Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Shirin’s report on the streets of Tehran

On Driving

Some people agreed and some disagreed with me on this while I was in Iran but I really thought people’s driving had improved a lot in Tehran. I’m not saying all the cars were stopping on zebra crossings to let pedestrians go past or anything like that but studying the faces of a lot of drivers, I did come to the conclusion that they no longer took any pleasure in running their fellow citizens over either and unlike previous years, they no longer looked as though they were actively searching for distracted pedestrians to knock down.

Another sign of very good driving for me came in the form of a man who before changing lanes in the motorway, indicated! Ok so maybe he didn’t actually change lanes at the end and decided it was best to just drive on with the line in-between his wheels rather than with his wheels between the lines but the important thing is that he indicated even if his indicating had been a little premature and before he had made his mind up about which lane he actually wanted to be in. So the man in the white Pride on Hemmat Motorway on the 26th of April this year at approximately five thirty in the afternoon, I salute you.

On road safety

I really felt like a lot had changed in the streets of Tehran since last year. For one, drivers and front passengers wore seatbelts! This also means that taxis are now only allowed to take four passengers instead of five since it’s practically impossible for two people to sit on the front passenger seat and wear a seatbelt. Saying that I must admit I’m surprised that taxi drivers have not yet found a way to get around this little problem by for example asking the smaller front passenger to sit on the bigger front passenger’s lap and hold the seatbelt over both of them.

Another safety measure taken by the government is that motorcyclists are now all made to wear crash helmets.
How you ask? And you ask a very good question too. How on earth a government manages to make a people who use motorcycles to move their whole family (consisting of one wife, two children, one grandmother) and one ladder, from A to B, to suddenly become safety conscious and wear helmets?
I have decided to give the answer to this question in the form of a riddle: How many Pasdars (morality police) does it take to teach a motorcyclist that getting on a motorcycle without a helmet is dangerous?
The answer is, Three.

You take one long stretch of good old Tehran road and put three Pasdars on it at about fifty meter intervals. You arm the first Pasdar with a regular sized sign that in big, red letters says ‘STOP’. You arm the second Pasdar with the exact same sign, only bigger. The third and last Pasdar who should really be the most athletic one as well, gets no stop signs at all, instead you must provide him with a great big baton.
Before we go any further let me just confess that unfortunately I never got a chance to witness this amazing helmet awareness process myself since by the time I had arrived, all motorcyclists had already been made aware of the dangers of riding with their heads exposed and had all gone and bought shiny new helmets for themselves. Here I’m only repeating what Kamyar’s friend, Afshin told us about this very effective course of action.
As the first Pasdar on the road sees a carefree, helmet-free motorcyclist coming towards him, he pulls out his stop sign and waves it in front of the rider in order to make him stop.
If the rider stops, he gets fined heavily for having broken the law so he decides to ignore the Pasdar with the median sized stop sign and speeds past him.
A few meters away however, the second Pasdar is waiting with his even bigger sign. Again the motorcyclist ignores the stop sign and zooms past the Pasdar saying to himself, ‘Even Saddam Hussein and his army could not make us wear helmets. We went off to the war wearing nothing but a headband that said ‘Ya Mahdi’. Now who are you to make us wear helmets in our own country at the time of peace?’
Meanwhile the third and last Pasdar gets ready with his baton and when the motorcyclist reaches him, he is presented with a physical stop sign that sends him flying in the air by whacking him off his motorcycle as he rides past.
Before landing in the middle of the road, the man makes a promise to Allah that if he gets out alive, from that moment on he will wear his crash helmet at all times even when in bed or in the shower.

If this story is true as Afshin swore it was, then I’m very proud of our government that has not only made our streets safer, but has also managed to take the notion of tough love to a whole new level.

If you are wondering about the guy in the above picture and why he is not wearing a helmet, I must say in his defence that he is of course exempt from this law as the super-safety-conscious guy that he is, he only ever rides on the pavement.


Behrooz said...

