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Good god!
Anatomy of urban chaos

By Farhad Radmehrian
April 18, 2002
The Iranian

1. This light has turned yellow. By law, this means that certain things should be done by drivers and pedestrians. However, one look at this photograph gives you the impression that the last thing in anyone's mind is the traffic light.

2. The left turn lane for the oncoming traffic is wide enough for one (1) vehicle. So, the drivers have to form a single file queue to go through the left intersection and make the left turn. Forget about it. The intersection looks plenty wide for everyone turning; so let's all bunch up around that tight turn and see who wins!

3. This guy is a mystery to me. He is just standing there with his hands behind his back, being pensive and thoughtful. Is he contemplating his own life or just marveling at the chaotic mess that is unfolding before his eyes? One can only imagine.

4. These two drivers and the ones ahead of them have been driving for years and years thinking that the white dotted lines on the streets are where you aim the center of your front hood. So, when they hear the public encouragements to drive between the lines, they only see the danger of running into the back corners of other cars and therefore continue to follow their safe old way of driving, which is to follow the lines.

5. This dude is another case study all to his own. Is he trying to catch a taxi or is he caught with no way to run? Or maybe he is a traffic cop?

6. These two cars seem to be crossing from left to right and through the intersection. But we cannot really say with certainty because they couldn't have made that left turn so recently if there is a whole pack of cars concentrated on the left turn already (explained in number 2). So, could they be parked in such an odd fashion?

7. This guy proves point number one. I bet you he is completely unaware of the traffic lights overhead. He is supposed to stop behind the pedestrian crossing zone which is now behind him. And is he at all aware of the determined pack of cheetahs concentrated on turning left in front of him? This assessment is of course depending on whether or not he is stopped or still moving.

8. No wonder Tehrani drivers ignore and violate pedestrian crossing zones. A lot of the crossing zones have markings that are worn out and invisible like the ones on this intersection.

9. This white car's ugly maneuver is actually the result of a "defensive driving" tactic and one of the ways drivers keep from ramming into each other and everything else in Tehran. While defensive driving is a good thing worldwide, in Tehran, defensive driving is done regardless of limitations dictated by law. Take the driver of this white Paykan, for example. He sees the man standing on the right lane of the street up ahead who may be trying to flag down a taxi. In order to avoid hitting the guy, the driver of the white car is pushing against the dark car to its left and violating the basic principle of staying between the lines.

What usually happens in a situation like this is the car to the left will push to the left in turn and the third car (if any) will either speed up and run ahead of the impending squeeze or hit the brakes and stay behind the squeeze. The same techniques are used in situations where you see 4 or 5 cars driving across a tripple-lane road which, while an efficient use of public roadways, is also the prime reason for all the ugly dents and bumps on the majority of Tehrani cars.

10. That is God, looking down on his good people and wondering how in the world they can function like this?
Comment for The Iranian letters section
Comment for the writer Farhad Radmehrian


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