To Drive Through Traffic In Bangkok Requires A Whole New Set
For starters, listen to your Thai friends. They will be a good source of information.
For more knowledge read my blogs on the dangers of driving in Thailand. In the last blog we talked about the surprising risks taken by Thai pedestrians. This blog speaks to the hazards pedestrians face in Thailand. Thai pedestrians act differently on the roads and sidewalks of Thailand and you need to be prepared.
Do Your Research About Traffic In Bangkok!
Last time we talked about the dangerous attempts Thais will make to cross busy streets. We in the west call it jay-walking but it has no such negative connotation here. You might be quite relieved to see they’ve built a number of concrete pedestrian overpasses the busiest traffic in Bangkok.
Don’t be. Thais don’t use the overpasses! OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. Some Thais will grudgingly climb the stairs and walk over the busy traffic in Bangkok. But trust me, they really don’t want to. They prefer to jet across the street when they see an opening in the traffic.
Ninety Percent Ignore The Overpasses And Step Into The Traffic In Bangkok!
There’s an overpass I can see from the window of my condo. Below it is a busy street. There’s three lanes of traffic in each direction with a grass island in the middle. I’d say 90 percent of the people I watch walk right past the stairs of the overpass and sprint out to the island. They catch their breath, assess the traffic, and sprint across the final three lanes.
They’re very adept at it and I’ve never seen an accident but I must say it seems fraught with danger with traffic in Bangkok. Daytime isn’t too bad but I can’t even count how many times I’ve been driving at night and suddenly realized there was a person running across the road just in front of me. I don’t suppose you’d be surprised to hear they are wearing dark clothing.
Can You Ever Get Accustomed To The Craziness?
If I was a rookie driver in traffic in Bangkok I suppose I’d be shocked. But now I’m on guard for that sort of thing all the time. It’s become part of my driving habit. I expect the unexpected to happen.
You might wonder why Pedestrians don’t stay on the sidewalks where they’re safe. The truth is there really is no safe place for a Thai pedestrian (except on the overpasses). The sidewalk itself is like navigating a mine field.
The Sidewalk Is Full Of Obstacles!
First of all, Thai sidewalks have all sorts of obstacles in them. You can’t just walk absentmindedly down a Thai sidewalk or you’ll get hurt. Street signs, power poles, and even trees, are just wantonly placed right in the middle of the sidewalk. It’s as if the people making the sidewalks never envisioned someone actually walking on them.
The pedestrian overpasses we’ve been talking about? The stairs are located smack dab in the middle of the sidewalk. If you’re walking in that direction without any intent to use the stairs you’ll have to walk around a very narrow strip of pavement on either side of the overpass.
A Traffic Jam On The Sidewalk?
If there are pedestrians coming from the other direction then you have a traffic jam of sorts while each side waits oh so impatiently for each other to walk the strip. Watch your head too. The rising stairs only leave a little bit of headroom to duck under as you transit back to the full sidewalk.
Well, you say, you’re pretty good at missing immobile objects right? Walking the sidewalk won’t be an issue for you. Or will it? Have you considered there might be mobile objects on the sidewalk?
Look Out For The Traffic In Bangkok!
I’ve been walking the sidewalk many times only to be shocked by a sudden “beep beep” behind me. Is it the cartoon character Road-Runner? No no. I turn around to find a motorcycle navigating it’s way down the sidewalk! It’s a common occurrence in traffic in Bangkok!
The little 100cc bikes will weave up and down the traffic in Bangkok fully expecting everyone on foot to move out of their way. Many’s the time I’ve been outside in the evening enjoying a brisk stroll down the sidewalk with my girl. All of a sudden I hear the vroom of an engine and a motorcycle flashes past us. We’re forced to walk single file to avoid the risk of being burned by a hot exhaust pipe.
Why Would There Be Motorcycles On The Sidewalks?
Half of these motorcycles seem to be motorcycles taxis. They have customers on the back and they make more money if they make more trips so there’s a big incentive to go quickly through traffic in Bangkok.
Why waddle through the traffic jam on the street when the sidewalk is perfectly clear? They know Pedestrians will move out of their way. Eventually other people on motor bikes mimic the behavior of the motorcycle taxis.
Is It Illegal To Drive LIke That Through Traffic In Bangkok?
But wait, you say, surely they must get a ticket for driving a motor vehicle on the sidewalk. Well, I’ve yet to see that happen. Quite the contrary, I’ve often seen the police on their motorcycles using the sidewalk!
How Do The Motor Bikes Deal With The Curbs?
Aren’t the curbs a factor when the sidewalks come to a street? The bikes don’t just jump the curbs do they? You are right, they don’t. It seems as if someone has gone around traffic in Bangkok and made little berms against each curb.
The berms are made of earth, or concrete, or wooden planks, but it seems they are everywhere. Every time you come to a curb somethings’ been molded there to allow the motorcycles a little bridge up to the walk way where they can continue unencumbered.
Be Alert If You Are A Pedestrian In Traffic In Bangkok
Can you see why Pedestrians have it tough? Even a simple matter like coming to a side street can be a hazard. Pedestrians have to walk across that short expanse of road to continue on the other side. The problem is car drivers in traffic in Bangkok see themselves as far more important than pedestrians. If you think drivers will stop for you out of courtesy you are sorely mistaken.
Can You Adopt A Thai Mindset?
Afraid? I’m not outlining this to scare you. I’m doing it to inform you. No matter where you go in this world there will always be something new and different to you. If you adopt the Thai mindset that it’s nothing to worry about; that things will work out OK in the end, then you’re well on your way. Don’t be afraid to adapt to a different world. That’s what makes Thailand special. Enjoy your walk through traffic in Bangkok.