Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Great Big Killer Blue Line (as opposed to the thin one that protects us)

Earlier this week in Delhi a teenage boy, who was on his way to buy fruit for his mom, was hit and killed by a bus when it decided to make a speedy (and illegal) U-turn. That alone makes it a tragedy. The fact that this is the 79th person killed by a Blueline bus in Delhi this year, makes it a travesty. I believe this is how the system works. A business man buys a permit for a bus route. He is then completely responsible for maintaining the buses and hiring the drivers, and has little or no supervision from the government. Often the buses are driven by men with no licenses, usually relatives of the permit holder, who know that the more passengers their bus can carry in a day, the more money they make. The result of this is a city full of over crowded, speeding buses hurling through the streets trying to squeeze in as many people and routes as possible before 10pm. They make NYC taxi drivers look like sissies. At one point when the Blueline had a particularly bad week and the public outcry was too loud to ignore, the city stopped all the privately run buses, vowing to fix the system. Unfortunately the next morning when those who were crying out tried to get to work, fixing the system lost it's public support. If you want to know more about this story in general, type "Delhi Blueline bus deaths" into your favorite search engine. It is not pleasant reading.

This became a much more personal story to me a couple of days ago when Number One Son told me that he and Star On Stage had a very near miss with a Blueline while they were in a bicycle rickshaw (like the one on the left). Like the teenager above, they were out running an errand for their mother. Apparently it was close enough to scare even the rickshaw driver. Now THAT scares me. The only thing crazier than bus drivers are rickshaw drivers, they're just less deadly. Luckily for us, most of our traveling is done in a minivan that is driven by the only man in India who follows all of the traffic laws. I am sure this is for our benefit. I have no doubt whatsoever that after he drops us off at home he drives through the city without stopping for a single red light and on whatever side of the street offers the most room. I am not sure, however, that even our sturdy minivan and dependable driver is enough to keep us safe. I recently read the following: "Where is the safest place to be when there is a Blueline bus on the road?......Riding inside of it."


Marilyn said...

That is a scary thought. Makes you want to keep your kids at home safe and sound. It's hard to imagine there are no regulations for these busses to have to obey.
We have big double busses in Mesa now. I would think they would be scary to ride in, but still safer than your busses there.

Rachel said...

It is sad. My in-laws were hit by a pesero (vw van bus in mex) a few years ago and it had to transport them to the hospital afterwards. We don't know how they were okay at their ages but thank God they were. The sad thing in these countries is that the drivers are so extremely poor.... so they are seeming to have to make the choice between feeding their families or possibly hitting someone that they don't know.
I am thankful that your children are okay.

Mrs. Smith said...

Rachel, you are so right. Believe it or not I don't blame the drivers, I don't know who to blame. I really hope that the people involved can find a quick solution.

shauna said...

I'm so glad your children were okay. What a scary system. Before I arrived in Japan on my mission an elder had been hit and killed by a bus. They made all the missionaries wear helmets after that. I also remember the taxi drivers being crazy--my skirt cleaned the sides of many a taxi while riding my bike in Japan.

It's so sad to think about that boy loosing his life so needlessly. I'll pray for the public transport angels to watch over you and yours!