Thursday, January 20, 2005

Traffic and Pedestrians in Bangkok

I read a lot of stuff on the internet. Perhaps too much sometimes. Unlike a previous writer on the blog, I find that the longer I stay here the less tolerant I have actually become to certain things.

Like the writer in the Bangkok Post a few days ago - who gave notice that he was going to fight back and “help” off motorbike riders who ride on the pavements - I am sick and tired of having to get out the way of them when they decide they cannot be bothered to wait for traffic to move or to try and wind their way through the traffic.

It does seem to be especially bad on lower Silom and unfortunately it peaks at rush hour just when I am battling my way though it to get to the local shops. The other bad time is when I am walking to and from work.

The route to work is a series of alleys that are maybe about 4 feet wider than an average car. This usually means I am walking in a space that has mere inches of safety between me getting hit and arriving in work in one piece. So far, I have been lucky and not been hit or even had metal brush my skin. Others have not been so fortunate and had cars hit their arms, legs or had to fling themselves against walls to avoid being hit. For me, the cars are usually not the problem, it’s the poxy motorbikes.

I can be walking along successfully avoiding the cars and a motorbike decides it cant wait and will charge down the 2 feet of space I am occupying. Its then a game of chicken to see who gives in first. It’s a funny thing but it does seem to be that if I can see the eyes of the rider, I can stare them down but if they have a mirrored visor, its them that usually win. Psychology at work I guess. Even when there is no traffic or there is a gap between cars and the bikes have the whole road to themselves, the bikes do seem to take a perverse pleasure is trying to drive as close as possible to the intended target i.e. me. I have just about as many near misses with no traffic as I have had with traffic!

The trouble is of course, is that if you do “help” off the riders, the odds are us farang are going to come off worse unless we are lucky. But given past experiences, the rider themselves would run after you and catch you, someone else would report you to the coppers, witness could appear even if they didn’t see it and confirm the story and then …. well you get the idea, especially if it’s a motorbike taxi.

Leading on from that, crossing the road is a complete nightmare. Even at pedestrian crossings or should that be especially at pedestrian crossings! I still naively believe somewhere in my brain that the cars will stop and let me cross. Oh no. of course not, that would be logical.

Its purely and simply again a game of dare. If you can dare to step, out the cars will usually stop – but not always. When was the last time you saw a free path across a pedestrian crossing in rush hour? Almost never, the prats driving the BMWs, Mercs, Hondas, buses, taxis etc make sure of that.

Again going back to Silom, last week I was crossing the road and the cars were backed up, a brief break in the traffic produced maybe a 10 foot gap in one lane, the rest were stationary. Thinking it was safe I started crossing. The driver of the middle lane were the gap was saw me, I know he did as we made eye contact. But did he stop so I could cross? No, of course not. The result I was a was not walking straight across but was having to walk diagonally to avoid this prick running me down. If he had just touched the brakes, he would have waited 5 seconds and then continued that precious extra 10 feet to the bumper of the car in front. I think this whole myth of Jai Yen Yen is just that, a myth. Put a Thai behind a wheel and they are more of a homicidal maniac than people back in my home town and Thais think we are hot tempered.

And it has come to pass that I have now had more than 1,000 poor lost souls who found their way here and read the ramblings. So, to all of you I say welcome, thanks and I hope you enjoyed the rant of the days and you come back again. Please visit some of the other sites and buttons on this page I link to.

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