On Our Killer Speed Breakers

Speed Bumps!
Image used for representation only


PG Wodehouse once spoke about there being two ways of writing – one of which was to ignore real life together. This was, of course, his preferred method, and he was without peers, bar none. Your columnist idolizes Pelham to such an extent that he tries to ignore real life altogether, and not just when it comes to writing. And for the most part he succeeds.

Today, however, is not one of those days.

Today, I have to perforce write a column about real life, because it is an issue we as citizens of Pune need to think about long and hard.

Did you happen to catch the news about the two people in Khadki who lost their lives because the luggage-door on the side of a Shivneri bus opened after the bus went over a speed-breaker? Of the many millions of ways that humanity has designed to help themselves meet their maker, this must rank at the top of the mind-bogglingly pointless category. The victims, in this case, were beyond blameless, and while I can’t speak with any great authority about the details, at least part of the blame, and perhaps a significant one, must be attached to the speed-breaker. Why are they there in such profusion, all over the city?

Why (and you’ll have to excuse me, I’m now in the middle of a full-fledged rant) are so many of them illegal? Why are nearly all of them unmarked, unlit, and without advanced warning of any kind?

The obvious answer, of course, is the speeds at which all of us drive our vehicles, but it is perhaps time to acknowledge that building these speed breakers probably exacerbates the problem, rather than the other way around.It’s a conversation we truly need to have, and not just at the city level: we drive far too rashly on our streets, when all of us ought to know much, much better. As more and more of our cities get more and more crowded, traffic related problems are only going to grow over time, and the root cause, which is indiscipline on our parts while on the streets, can no longer be papered over with solutions such as speed breakers.

We have now, preposterously, reached a stage where a proposed solution itself  – the speed breaker – becomes, tragically, frustratingly and yet inevitably, the cause of death itself.

Traffic discipline, and a simple, civic sense of what’s right and what’s not, need not be taught – we know it down pat when we are the victims of its absence on the streets. Our problem as a city is that we have become far too comfortable being perpetrators of the crime of being undisciplined about traffic – and that, I’m sorry, is a crying shame.

And until we, as a city, as a state, and as a nation, hold ourselves to a higher standard while driving vehicles on the road, we will continue to read about deaths as pointless as the ones that happened a few days ago.

The worst part of it all? We’ll probably become so inured to it all that we’ll give up ranting about it as well.

Perhaps some of us already have.

Ashish Kulkarni

Ashish Kulkarni

Ashish is a confirmed Punekar, which guarantees eternal undying love for the city, but also mandates an incurable sense of cynicism about it.

He doesn't expect the paradox to be resolved in his lifetime
Ashish Kulkarni