Your humour cuts deep and bites savagely. It is really cruel. It is an art though.

And what is that middle photo there for? Are you implying that camels too should wear helmets. Or what?
Or is it that the camel is moving with the line between his legs rather than his legs between the lines?

Or, is it that you like the way the camel has posed for the photo?

Anonymous said...

Hi! Are you in Iran now??
Your blog is very very nice...
Congratulations;)I will return!

jarvenpa said...

Amazing photos. I am glad you are safely back in England (but sorry that you must be missing your parents and other relatives). The camel photo is astonishing to me, and makes me smile. Here I get all excited if a horse comes down our rural main street. One day a cow got loose and wandered around; my children were very excited. I can't imagine what they'd do with a whole procession of camels.

Aman said...

That is very funny! I had not heard of this method myself but now that I have, I am proud of our government too! I do not agree with you about people’s driving being better now. When I was in Iran two months ago, I tried to drive around the streets of Tehran and I nearly had a nervous breakdown! Next time I go there, I’m going to get one of those camels instead of a car!

marieh said...

dear shirin, your post is very close to what i saw. in the taxi with my uncle in the front, we were stopped by a policemen. both driver and uncle shouted a big "tchashm" before the police guy even opened his mouth(at this point jon learned the true meaning of this word!!)and managed to get the seat belt on in 2 secs. though the taxi driver almost suffocated by getting the belt on the wrong way!thanks for the pictures of teran streets

Dr O2 said...

well a big portion of the improvement comes from the bigger prices they pay to buy their cars ;-) Paykan's were the worst disease with their cheap accesorries! but now... ;-)

Behrooz said...

what a clever point o2. I like that.

mariamusic said...

It was interesting reading your posting. I haven't gone back to Iran for an year now, and I almost had forgotten how it was. Hope you share more.thanks. mariamusic.

Gazankhan said...

You made me laugh aloud again six in the morning, thank you; most beautifuly written. Welcome back Shirin my dear.

Shirin said...

Sorry about that Behrooz. Didn’t really mean to cut.
About the camels, apparently they have their own special laws when it comes to road safety which I don’t really know much about if I’m honest. I wasn’t implying that they should wear helmets though that’s for sure.

Hi Anonymous. No I’m back in Oxford now. I returned from Iran five days ago after a trip that lasted a little over three weeks :-) Thanks and bountydallaluna to you too!

Are you serious Jarvenpa? From what I’ve read in your blog about where you live, I had this idea that you had a lot of animals around you.
When I was little we used to get guys that sold fertilizers coming down our road on camels in the summer. It was always very exciting when they came and I used watch them from our balcony and long to get on one and go for a ride.

Hi Aman. I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong about people’s driving getting better but it just felt that way to me. Getting a camel is of course a fantastic idea. Just remember that even though a one hump camel consumes a lot less and is therefore cheaper to run, the road tax on it is a lot higher than on a two hump camel on account of it only being able to carry one passenger and therefore adding to the traffic. Also in a little while when the new road legislations go through, you won’t be able to use the benefits of the carpool lane.

Hee hee that’s funny Marieh. I wonder what John thought of the Tehran traffic and the way people drove.

Yes Dr O2 now flashy new Samands have taken over. It’s funny I had always hated Paykans but now that there aren’t that many of them, I’m starting to feel that it might be sad to see them all disappear one day.

Thanks Mariamusic. I know what you mean about forgetting what it’s like; sometimes living in ‘farang’ we are such a world away from Iran that it gets hard to remember what it was like there. I hope you get to go back soon.

That’s great Gazankhan :-) hello.

Behrooz said...

Confession: I read my comment again: surprise surprise! It was meant to be funny and good-humouredly conveyed! and it is not, apparently. Ok, that's what I cannot do possibly. Let me this to the list too.

marieh said...

jon didnt like tehran and the traffic, specially the smog, of course. he suggested a new safety rule. instead of belts, we should have spikes, that face us directly under the wheel. that would make us drive more carefully.LOL