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.

Riding the Delhi Metro

Whatever city we visit, Elliot insists on riding the metro. Delhi was no exception - and in fact, New Delhi's underground transit was by far the newest and nicest infrastructure we enjoyed during our entire stay in India.

 Elliot on the metro platform in New Delhi. Clean, shiny & air-conditioned!

Elliot on the metro platform in New Delhi. Clean, shiny & air-conditioned!

That being said - like everything in India, it's different. And crowded. First, you need to buy a token to get on the train - and you can only get a token from a person in a booth at the station from which you are departing. You can't buy a return token - just one-way. So there are long lines to buy tokens at every station. Then, there is another long line to get through the security screen. Or actually, two lines: one for men, and one for women and children.

 Lines to get on the New Delhi metro, stretching into the distance.

Lines to get on the New Delhi metro, stretching into the distance.

 Womens' and mens' security lines for the New Delhi metro.

Womens' and mens' security lines for the New Delhi metro.

Once you are through security and into the station, the platforms are clean and air-conditioned and rival (or beat) anything we have here in the US. The trains are smooth and quiet and air-conditioned. Sometimes, they're not even crowded.

 Elliot makes two new friends on the New Delhi metro.

Elliot makes two new friends on the New Delhi metro.

After one good experience, we decided to ride it again - but this time it happened to be rush hour. And the trains were packed. I mean, really packed.

 Our friend Naveen asking if we're sure we want to do this?

Our friend Naveen asking if we're sure we want to do this?

 Elliot squeezed into a packed car on the New Delhi metro.

Elliot squeezed into a packed car on the New Delhi metro.

I've been riding public transit my whole life and I think this was honestly the most packed in I've ever been. But like most experiences we had in India, the people were quite gracious about it.

 Friendly stranger on the packed New Delhi metro.

Friendly stranger on the packed New Delhi metro.

Next Stop: India

Elliot and I leave Wednesday morning for New Delhi, where Worse Than Poop! will be screening as part of the CMS Vatavaran Festival

It's particularly exciting to be heading to India this week, as the Indian government just released the exciting news of its climate pledges in advance of the COP21 summit. India, the third-largest emitter of CO2, has promised to produce 40% of its energy from renewables, and to reduce its carbon intensity by a third, by 2030.  Which is *really* good news for the planet - and for the people of India.

Since our flights to India will generate approximately 34,000 pounds of CO2, I am looking for an organization working on renewable energy projects in India that can provide an offset. (I will be paying double the rate published by TerraPass). If you know of an organization we should consider, please let me know!

I've wanted to go to India for many, many years, and I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to do this with Elliot. But I have to admit to being somewhat apprehensive, as there is a phrase that comes up with alarming regularity whenever I speak with someone who has been to India. They tell me that India is "an assault on the senses," and that we will "almost certainly get Delhi belly" (i.e. stomach upset due to any one of a number of probable causes). Maybe it's because I'm a mom - or maybe I'm just getting old - but the thought of being assaulted and getting sick has put something of a damper on my enthusiasm. 

However, an Indian friend will be traveling with us, which is very reassuring. And Elliot is excited at the prospect of seeing elephants and monkeys, and riding the Delhi subway. Keep an eye on our Facebook page, where I will be posting photos from our adventures while we are in India. I'll also post more here once we return.

 

Amsterdam: One Last Train Ride

In addition to cycle paths and canals, Amsterdam boasts an impressive public transit system. Elliot insisted that we try both the trams and the underground metro.

 Elliot waits for a tram in Amsterdam

Elliot waits for a tram in Amsterdam

 Elliot and his dad on the back of a tram in Amsterdam.

Elliot and his dad on the back of a tram in Amsterdam.

 Elliot and his dad enjoy another tram ride in Amsterdam. Note the on-board ticket booth in the back. Trams have both a driver and a separate ticket vendor.

Elliot and his dad enjoy another tram ride in Amsterdam. Note the on-board ticket booth in the back. Trams have both a driver and a separate ticket vendor.

 Elliot was thrilled to find out the city had an underground metro.

Elliot was thrilled to find out the city had an underground metro.

 The train arrives to take us to Schiphol airport - and home.

The train arrives to take us to Schiphol airport - and home.

Rouen: Le TEOR (Bus Rapid Transit)

Way back in the early 1980's, I spent a year living with a family in Rouen, France. They taught me French, and how to drink wine mixed with water, and a thousand other things for which I will always remain deeply grateful. On this trip we made a point to visit my host family, and I got to introduce them to Elliot.

Since the last time I was in Rouen, a few things have changed. For one - they cleaned the cathedral. (It use to be black.)

 Rouen Cathedral - so spanky clean I hardly recognized it!

Rouen Cathedral - so spanky clean I hardly recognized it!

They also installed a metro, and a Bus Rapid Transit system called Le TEOR. We didn't get to ride the metro (Elliot was very disappointed), but we did get to ride the TEOR. 

 Waiting for le TEOR in Rouen with my host family

Waiting for le TEOR in Rouen with my host family

 Raised platforms means fast level boarding, even for my host mom (in her 70s, with a bad knee).

Raised platforms means fast level boarding, even for my host mom (in her 70s, with a bad knee).

 On board Le TEOR in Rouen

On board Le TEOR in Rouen

Le TEOR was awesome. Elliot totally approved.

 Elliot gives Rouen's TEOR Bus Rapid Transit the thumbs-up.

Elliot gives Rouen's TEOR Bus Rapid Transit the thumbs-up.

One thing I found interesting: the Rouen metropolitan area has a population density (940 people per square km) which is slightly lower than Palo Alto's. 

 Le TEOR in downtown Rouen

Le TEOR in downtown Rouen