Traffic

Traffic of the vehicular kind. Not the one I see on this blog. It’s not just traffic, it’s terrorism on roads. Every day. Every minute. I’m petrified of road accidents, and the people in Pune (or anywhere else in India, for that matter) don’t let me breathe easy whenever I travel.

I had written about traffic earlier:

Just read an article on Wired on ideas for smoother traffic flow. Some ideas suggested are not having any signs or signals at intersections, so drivers are more cautious and so on. Well, it kind of works that way here in Pune, with people ignoring signals, pedestrians walking on streets instead of footpaths, cyclists and bikers zipping through the footpaths at times to avoid a long queue of vehicles and so on.

And plus, the potholes, speed-brakers and gutters (which are not aligned with the road height) do ensure the vehicles don’t race beyond a particular limit.

I guess the Indian road authorities had this all figured out much, much earlier!

However, there’s more to add to the terrorism aspect of traffic:

Terror

– Everyone has a birthright to honk, and honk hard. People blow their horns to signal to others:
– that they’re overtaking from the wrong side
– that they’re overtaking from the right side
– that they’re speeding at a crossing and everyone else who hears the horn has to stop, or else…
– to communicate with passers-by
– that they’re about to cross the just-turned-red signal and all others should wait for him / her to cross

– Everyone has a right to spit out of their cars / buses / trucks.
– While waiting at a signal or passing a bus, make sure you alert the passengers of your existence else you’ll be spat upon.

– No one respects road dividers (even if they exist). If someone has to turn to the road on the other side of a divider, one doesn’t go slightly further and make a U-turn. You cut the road and drive on the other side

– Cyclists will never wear light clothes or reflectors. It’s upto the others to detect their presence and avoid them at nights

– Everyone drives with high beam at nights, blinding the traffic on the other side. Pedestrians, cyclists — never safe.

– Buses / trucks never stop in the space allotted to them. They occupy the whole road.

Did I mention I’m petrified of road accidents? I’ve seen people involved in road accidents scream in agony in hospitals. Young people. Those who like to speed across the roads, flaunting their flashy bikes and mobiles. Ending up in hospitals and screaming. I wonder if death is better than such a state after a road accident.

Government Apathy

I was headed out in my new car. I was waiting at a junction for the signal to go green. It went green, I went ahead, and bam! A biker from my left rammed straight into the car. He broke his signal. He justified by saying “left is a free turn” and that he could take it anytime. What’s alarming is he had zero visibility of my car due to some other car in front of him. Why do people race at crossings, and also go into blind territory? I wonder how many people overtake buses, cars, etc., only to find someone crossing and dashing into them?

Immediately after this accident, I was surrounded by the colleagues of the biker. One trainee cop did come up to the scene of the accident, but he was shooed away by the mob. I had no other go but to get the dents serviced at my own expense. I just kept wondering: I pay so much of tax each year, what do I get in return? Bad roads and no justice. Is there nothing a law-abiding citizen can expect his elected representative do anything for him?

Idea for a smoother traffic flow

Inspite of all this, I remain optimistic. With the traffic in Pune (and every Indian city) growing by the minute, I thought of something that is eco-friendly, traffic-friendly as well as people-friendly. Trams. Why not install trams in Pune that ferry people between hotspots and the central areas? For example, the Hinjewadi tech park to Shivajinagar, Magarpatta to Pune Station or Swargate, and then connect Shivajinagar, Pune Station, Swargate, Deccan, Kothrud, Aundh, etc.? There’s no risk of the trams stopping in the middle of the roads causing inconvenience. They can operate on electricity, which can be generated by nuclear, wind or solar energy (or a combination of them all). Travel within the city is already a pain with the auto rickshaw people being very uncooperative and the buses killing people and breaking traffic rules. This will also help take off a lot of private vehicles on roads and also the shuttles that companies ply in the city for employeees. Pollution (air, noise) levels will drop drastically.

Please, please do something like this.

Mixed Bag

Wildlife: Extinct Tasmanian Tiger’s DNA Revived in Mice
That’s just wonderful if we can save tigers

Tech: Getting started with awk

Trivia: How Coffee Changed the World
Story of coffee’s discovery

Eco-friendly: Scott Adams is building an eco-friendly house
He’s also designing his home in an open way, inviting reader comments and putting up versions of his floor plan. Some previous details here.

Make Your Computer / Laptop Use Less Power

Making your computer use less power is a necessary but difficult to implement issue… unless you know where to look and what to do. You want to use less power to conserve battery life of your laptop; you want to use less power on your servers to save on electricity and cooling costs. And you want to use less power on your desktops to save electricity consumption, all resulting in lesser pollution, more savings and in the case of laptops, more productive time on battery.

http://www.lesswatts.org/ is the website dedicated to help you with configuring your system to use less power. The developers are also examining and fixing the code of the worst-offending applications, so configuring your system for using less power (when it really should by default) becomes less and less necessary.

For now, you can check instructions at all the websites available as to what to do with your kernel, CPU, hard disk, GPU (yeah, tune them down as well. We don’t do graphics-heavy work to warrant running the GPU at full clock always) among other things. Also, one of the biggest consumers of power, the LCD backlight — that can be tuned without at configuration at all. You just have to adjust it to the lowest visible best.

However, what’s more interesting to me is small things that we can do, like stop cursors from blinking, since they need X to wake up for each time it has to blink. There’s a really nice compilation for the popular applications on one page. Go do it, it’ll help the CPU remain in an idle state (and hence consume less electricity) longer.

Ideas for a greener future

Well, at least the metaphorical kind. Maharashtra State and Osram India are in a collaboration to distribute CFL lamps free of charge to replace the ubiquitous tungsten bulbs. Very nice to read such news when you begin the day.

This achieves a three-fold advantage: one, the state will have to provide less electricity to the households (it’s already under a crunch). Hopefully the load-shedding will reduce.

Two, the consumers pay less electricity bills.

Third and most important: as a result of using lesser electricity, we’re reducing emissions that add to the pollution and global warming. Studies show that the tungsten bulbs convert only 10% of energy into electricity, the rest is converted to heat. This means all the coal that is burnt to produce electricity is actually lost when it’s utilised. A CFL, on the other hand, uses 80% less electricity than the bulb and lasts 15 years longer. Now why wouldn’t you migrate to CFLs?

PS: Interestingly, this topic came up recently at the KVM Forum 2007 while discussing several things, and Chris Wright mentioned that the US air was seeing pollution from some gases which were banned over 30 years ago. Research showed the gases came from air blown over the Pacific ocean. That’s really scary. You not only have to withstand pollution around you, but you also have to bear the results of the bad stuff people half way across the globe have done.

Update: Samim Rizvi is running Mumbai – Bangalore (a distance of 1100 kms) to spread awareness on the issue of climate change.

TreeHugger

TreeHugger is a website that talks about the environment: what’s good, what’s bad and so on. I came across this website via slashdot. They also have nice videos on environmental issues, how to throw an eco party and so on. Nice resource.