The Streets of Delhi

After checking out the Delhi metro, we wanted to see what life was like above ground. The best way to get around, we were told, was by "Auto" - the ubiquitous green and yellow auto-rickshaws. (I was told NOT to call them 'tuk-tuks' - evidently only foreigners do that. I got the impression it was a colonial thing.)

 Delhi's auto-rickshaws are everywhere.

Delhi's auto-rickshaws are everywhere.

The government required, many years ago, that the autos run on compressed natural gas - replacing the ultra-polluting two-stroke engines of the past. I was deeply grateful - Delhi's air is so bad (it now holds the dubious honor of most polluted city in the world), I can't even imagine what it would be like without the CNG 'autos'. 

 Elliot on board a New Delhi auto-rickshaw.

Elliot on board a New Delhi auto-rickshaw.

There are also auto-rickshaw-buses - basically three-wheeled CNG-powered collective taxis. We took this one on a day trip to Noida:

 Auto-rickshaw-bus provides collective transport in Noida, Delhi.

Auto-rickshaw-bus provides collective transport in Noida, Delhi.

Another cause for gratitude is the city's amazing greenery - utterly incongruent with the super dirty air. The greenery is actually lush and diverse enough (at least in the neighborhood we stayed in) to support whole troupes of monkeys. 

 Our walk from the YMCA Tourist Hotel to the New Delhi Convention Centre

Our walk from the YMCA Tourist Hotel to the New Delhi Convention Centre

 A monkey scampers across the roof of our hotel in New Delhi.

A monkey scampers across the roof of our hotel in New Delhi.

The streets are also filled with bicycles - many of which appear to be working vehicles.

 Delhi has its own 522 bus line! And lots of bicycle carts.

Delhi has its own 522 bus line! And lots of bicycle carts.

There is no bicycle infrastructure, however. Bikes just use whatever space they can find. (I even saw bikes on the freeways.)

 Bicycles on the streets of New Delhi

Bicycles on the streets of New Delhi

 Bicycle delivery on the streets of New Delhi

Bicycle delivery on the streets of New Delhi

Parking is similarly haphazard. We noticed that many of the parked vehicles did double-duty as a bed for the driver.

 Bicycle rickshaw driver napping in New Delhi

Bicycle rickshaw driver napping in New Delhi

An Indian friend told me that John Kenneth Galbraith once described India as 'functioning anarchy' - and I'd have to agree. 

 Street in front of the Old Delhi train station

Street in front of the Old Delhi train station

 Intersection in front of the Old Delhi train station

Intersection in front of the Old Delhi train station

Despite the chaos, safety doesn't seem to be much of an issue. We didn't see too many helmets. Some motorcycle riders wore helmets - but we never saw a bike helmet. And although maybe half of the motorcyle riders wore helmets, and plenty of them had children on board, we never saw a single child wearing a helmet. We began to wonder if children's helmets were even available in India. (Though it appears that they are available.)

 Four riders, two helmets, one motorbike - in New Delhi, India.

Four riders, two helmets, one motorbike - in New Delhi, India.