he is a real Arjun kind of guy.  Arjun – for those of us who watched the Mahabharat on DD – was the sort of chap who when asked what he saw, invariably replied that he saw the “eye of the bird”, the target, the dead-centre.  Admirable as that might be, I never really warmed to Arjun and his band of brothers; I am more of a Karn kind of guy myself. To be honest, I always thought Arjun was a bit of a wanker: always whining to Krishna, completely insecure about his craft, when he realised that Karn was probably better than him, he went whining to Dad – who stripped Karn of his armour.  Really third rate stuff if you ask me.

Karn, on the other hand – completely different. Karn was a big picture kind of guy – he knew that the Mahabharata was just another great game – it didn’t really matter if you won or lost, what was important was to get out this realm. So he saw the bird’s eye, but he could also tell the woods from the trees.

Which brings me to his photographs: I really must applaud him – it must have taken some patience to sneak up on the cyclist, keep one hand on the steering and, at the decisive moment, shoot with a steady hand. And I must admit – he shot the bird fair square. Though not in the eye (it appears he shot it in the ass). Well done Arjun – may the heavens shower petals on you.

But what would Karn see? Karn would see that the road around the cyclist is EMPTY. Its empty guys – its 8:30 AM, Bambi is heading to work, its rush hour on the supposedly worst stretch of road in Delhi, and waddyaknow? It’s empty. Ouch. But wait! I know! Its empty because everyone thinks its full. So everyone is on the parallel road – which is jam packed like you wouldn’t believe; while this road – that everyone thinks is full – is empty enough to drive an army convoy through.
Of course I am willing to believe that traffic will build up. I know it will – but when you spend a week and a half taking photos, you need to come up with some better evidence.
So what is the moral of the story? The moral is that cars expand to fill up existing road space.  The only option is a well planned public transport system. And if you can’t come around to accepting that – there is always, the rope, the hole, and the foolish child.

2 thoughts on “Buses, Bad Ideas and Bambi”

  1. Sethi, I am picking myself up off the floor. But a small detail that has missed your otherwise sharp and discerning eyes. In a comment on his last post our friend made a big to-do about telling us:

    “2) I don’t own a car, be it luxury, or not. So, the BRT is meant to be benefiting me the most. Can’t wait until the Metro opens its line to Gurgaon. Then finally we will have some real public transport, instead of this sham.”

    And yet the photographs he shows us are clearly taken from a car. Perhaps the car belongs to his daddy and he merely drives it….

    In over ten days, is this all he could find?? One cyclist on an empty road, and one thelawala also on an empty road? All this evidence shows is that we should have the BRT on every road in the city.

    Besides whining on about why he’s not a VIP he seems to have little else to add to this discussion.

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  2. What a jerk this Bambi is. On any given day, I could top this with pictures of fleets of SUVs swanning down the bus lane. and then there’s the Delhi car owner’s droit du seigneur over the sidewalk in front of/adjacent to their home. once i tumbled off the footpath and twisted my ankle because such a four-wheel-vehicle-borne lord had constructed a sloping cement ramp to make it easier to roll his car on top of it. Saubhik chakrabarti /the indian express are both astonishing for their amazing talent at calling something the opposite of what clear-eyed ratiocination would judge it to be. If “elitist” does not describe a crew of self-serving editors denouncing something that benefits 65% of the public, I don’t know what does.

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