A week in Trivandrum

I wasn’t able to make July’s Critical Mass as I was mid-air on the way back from India, after spending a week there. Through my work, I’m lucky enough to get to spend time with my colleagues based at the Technopark in Trivandrum.

Trivandrum is the capital city of Kerala, in south India. It has a population of 1m and is one of the greenest cities in India, but as with many cities there, it is expanding rapidly. Much of this expansion is due to the Technopark, a technology park on the outskirts of the city that’s home to about 300 IT companies and 50,000 professionals.

Although signs of the expansion can be seen all around, it’s easy to see that the roads are struggling to cope. As with much of India, public transport and buses in particular, are still heavily used, though motorcycle and car ownership is on the increase as they become more affordable.

This increase in vehicles is choking the roads in Trivandrum. This can seen particularly on the commute to Technopark as 50,000 travel there on national highway 47, a two lane road linking the Technopark to Trivandrum. Well, it’s intended to be two lane, but it’s more like four or five lane most of the time!

Driving or riding the national highway 47, you take your life into your own hands, with motorbikes, auto rickshaws, cars, buses and trucks taking it in turn to beep, swerve and overtake. Taking people down there for the first time, they’re shocked at what it’s like. We’ve all seen Indian roads on TV, but it’s another thing to experience it. After a day or two it becomes normal, I begin to imagine I’m in Wacky Races.

You still see a lot of bicycles on the roads here, though they’re definitely in the minority. Most of the bikes you see are very functional, almost Dutch style and have usually seen a lot of use. In a lot of cases, so have their owners. It seems that younger people prefer motorcycles. Given the state of the roads, traffic and the heat, it’s not surprising. I saw someone an e-bike too, which would probably make a lot of sense here.

In the times I’ve been to Trivandrum, you can see signs of change. A lot of the old two lane overcrowded roads are being widened into four and six lane dual carriageways and there’s a new flyover that many people were keen to tell me about (also mentioned here The fantasy of being a dictator).

In many ways, it makes me think of what Manchester must have been like in the ’60s when a lot of the big road building schemes were under way, such as the Mancunian Way. Unfortunately, it’s likely they’ll make many of the same mistakes the planners made in the UK.

I don’t think we’ll see any cycle provision in Trivandrum, that’s for sure. Which is a big shame, as given the investment going into the area, it would be great to see what could be achieved before car ownership completely takes over.

Anyway, here’s some of the pictures I took while I was there. They were taken on my phone and a lot of them from a moving car, so are not the best quality.

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