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I just returned from a work trip to India. People drive all over the road and use their horn as a turn signal. Pedestrians, ox carts, hand carts, bikes, scooter, motorcycles, rickshaws, cars, and buses all somehow share the roads-- completely ignoring lane markings. Most intersections are uncontrolled, and the largest vehicle has the right of way. Everyone drives on the "wrong" side of the road in the British tradition. It was scary at night, since no bikes use lights, yet with millions of people they are out- and the sun sets rather early down near the equator. Air pollution is nasty.

Motorcycles are the vehicle of the middle class- who still cannot afford cars. Women ride scooters so their sarees can flow (they are step-through scooters). It is not unusual to see a family of four piled onto a motorcycle. Women usually sit side-saddle on motorcycles. Once someone buys a motorcycle, they won't be caught dead on a bike for fear people will assume they can't afford a motorized vehicle.

Bikes ofter carry passengers- usually sitting side-saddle on a robust rack. Sometimes two children will be transported- one on the top tube and one on the rack. I never saw anyone wearing a bike helmet.

Bikes are also used to deliver water (nobody drinks from tap water here), propane, bags of rice, plywood, fruits, almost anything. The city is almost flat, so it seems to work.






(Streetside bike repair)






Loading propane tanks on bikes for home delivery.
 

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Love the post

It's nice to see pictures from the other side of the fence.

It's kind of weird to see a tree growing out of a curb?

And the guy with the fruit? I hope he doesnt hit a bump...

Great pictures... :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I am not making this up, but on the main boulevard- the major thoroughfare through the city, they have trees growing out of the middle of the lanes! They pave around the trees- big ones, then paint white stripes around the trunk up to about 6 feet so you can see them better at night. I about freaked when I first saw them.

The infrastructure is a disaster. All the major power transformers are located in plain sight, almost within reach-- at major intersections (usually with hand painted danger signs). We had power outages constantly- which our UPSes can handle- but try having no AC when it is close to 100F most of the time. The power fluctuations are so bad we need voltage regulators on everything as well. And this is Chennai- in the IT corridor where things are considered "great."

While you may have heard of their emerging middle class- it is nothing like in America or Europe. I avoided taking any photos in the slums- which are beyond belief. I have a lot more non-biking photos on my blog. Also- here is a photo of a tsunami refugee camp... and how many years ago was that?

 

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MB1 said:
There but the grace of god.......

Guess we don't have it all that bad afterall.
Actually, there are more millionaires in US dollars in India than people living in France--- and India has more middle class people than live in the US. But with well over a billion people, there are a huge number of people living in unimaginable poverty-- and the Hindu religion does little to address it, as people are considered to deserve their plight through their karma. Strange stuff.

I read in the Hindu that with rising gas prices, people were concerned, but reluctant to bike because it is so dangerous. There are no bike lanes- actually there are almost no parks or green spaces anywhere. The rivers are like sewers. It would be insane to attempt any form of recreational or road biking. It just isn't done--- never mind that fact that the temp fluctuates between 90-100F this time of year... and when it is "cool" it is monsoon season.
 

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Interesting pics. I'm Indian and lived in Chennai for a few years during my undergraduate days, when I rode a Shimano-shod MTB around a lot. Recreational bicycling by adults isn't really in the picture in India. Bikes were generally a step below a motorbike or scooter. From there you graduate to a car. These days most people go directly to the motorbike/scooter stage (annual sales nationwide are about 7-8 million, rising about 20-30% per year) and then onto the subcompact car stage (annual car sales are 1.3 million, rising about 10-25% per year).

Urban infrastructure in India is a matter that needs urgent improvement. The problem is a combination of several things, with money having less to do than might otherwise appear to be the case. Federal and local rent/land ceiling laws are archaic, preventing easy transfer and development of real estate and infrastructure. Public utilities like electricity had to deal with politically expedient subsidies that affects quality of output.

As far as poverty goes, well, about 35-40 million people enter the Indian middle class each year. When you talk about 1040 million people, it'll take a bit of time. Religion has very little to do with the inability to get everyone on board faster; economic growth itself breaks down those old barriers, and economic growth has no ties to matters of faith. Plus, in India there is no residency restriction system that prevents cities from being overwhelmed by rural workers searching for better livelihood, and it shows in how the cities look compared to some showpiece cities in the far east.
 

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I read somewhere that India's population is still 70% rural- which completely blows my mind. I think I forget to mention these were all taken in Chennai...

BSAMach1 said:
Interesting pics. I'm Indian and lived in Chennai for a few years during my undergraduate days, when I rode a Shimano-shod MTB around a lot. Recreational bicycling by adults isn't really in the picture in India. Bikes were generally a step below a motorbike or scooter. From there you graduate to a car. These days most people go directly to the motorbike/scooter stage (annual sales nationwide are about 7-8 million, rising about 20-30% per year) and then onto the subcompact car stage (annual car sales are 1.3 million, rising about 10-25% per year).

Urban infrastructure in India is a matter that needs urgent improvement. The problem is a combination of several things, with money having less to do than might otherwise appear to be the case. Federal and local rent/land ceiling laws are archaic, preventing easy transfer and development of real estate and infrastructure. Public utilities like electricity had to deal with politically expedient subsidies that affects quality of output.

As far as poverty goes, well, about 35-40 million people enter the Indian middle class each year. When you talk about 1040 million people, it'll take a bit of time. Religion has very little to do with the inability to get everyone on board faster; economic growth itself breaks down those old barriers, and economic growth has no ties to matters of faith. Plus, in India there is no residency restriction system that prevents cities from being overwhelmed by rural workers searching for better livelihood, and it shows in how the cities look compared to some showpiece cities in the far east.
 
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