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Driving in Moscow

3 November 2009 No Comment

Driving in the Russian capital is one of the most hazardous experiences a human being can live through. You might think that is dangerous because the road is full of corrupt cops, the pavement is in bad shape or because of the weather conditions, but no, the greatest danger of them all are the drivers, especially the fat male ones. Oh my fucking God! I cannot express the stupidity of these people in words! Because there is nothing more dangerous that the combination of recklessness with stupidity. I cannot stress enough how bad these Schumaher wanna-bes drive. They have no respect for the laws or the other drivers on the road. So it is very common to see crashes around the city. I am used to see a couple every day. I wonder why these people don´t stop and think “gee, we surely crash a lot, maybe we are doing something wrong, maybe we just don´t know how to guide a vehicle properly”.
Police are like sharks here, they stop one vehicle after another one, so the drivers save 15 minutes of commute but if they get caught they waste half an hour plus the money to bribe the cop.

Let me explain a little more in detail the non-existing rules here: It is common to pass on the right, they would pass on top of you if they could, and with 6 or 7 lanes in some of the kaltsos (big avenues) there is no problem in changing 6 lanes at a time. They even pass you on the emergency lanes or hard shoulders in the highways, they would pass you on the sidewalk if they weren´t any pedestrians there, but they do park on top of sidewalks. So it´s funny to see all these cars with dents all over, but what is not funny is when you get up one morning and discover a dent that appeared magically during the night in your car (especially if it is rented). Now I understand why is there is a ZERO tolerance to drinking and driving, there would be chaos all around the city, dead people lying on the street reduced to a pulp. But my pet peeve are the drivers going in the middle of two lanes, it seems that they take a long time to decide which lane to drive on or they don´t comprehend what the lanes are for.

Traffic jams or Propkas are only compared to Mexico City, one can pack their full lunch and eat it on the commute, you should have a nice couple of CDs for the road because aside for two or three stations (radio relax and Radio kulture) the Russian radio is cheezy to the max, pop songs remixed with disco sounds and corny Russian 80s songs with the occasional Italian barfy tunes or the melodramatic French chants.

But let´s praise the government now, besides the zero tolerance of alcoholic drivers on the wheel, they also have one of the best Metro systems in the world, at least the artsiest and trippiest of them all, the metro stations are like big galleries. So one shouldn´t really be driving that much except to go to the dachas (counrtyside houses) and even then there are trains that go all the way to most of the outskirts of Moscow. The government also imposed a new bylaw where a motorist has to stop to let the pedestrians pass, before if you walk you would have to look for a space and run across the street to go to the other side fearing for your physical integrity. Also the rules of the road (although not respected) are very logical and civilized, places designed for U turns, lights to turn left or right, specific places to change lanes, wide kaltsos good tram system as well, and free parking everywhere. If Moscow had the Vancouver by laws there would be mayhem in the streets. The city would be paralyzed and police overwhelmed. So really it is mostly the fat Russians on the wheel to blame for this lawlessness and dangerous conditions on the road. The ones that drive pass the speed limits, the ones that don´t respect the lanes, the ones that don´t buckle up, the tailgaters, the ones that don´t signal, the ones that park in the third lane stopping traffic, the ones who think that because they are a new rich they can buy the police and drive like they own the streets; the arrogant with an inferiority complex that feel powerful with an expensive car with tinted windows, and generally they are fat with bad manners that set the bad example to this society. A little research threw the following results: “Each year at least 35,000 people were killed along with 215,000 were injuries in 184,000 traffic accidents in Russia. This road death rate, is about 24.6 deaths per 100,000 population, compared to 14.7 in the US, 10 in France and 6 in Sweden. Economic damages are about 6 billion US dollars. According to a report the high car accident rate is at poor driving skills, and lack of adequate licensing– until the Putin era it had been widespread practice to pay bribes to instructors in order to skip driving school to obtain drivers’ licenses”.

Epilogue Improvised taxis
So you are stranded in a street in the middle of Moscow, lost in the maze of concrete watching cars go by lawlessly, don’t despair. If you can pronounce the name of the street that you are going to and you have a couple of hundred rubles in your pocket all you have to do is spread your arm and show the index finger to the passing vehicles. There are a lot of drivers that wouldn’t mind giving you a lift for some extra cash, in this economy nobody would say no to a couple of Rubles just by taking you to your destination. Forget about the cabs, everybody with a car in this city is a cab. I came back one time from OGI to a 40 minute walk home at 2 AM and at least 7 cars where willing to take me home during my stroll, I am sure that maybe a couple had other intentions but we have used private cars to go places a couple of times with optimal results and us too, have provided this service to a couple of Comrades for a couple of hundred rubles. I wish Vancouver had this customs and we could get rid of the expensive cabs or have a better transit system for that matter.

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