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.)
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'.
There are also auto-rickshaw-buses - basically three-wheeled CNG-powered collective taxis. We took this one on a day trip to Noida:
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.
The streets are also filled with bicycles - many of which appear to be working vehicles.
There is no bicycle infrastructure, however. Bikes just use whatever space they can find. (I even saw bikes on the freeways.)
Parking is similarly haphazard. We noticed that many of the parked vehicles did double-duty as a bed for the driver.
An Indian friend told me that John Kenneth Galbraith once described India as 'functioning anarchy' - and I'd have to agree.
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.)