Monday, October 1, 2007

Rules of the Road

I will now list for you some of the unwritten rules of the road here in Bangladesh (in my interpretation):

1) The Rule of the Horn - This is either a horn, or a bell (on a Rickshaw). It is almost continuous and it indicates one of a number of things:
a) Move aside or you may be roadkill.
b) You are going too slowly.
c) I am in your lane, don't hit me.
d) You are in my lane, move over.
e) I am passing you on the right.
f) I am passing you on the left.
g) Why aren't you moving?
h) You are pushing me off the road.
i) I am bored.

2) The Rule of the Stoplight - This rule applies anywhere where the stoplight is functioning or when it is not (as in the case of Mymensingh). If the light is green, go. If the light is yellow, go. If the light is red, go. If there is a police officer, stop.

3) The Rule of Where to Drive - This rule applies to all roads without barriers. Driving lane, middle of the road (on the line). Passing side, normally right, often left. Oncoming truck, move off the road.

4) The Rules for pedestrians - this applies to all roads (two-way and one-way):
a) Look both ways before crossing either side of the street.
b) If a vehicle is fast approaching, hurry up.
c) If you are Bangladeshi, walk in the middle of the road.

5) The Rule of the Hand - If the hand (or head) tells you to go right, do it. If the hand (or head) tells you to go left, do it. If the hand goes up, stopping is optional.

I publish this post partially as a joke, but it is actually fairly accurate. Vehicles in Bangladesh are now known for their safety or for being courteous (by anyone's standards). I was speaking briefly to the group in Bangladesh from Bolivia, and one man was joking that you need a "strong heart" to ride a rickshaw in Bangladesh, because you always think you are going to die. But despite the seeming chaos of traffic in this country, on the roads like everywhere else there is a system. Which, I might add, works most of the time. If two vehicles are vying for the same spot, the one that edges out the other one, is given the space to occupy that spot, in a way it resembles a game. And it always seems as though rickshaws are going to collide but through a common system of hand signals they usually manage to avoid bad collisions. Driving and travelling in Bangladesh can be a harrowing experience. And one in which you must be cautious, as the Bangladesh Lonely Planet notes, "if your bus driver is more reckless than the average reckless bus driver, you can always get off and take the next bus". I have found it a great learning experience for this white boy from Canada to start understanding the traffic system in Bangladesh, to realize that it is not just a huge melee of vehicles, but there is a system to this madness. And as well, for me to know this system makes travelling just that much easier.

PS The train service in Bangladesh has made some enormous strides recently and I find taking the train a much less harrowing way of travelling in this country.


1 comment:

Philip said...

ee that makes me laugh in a laughing way... cause i'm going to experience it which is gonna be crazy