Driving is a real cultural thing. As you may remember my rants about the very bad manners Kazakh drivers have, particularly how they challenge pedestrians. Russians are skillful and individualistic souls weaving their own brand of chaos on the roads.
Here in Yekaterinburg, driving is an offensive operation. Uniqueness is the hallmark of a good driver here; I’m being kind really as the Russian ego gets in the way of good driving habits; in Singapore they would all be caned for their bad practices. I am one of those folks slogging through the traffic each day. The streets are shared by cars, buses, electric buses, trams and pedestrians; the latter are at risk here as they were in Almaty. One of my routine intersections that I must navigate is Malashava and Academenchskaya streets. When approaching to make the left turn onto Academenchskaya, you jump from the left traffic lane onto the tram track going in your direction. This is against the law but offers a strategic advantage in turning. Almost always there is an electric bus turning left also. They must take a wider ark because of their being connected to the electricity above them. You stay on the inside of the electric bus and let them run interference for you as you make the left turn. If they are turning, it is OK for you to follow as no sane person driving in the on coming traffic would hit one of these old electric buses. They are like tanks. Problem is the Russian in my illegal lane frequently will still sit like lemmings even though they have the bus as a blocker. This is frustrating, so I am behind them cursing and honking trying to move them to make that left turn.
Drivers here cannot tolerate you leaving a gap between your vehicle and the car in front. Each square centimeter must be occupied in a traffic line. Traffic lanes here are free form. Usually 2 lanes will become 4 AND during busy times the impatient drivers will cross a double line and proceed against oncoming traffic to gain a few hundred meters advantage. They go against on coming traffic and then beg to be let back in the line up ahead. These clowns are pathetic.
Seat belts are in almost all cars and are mandatory. But for Russians it is a game. You put the belt across your lap so the police see that you have one but occupants don’t fasten them. This is the US ala late 1960’s early 1970’s when the education campaign was started on safety belts. Someday it will all be routine to fasten them like we do in the States. I don’t like people telling me what to do either, but when the statistics are so overwhelmingly on the side of safety belt use, I will always buckle up. They saved my life a long time ago.
Cars. Choices, lots of choices. After all we are living under Putin’s brand of capitalism and consumerism. It rains supreme. The modern Russian has choices in cars. Gone are the days when you had only the little Moskva, or the retooled Fiat known as Lada, or your midsize Volga and full size Zill to choose from. The latter by the way was the Soviets’ Lincoln Towncar. In fact it looked a lot like a 57 Lincoln and was doled out to the Soviet apparatchiks. Today you have all brands with Toyota again dominating the market as they do around the world. We have a 1997 Honda Civic that Sophie found when she arrived. Nice little car and it has about 50 horse power more than my father in laws 34 year old Volga. He was duly impressed with the Honda.
I consider Russians above average in driving skills but out and out law breakers. They go where they want to, when they want to. They take good care of their cars and make them last a long time. Compared to Kazakhstan they are truly civilized.