Ok so this is not one of our better stories, but there is enough humor in it to make it a momentary distraction from all the other problems in the world. From the outsider who has never had a taste of Bangkok’s legendary traffic this story may be worth skipping over, for those who have had a taste read on…..
Bangkok is a wonderful city if you don’t let the traffic upset you too much. In fact the only successful way to navigate Bangkok is at plus or minus altitude. The Bangkok skytrain has proven to be the best plus altitude form of transportation, and the Bangkok subway has proven to be the best minus altitude form of transportation. Both of them are slated to expand and there is not a person in Bangkok that does not look forward to it.
Bangkok’s traffic is just madness and in some cases life threatening. When a person walking along the road can make better time than an ambulance with lights on and serene whaling away in the midst of traffic, one can only hope that if they fell sick they would be in close proximity to one of the many hospitals in the city.
But to think that pedestrians are immune from the traffic, only a person that has never visited Bangkok would be that naive. When the roads get clogged, motorcycles simply take to driving on the sidewalks claiming them as Bangkok motorcycle trails. Simply every possible place a motorcycle can go, they do go. The problem is so chronic that some embassies have taken to placing cement and steel posts on the sidewalks in front of the embassy to thwart any criminal intent. Even seeing the police driving on the sidewalks is a normal sight, so why would a person expect anything to be done.
So when it comes to dealing with traffic on ground level, nothing seems to work as planned. A bicycle path was painted on some sidewalks and other places. All that turned out to be was a waist of paint. The path is covered with street vendors, and everything other than bicycles.
So now imagine if you would, a mode of public transportation that takes away one of the precious lanes of traffic, and you start to see the humor unfolding. A rapid transit bus system was put in place earlier this year doing just that. So with a resounding ‘ya right’ from the people in Bangkok, the comedy unfolded as all form of vehicle simply ignored the devoted lane and saw it as valid driving space. Even with the threat of police and getting ticketed, the onslaught of 8 million people was too much to hold back. So the on paper 22 minute bus trip simply became the standard however long it takes bus trip.
Expanding into other areas has been put on hold as the people running the rapid transit bus try to figure out how to make it work on ground level. But even before that, the entire system was seen as a graft project knowing full well it was doomed from concept. With most Thai people seeing traffic laws as something to occupy paper and not the roads, even school children too young to drive who need to navigate Bangkok’s traffic daily saw failure in this project when it was announced.
The primary reason for the failure is lack of respect for the law. Laws are inconsistently and selectively enforced, and that has become deeply etched into the Thai way of thinking. The dedicated bus lane model is valid, and it does work where laws are both respected and enforced. But seeing that Thailand does not meet that prerequisite, the Bangkok traffic jams will remain part of the landscape.