Notes From Hairenik
August 5, 2005
A friend of mine once said to me not long ago that "Armenians are always in a hurry, but they have no place to go."

There's a lot of truth in this statement. Granted, people need to get to work on time or be at some important event, but for the most part Armenians here, particularly in Yerevan or those from Yerevan visiting areas outside the capital, are rushing constantly. Armenians being generally competitive and arrogant by nature must participate in one kind of race or another.

For instance, when a light is red only some cars actually wait in their respective lanes to proceed when the light turns green. Many drivers totally bypass the lanes to pass all idle vehicles on their left, only to go through the light or make an illegal turn left. You can see incidents of careless driving occurring every 30 seconds or so, maybe even shorter, at the intersection of Khanjian and Tumanian or Sayat Nova Streets and at the traffic light at Sakharov Square on Nalbandyan Street. These two intersections are extremely dangerous, especially for pedestrians. The red light is short and if some vehicles proceed through it before others actually stop there is not much time to cross Nalbandyan before engines are revving again.

But pedestrians don’t seem to mind. You can always find some stranded on the line between lanes as cars speed by them. I don’t’ know how many times I’ve seen cars graze by these people—they remain unaffected.

Armenian drivers also do not like halting near the stop line at red lights. They usually creep forward until the light turns green or if they suddenly decide to run the red light.

Then there is the race to get to point x. Along the highway that leads from the city towards Lake Sevan I have been nearly sideswiped at least five times in the last few months because people do not bother looking in their rear-view mirrors to see if there is a vehicle passing them on the left. Last week I almost got into a near-fatal accident with one such idiotic driver, who did not understand what all the fuss was about when I cursed him out. On this same highway you can find cars that are going in excess of 150 km/hr in their BMWs or Mercedes Benzes (Russian cars cannot reach such speeds). They have no concern for speed limits or driving etiquette, and thus road accidents are occurring more frequently.

The main culprit in careless driving is the department of motor vehicles in Yerevan. Anyone that pays the required bribe can obtain a driver's license without ever having sat behind the driver's wheel. I don't understand how such people actually start out driving but they manage. I suppose they slam their foot on the gas pedal and then step on the brakes when absolutely necessary, judging from what I’ve seen.

Although there are rent-a-car agencies in Yerevan, such as Lemon Car Rental (note the name), it is very difficult to drive in Armenia—not so much in the regions but in Yerevan especially. I refuse to drive in Central Yerevan because there is no point if I can get around by foot or the metro. Again, driving on the highways that exit the city can be dangerous as cars seem to come from nowhere and want to pass you, harassing with their horns or high beams until you give them way. Driving in Boston was challenging, but Yerevan does not compare. However, I've heard that Yerevan still is not that bad, as in Baku drivers reportedly drive on sidewalks when they're really in a hurry.

In any case, if you're visiting Yerevan and want to drive or even walk, be very careful. You never know what crazy Armenian might smash into you.

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Anonymous Tigran said...
I haven't been in Armenia for 10 years but cannot wait to get back. I always enjoy your insights on everyday life though, this isnt the kind of analysis I usually get from friends there or visitors. Keep up the good work. You mentioned the metro and I have actually been very curious about the metro for quite a while but cant seem to find much information. How is it underground. You mentioned Boston and i have been there and have ridden on their subway, how would you compare the two. If you have ever been on the New York City subway that would be a better comparison for me as I am on it at least once a week. How would you compare in terms of cleanliness, the amount of people using it, the efficiency, the timeliness, aesthetic quality?

Anonymous Monique said...
The another ridiculous thing among Armenians is that in case one person passes at red light, all of them are following him. Driving in the city of Yerevan is not an easy thing.