Crazy Drivers and Collapsed Bridges: Tales of Amman Traffic

This*

DSC_0320

makes crossing this

DSC_0357

nerve-wracking.

With gas at nearly 4.50 USD per gallon,** you would think that Jordanians would be fleeing the streets (or perhaps taking to them?). But traffic is as crazy as ever, with no signs of abating, and demand for gas is high enough that people wait in gas station lines four, five, six cars long.

One reason Jordanians probably continue driving is that viable public transportation are limited. Plus, even that option leads to more to more vehicles: yellow taxis, buses, and white service taxis, which differ from ordinary taxis by following fixed routes with fixed rates. Cars are far more convenient for those who can afford them, and for those who don’t have cars, they probably end up in a taxi or bus at some point anyway, especially since Amman is not pedestrian friendly. No matter how you travel or where you go, avoiding the tumult and chaos of the streets here is impossible.

Impatient drivers consistently weave through the narrowest of slits just to skip ahead a few cars while waiting for a red light. One trick people use to navigate Amman’s confusing streets is driving backwards on a one-way street, with the car pointed in the proper direction, albeit moving against traffic. Ask a taxi or service driver what he thinks about drivers in Jordan and he will probably say, with a wicked grin, “Majaneen,” which means crazy. As a driver in Amman, being just as crazy or aggressive as others becomes a survival tactic: if you so much as hesitate, you’ll lose a chance to turn or switch lanes, at best. At worst, you get to be part of a minor fender bender or full on accident.

Crossing streets, as a pedestrian, is one-third science, one-third art, and one-third insanity. It is a skill worth developing: calculating how much time you have between cars, knowing how to cross assertively to ensure that drivers will slow if need be, and having the guts to just do it. The best way to learn is to follow the lead of a local until you get the hang of it.

And just because a pedestrian isn’t crossing a street doesn’t mean she is home free. Many sidewalks are completely blocked by trees or large bushes that force walkers into the street, and cars and trucks regularly appear out of nowhere (especially driving backwards on those one-way streets). In a nutshell, walking in Amman is at times comparable to biking in New York City; both keep you on your toes.

The good news: no matter how crazy Amman’s traffic may seem, people generally agree that Cairo is far, far worse.

*Mid-May update: After several months, the bridge has finally been repaired!DSC_0112

 

**.835 JD per liter for 90-octane gas at the time of writing

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Crazy Drivers and Collapsed Bridges: Tales of Amman Traffic

  1. It’s still better and definitely much improved over what I faced upon my arrival 19 years ago. Live it and love it!!! It could be worse:-)

  2. “Crossing streets, as a pedestrian, is one-third science, one-third art, and one-third insanity. It is a skill worth developing: calculating how much time you have between cars, knowing how to cross assertively to ensure that drivers will slow if need be, and having the guts to just do it.”

    I love this! So true. And also, it’s true what they say about Egypt. I’ve been to Cairo and it’s definitely much worse from every angle.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s