Wednesday, July 05, 2006


Transportion and more specifically "traffic" is a hot-button topic in Dubai. But instead of complaining about traffic it might be more interesting to compare the variety of ways people get around in different parts of the world. I have a few comparisons to offer from my own experiences of living and travelling in different places.

I'd like to start with a rather exotic locale, Ho Chi Minh city in Vietnam. Although it has been a few years since my last visit there, it never failed to amuse, frighten and impress me the way people got around. The predominant form of transportation by far is two-wheeled. Boulevards--wonderfully wide tree-lined roadways--crisscross the city. They are filled from as early as 6 a.m. to midnight with thousands of weaving, polluting, horn-pounding motorbikes, and the scattered cyclist. Despite the craziness on the ground and the filfth in the air, an interesting communal spirit develops among commuters.

Not wearing helmets or goggles and always having to negotiate with one another, commuters on the roads of Ho Chi Minh city, more than any other place I have seen, develop a comradarie with their fellow commuters. They turn to the side and chat with the stranger beside them, whether while in motion or waiting at an intersection. They might even strike up enough of a conversation to take a pause in their journey to continue their chat over a cup of coffee at one of the many sidewalk cafes.

At the almost opposite extreme are the cities of Japan. While having to deal with streets and various train and subway stations no less crowded than the streets of Ho Chi Minh city, Japanese commuters have developed the art of courteous avoidance. While they sometimes stand on crowded subways, literally face-in-hair to the adjacent commuter, they manage to act as if no one else were there. While seated in train seats opposite fellow commuters they manage successfully to avoid glances, and certainly gazes. It isn't that they are unfriendly--no one could accuse the ever-polite Japanese of anything like that. The avoidance, instead, enhances efficiency, as the commute offers an invaluable opportunity for the busy Japanese to spend time... pondering one's thoughts, catching up on the day's reading, or stealing a few winks.

So, how does Dubai measure up? It probably has the avoidance characteristic of Japan, minus the courtesy. The way to avoid your fellow commuter in Dubai and the rest of the UAE for that matter is to blacken your car's windows. As for trains, well of course, they don't exist yet. While buses do, most are just avoided altogether. And like Ho Chi Minh city there is a bit of weaving on the roads, but with the use of flashing headlamps instead of tooting horns when one wants to alert or threaten a fellow driver in his path. The ultimate method of avoidance on the roads of the UAE is to just speed past everything else in sight.

That being said, one positive observation I have of UAE commuters is that the great majority are patient and non-confrontational, even in the face of the few arrogant and wreckless drivers who make a difficult commute scary as well.



Gulf News Traffic Watch

Technorati Tags:  , , ,


Lisi said...

Great! I'm the first one to leave comment...Greetings from Hong Kong and Congrats on your new blog and wish you every success. ;-)

BD said...

Thanks Lisi. I look forward to seeing and getting more inspiration from your photos.

Harsh Saini said...
This comment has been removed by the author.