By Michele Farquhar & Trey Hanbury
Home to more than 4.5 million people, Kolkata, India has a fascinating transportation network. A recent visit to the city revealed bicycles, motorbikes, taxis, buses, rickshaws, cyclerickshaws, cars, trucks, and trams crowding roads already thickly congested with pedestrians, students, street vendors, and parked cars. Perhaps as a result sharp-witted Indian critics have described traffic conditions in Kolkata’s urban core as “hell” or worse.
Yet however uncertain and, at times, chaotic, the journey, Kolkata’s transportation infrastructure continues to move people and goods through the city. Indeed, the striking part of the network is not the congestion or pollution, both of which one can find in abundance, but the resiliency and ingenuity of the system itself. As if by common understanding, drivers who find their lane blocked, identify the obstacle and rapidly commandeer control of the oncoming traffic lane. When faced with oncoming traffic in their lane, drivers approaching from the opposite direction may assume control of the open space or the sidewalk.