[Resident Alien's observation about Mumbai and Bengalooru drivers makes me write this big note] I have been to all the so-called Indian metros a few times over last 2 years. Been in the dreaded taxis and private cars as well. Based on experiences and observation, here it is, for the first time ever, silkboard’s Metro traffic rankings :)
This order is based on the stress you endure while driving, and not just the average speeds or crowding levels. Stress, I would say, is more a function of traffic sense drivers have, and then some other things like policing and general design of roads (width, traffic lights etc).
Now, on to the potentially controversial attempt at explanations.
Mumbai understands lanes a lot better than road-starved Bengalooru or roads-aplenty Delhi. I can explain the difference wrt Bengalooru – Mumbai is a lot more mature Metro. The two cities have similar crowding levels. But Mumbai drivers have, by now, figured that lanes are here to help them make best use of road space. So, when you jam your brakes on a 4 or 6 lane road there, more often than not, the driver chasing you is going to stop right behind you.
In ‘younger’ Bengalooru though, we still follow the “see red, swerve” policy. That translates to – see a brake light, swerve left or right. Never mind if you risk bumping into a vehicle in the blind spot. Or, you risk running over a pedestrian if the vehicle ahead stopped only to let one go.
Yes, culture and level of policing have a say here. Bangalore drivers are struggling to cope with the new found crowding on roads, and so are the cops. So give us all some time, and being a diverse and cosmo city as arguably only Mumbai is, I expect us to get there sooner or later.
But how exactly do you explain Delhi and Kolkata? Kolkata is similar to or worse than Bangalore, a real close call there. You struggle to find a vehicle with no body dents. All drivers, not just the cabbies, rush to squeeze themselves into any empty width they can find. And all this, when you have lot more visible policemen than in Bangalore. “Culture” perhaps? Or bad planning over all these days that have made Kolkata the city with minimum road length amongst all Metros:
(Kolkata) has a density of 814.80 vehicles, the highest among per km road length as compared to 766.31 for Mumbai, followed by 616.58 Chennai and 170 Delhi.
But in terms of vehicle population Delhi topped the list of metros with 44 lakh, followed by 16.44 lakh in Chennai, 14 lakh in Mumbai and 11.44 lakh in Kolkata.
On the other hand, Kolkata has the minimum road length among all the metros with 1,404 km, followed by 1,800 km in Chennai, 1,900 km in Mumbai and 25,948 km in Delhi.
Over to Delhi, the Metro with best road network though with the highest vehicle population as well. [If you trust the numbers in the rediff/PTI article I quoted above]. Before you jump to “culture” as the possible reason you endure more stress driving in Delhi than you should, listen to this theory of mine. We learn to adjust and share better when a critical resource is in short supply. For us Indians, plenty is never good. Delhi has always had the roads, and that is why they never learnt to share them well :)
Okay, so that beats my Kolkata logic to death. You see, how tough it is to explain things you observe. I should stick to noting down my observations. Explanations are better done by the more learned sociologists.
PS: I haven’t been in Hyderabad enough to rank it here. If you think Pune belongs in that Metro club (I think not yet), then I would rank it above Bangalore and just below Delhi.