I am not exaggerating when I say that street crossing in Delhi requires technique. There are barely any crosswalks or stoplights, and everyone shares the road: huge trucks, cars, auto-rickshaws, bicycle-rickshaws, cabs, animals, fruit and vegetable sellers, and of course, pedestrians. There are a lot of short stops and near misses, the quality of the roads range greatly, and people tend to drive closer to one another. Also, lane lines are just there for fun. People drive in between lanes, outside of lanes, on the median, and often enough on the other side of the street to the point where, on certain streets, it is hard to tell which side is the correct one.
There is really no safe way to cross a street, but here are some techniques I’ve managed to glean so far to minimize the terror:
- Find an experienced street crosser and stand about a foot away from them, downstream. When they go, you go. Don’t hesitate.
- Lock eye contact with the driver before you walk in front of his car. Nick, another Fulbrighter here phrases it “staring into the eye of the bull”, which I think epitomizes how you feel at that point.
- Look the way you’re not used to looking. In fact, look in every way possible. It’s hard to know where something will be coming from. Also look down, as you never know what you might be stepping on or into.
- Don’t run. if you make sudden or unpredictable movements you are more likely to be hit by a vehicle or to attract an entourage of any number of stray dogs. (this said, the first time kelly and I went from the hotel to the train station, we basically ran screaming across every street. for good reason.) It should also be mentioned that if the pace of a new yorker jaywalking is a brisk walk to a slow jog, the pace of a Delhi-ite crossing the street is a casual swaggering saunter, even if it involves a near miss by a city bus. I am constantly amazed at their nonchalance.