Driving in Istanbul
by Canan Negüs
Impressing on that driving in Istanbul is an exciting experience requires good driving skills and fair aggressiveness to get through the traffic. It resembles a jungle you should get rid of safely.
First of all one should be real patient in order to deal with driving, especially during rush hours. Avery very little adversity causes you to arrive at 40 minutes later to a place that is just 10-minutes away. Moreover, insufficient open and covered park areas, subdivided pavements by shop owners either to exhibit their goods or not to let the cars park in front of their windows, out of order park meters, policeman taking away the parked cars whenever and wherever they want and car-park mafia to whom you pay a reasonable park fee in order to save your car from some damage unfortunately unexplainable facts of Istanbul traffic.
Although traffic rules are theoretically same as in the western countries almost nobody obeys them. Therefore the fastest, biggest and the cruelest have the priority on the roads, wherever or at what speed he's coming. Please note "HE" is written on purpose when referring a driver, because female drivers are less and they have a tendency to be rather caring. Well most men drivers say, "Women drivers do not make accidents but they cause others make accidents". Maybe it's a kind of self-satisfaction of their ego, who knows…
Pedestrians have the lowest priority, and they are to know it and to be very quick to avoid being run over. Well, the drivers are quite used to pedestrians getting out of the way in the last second. So whether they may sound strange to you if you don't know the local off the cuff rules you get into such positions where you think the pedestrians are "aiming" at you.
You may sometimes surround by an army of taxi and dolmuş drivers and car horns blared from all corners. Most of the taxi drivers have a sixth sense that is while waiting at the red light, the horns and the green light always functions at the same time. This is a secret the drivers keep themselves!
One of the facts you may get real difficulty to understand is that "Why those drivers try to kill the passengers, pedestrians, other drivers and of course themselves, just a save very little time that they will fritter away anyway?"
Despite the fact that the Traffic directorate putting signs stating, "Don't be traffic monster" together with standard traffic sign, some of them only obey "their" rules. These drivers consider that the gas pedal is just an on/off device, forgetting the fact that it also has positions between slow and fast.
The brake space you keep to your preceding car is always considered an "invitation" to be passed from left or right.
Mainly uneducated taxi, dolmus and truck drivers have a very philosophical approach to driving: "Allah decides on everything, hence why should I worry to drive reasonably." That is Turks all drive fully believing that whatever they do "Allah" will protect them. And you "non-Muslims" are ill fated!
If you are a female driver and pass a dolmus, taxi or truck be sure their ego will wounded and they will try to do something extremely stupid to show you who is the king of the road if he catches up with you.
In particular they can turn left or right from any lane and it is an honor to turn right from the left-most lane for most dolmuş and taxi drivers. Also cars do not stop before or even on the pedestrian crossing. Honking is however a life style for them and rarely considered as cruelty. Most of the time it is a greeting or a reminder that you are going to be passed from right.
Taxi and dolmus drivers honk almost non-stop in order to gather business therefore do not consider those honks and be sure there is no law in Turkey stating that you are not allowed to walk!
Well, these are the first things coming to our minds, we are sure you may add some to such behaviors by your own experiences.
As somebody has said "Westerners die by accident, Turks live by accident!"
Latest comments about this article
By Colwyn 22.11.2003
Brilliant article. Have recommended it to friends. Will post phot of traffic sign on my office door.
By deryaay 17.10.2003
In the eye of foreigners istanbul is really funny and ironic metropolitan city. Most of them bothers us too. But there is nothing to do. It is matter of mentality and i hope it will change in the next millenium.
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Alexandre Vallaury - Architect Alexandre Vallaury was born into a Levantine family in İstanbul in 1850. Apart from the years he spent on architecture education in Paris, he lived in İstanbul for the rest of his life. more...
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