Sunday, 31 October 2010

A quick word on roads

'Is this legal?'
It wasn't.

Traffic in Moscow is legendary. It's a mess and the new Mayor, Sobyanin, has taken it as one of his three leading stances on his 'to do' list; as well as corruption and red tape. There are many reasons for the problems:
1. Upwards of 15 million people live here
2. The concentric ring road layout doesn't lend itself particularly well to the numbers
3. There is limited light-based control on the smaller roads
4. Russians will park their cars wherever they want - there are no double or single yellows here - and this causes bottlenecks.
5. Russians can't drive for toffee or any other sugar-based chewy substitute.

Being a metro user/walker I hadn't really seen the problems first hand. My classes started and ended either before or after rush hour and occasional late night taxis took me home when the roads were fairly empty or I was sufficiently blistered not to notice, or care to notice, the numbers of other road users. After finishing teaching a home-class my child student's mother decided to drive me a little into the city so I wouldn't have to sit on the metro for 40 minutes. Moscow's rush hour made sure it would take me longer.

We left her flat and got into the big, shiny 4x4,
'You must have big car in Moscow' she laughed.
Flats in Russia are usually strewn in large no man's land areas between roads. There is rarely any order to their placing and it can be near impossible to find 'number 5 Novgorodskaya street' when the number is just an arbitrary label for the sake of postage. You can find yourself walking through an expansive rabbit warren trying in vain to find the correct building. It is utterly disorientating. The same problem faced us on leaving the area. There was no easy way out. All the little roads that filtered out onto the road were jammed up because of the traffic.
'Probka, probka, probka' she muttered to herself. Traffic, traffic, traffic.

We were trying to get onto a small lane that lead up to a messy t-junction where we could eventually make our way to the main road.
'Like I said earlier, don't worry, I'm a magician'
She hauled the big, shiny off-roader off-road and onto the pavement. We trundled up to the t-junction past the waiting cars, making sure not to hit any pedestrians. I laughed in disbelief,
'Is this legal?'
It wasn't.

We muscled into the queue at the t-junction and slowly barged forward. There was no order. No etiquette. Just cars, everywhere. Horns shouting, lights flashing. There was a small flat-bed truck stopped all over a pedestrian crossing, trying to turn. Some cars were managing to get through the barricade, like metallic fishes flitting through some LED coral. My driver just continued to push our black behemoth through.
'Everyone drives as if they are correct'
It worked though.
'Why don't they put in traffic lights?' I asked
'I asked a traffic policeman that once. He said "we don't know how to"!'

More traffic later and I got home a lot nearer to bed time than I had planned but was pleased to have had a taste of the madness.
I'm glad Moscow has a metro.

1 comment:

  1. They say here that there are two main problems in Russia: fools and roads.