Tuesday, February 1, 2011

How to Cross a Street in Nepal

Nepal, like many other Asian countries, has bad traffic. The roads are not only congested but also, at least to the casual observer, rather chaotic. In time, though, you will learn that there are rules, order, and even gracefulness to the way trucks, buses, taxis, motorcycles, bicycles, pedestrians, and elephants share the roads.

After being here a short while you will understand that taking a taxi, bus, or motorcycle is not such a scary proposition because drivers rarely reach speeds above 30 miles per hour, and despite the fact that they may kiss your mode of transport with their own, they really do not want to hit you. Really.

Even so, you may still be intimidated by street crossings. I know I was. Once confident when it came to crossing streets, back in 2003 or so, I arrived here in January and more or less forgot how to do it. By now, though, I have had some practice, so I thought I would share some tips.

1. Forget everything your parents taught you about crossing roads. Above all, do NOT look both ways. If you try to wait for a break in traffic from both lanes (whom am I kidding -- "lane" should be used loosely here), then you will never make it anywhere. Take a look at my video below as proof:

2. Remembering that Nepal drivers (generally) drive on the left side of the road here like the Brits, you should look to your right first to determine when you might make your first step into the street. If there are multiple "lanes" of traffic coming from the right, just focus on the one closest to you. The same rule from #1 applies in this case; waiting for a complete break in traffic might keep you permanently on one side of the street.

3. If you are feeling anxious about making the first move, look around and see if anyone else is also trying to cross the street from your side. Preferably, find a group of school children, like I did the other day when I saddled up to five sixth-graders and allowed them to lead the way.

4. Keeping your eyes focused on the traffic coming at you from the right, start moving forward when you see a quick break in traffic. Take one "lane" at a time until you get to the middle of the road.

5. Now turn your attention to the traffic coming from your left and do the same, moving carefully but confidently and taking care not to confuse drivers with any wishy-washy moves. Pick your strategy and stick with it!

6. Above all, do not panic. Really, they don't want to hit you.

1 comment:

Kristen said...

Haha! I love it! I remember the first time I went to Beijing I had to do the same thing - my boss said "No, you just walk out in the street and they all stop for you!" and then proceeded to walk across the street without looking and all the cars slammed on their brakes and swerved to miss him... While I admire his bravery, I definitely found your strategy of taking one "lane" at a time to be the best way forward.