Monday, January 17, 2011

The Normal Daily Madness

Many people have commented on the traffic situation here but this recent Friday I experienced one of those for Westerners incomprehensible situations at the intersection at the Daem Koa market just before Mao-Tse-Tung and Monireth.  This is an intersection best avoided at any time but this situation drove home in abundant clarity the point that the government really needs to do something drastic to educate their moped and truck drivers, and to a lesser extent car drivers.

I don't need to go into details as most people living here know what I am talking about. Cambodians just love to create gridlocks. They have no sense of how to effectively avoid getting stuck in traffic. It's like they really love inhale all those noxious fumes. It's complete chaos and sheer madness; and this happens all over Phnom Penh on a daily basis.

I do understand how this evolved. Some 20 years back there was hardly any traffic on the roads and people could drive whichever way they pleased - against traffic, U-turns at will, etc. Even seven, eight years ago it it wasn't so bad except that people making a right turn at a traffic light would just pass all the stopped traffic on the left and go around it in front, never mind that the light might change in the meantime. This seems to be a thing of the past right now. But the will to cross or pass in front of the passed vehicle is deeply ingrained in people's minds. They would pass you on the right, just to cut in front of you and make a left turn.

But since ever more people have been able to buy a car the traffic density has increased accordingly, but unfortunately, the traffic behavior of the people to a large part hasn't. Car drivers are a little more careful as they don't want any harm to come to their prized possessions. Truck drivers in their delapidated, road-unworthy frames on wheels take quite a different attitude unless they see one of those big SUVs with military or state government plates. The worst, as mentioned in a previous post, are the mopeds and the tuk-tuk drivers. The motodups usually are a little older and still used to their old ways in traffic, the younger ones just imitate the older people, and what's common to all of them is that they have to be the first. Also, many of them, especially the younger moped riders seem to be possessed by that inexplicable urge to commit suicide.

Anyway, the attitude and people's comprehension of traffic rules and the explosion of cars on the roads just haven't kept pace. In my years in SE Asia I have never seen such ignorant traffic behavior as here in Cambodia. Thailand underwent that explosion of cars just the same as Vietnam did. Although there were chaotic situations in terms of erratic driving there as well it had never reached such irrational proportions. Nowadays, of course, Bangkok is practically a huge parking lot but that's a different story; in Vietnam, though also pretty unruly in general, mopeds at least stay in the right lane and cars usually drive in the left lane. You rarely see people running red lights. So what is it with Cambodians? If this goes on like this Phnom Penh will also become that proverbial parking lot, but for different reasons.

Or just look at that moped; he is carrying 350 kg on his moped that was made to carry two adults or approximately 250 kg max. This is just a tiny example what goes on on Cambodia's road in terms of overloading.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This matter is able to deal with only if the govt is willing to do. Hire a traffic expert from a developed country and the problem will be solved. DO or DON'T you make the call.