I think that traffic, driving and pedestrians tell us a lot about societies, and how people are. Flying through five cities in 11 days and comparing the traffic gives one amazing insight, just through the modes of transport and traffic solutions.
We went on a day tour of Istanbul while we were in transit there. Traffic was heavy, driving reckless, lots of hooting but everything was well handled. There are a combination of huge highways on the outskirts and tiny, ancient roads in the city centre, all negotiated by cars, motorbikes and even busses.
Paris was incredible. There, a successful Metro makes traversing the city a joy, especially when the train pops out of an underground tunnel and gives you a stunning view of the Seine, the city streets or even a glimpse of winter greenery. It also gives one a chance to perve at the Paris sexies, of all ages, colours and sizes. it just doesn’t get more stylish. Out on the street traffic is totally intense. In places, cars move at a snail’s pace, waiting for pedestrians to move across hectic intersections. Sirens are constantly heard, and all traffic gives way to the ambulances that dash across the city. In Monmartre everyone has a scooter. Their buzzing can be heard up and down the streets and alleys through the night and into the morning. There are piles of scooters on every pavement and street corner. A novelty for me were the rows of automated bicycle parking spots along many of the streets. Apparently, you get a card loaded and then activate a bicycle pole with your card, to lock your bike down.
There is not a single car or scooter or bicycle in the whole of Venice. You either walk, or travel on water. What an absolute relief. The public water taxi/ferry system is efficient and comprehensive, just like an ordinary metro. Gondolas are strictly an expensive tourist thing, and not really to get you from point to point, although Paulo, our gondolier, was a wealth of information, and of course you can hear every word he says, the trip is so quiet, with no motor, only the gentle slap of water against the buildings as you go past. It is also a great leveller, seeing everyone walking; rich, poor, local, foreign.
Rome is a traffic experience like no other. The advice I was given was, just walk. You can, and everyone stops for pedestrians. It is a madness of cars, busses, scooters, bikes, pedestrians, trams, trains and, even in some piazzas horses and carts. It was also a wet dream for the car buffs. Lamborghinis, Porsches, Ferraris and other fancies dot the streets and are left parked in alleyways. There are thousands of teeny cars; the best way to have a car in this mad traffic and space deprived city. And of course there are hundreds of thousands of scooters and bikes. I saw an old woman kick start her fancy black scooter down a busy city street like a stylish Hell’s Angel granny. And all of this is perfectly negotiated, as cars and bikes mount kerbs, huge busses screech to a halt to let a school’s tour of children cross a massive intersection, people bulldoze onto packed busses and metros and squeeze past cars and bikes in narrow cobbled streets.