Ivorian driving that blows my freakin’ mind

For a brief moment, here and there, I actually drove in the capital of DR Congo, Kinshasa. It was insane, but once you go through the what-the-fuckery of it (like someone passing me in reverse at 40kph), you realized that a) everyone follows one rule that b) there are no rules. Driving was all about watching out for yourself and being the cheekiest.
In Côte d’Ivoire, no matter which seat you’re occupying in the car, you’re engaged in the driving. Outside of Abidjan, the driving isn’t horrid. Taxi are spawn of the devil as they are everywhere, but it’s manageable. Within Abidjan the traffic is quite insane and it’s mostly due to the taxis again, causing sordid congestion everything their constantly-honking ilk cruise, looking for passengers. I hate them like nothing else I know.
But beyond evil taxis and traffic, there are two driving “rules” that I just don’t freaking get.

Roundabouts (aka, the Fuckabout)

The roundabout is a genius system to manage traffic without doing anything more than making the merging lanes go around in a circle. The Ivorians have managed to shoot this in the foot though as it’s the circulating traffic in the roundabout that has to wait for the cars merging in from the spokes. I had no idea how this completely backwards implementation of the roundabout happened, but the running theory is that there is a major roundabout at the top of one of the bridges to Plateau which has lights at each merging spoke and it must be that the model for all other roundabouts (where there are no lights) are based on this. Whatever the case, it doesn’t work and despite the honking, we refuse to bow to this system as it’s loony.

Headlights (aka Local Energy Conservation)

For those who didn’t know, headlights can cause optical damage, or so the thinking must go in Côte d’Ivoire where people refuse to turn their headlights on unless it’s more than two hours past sunset. To make matters, if you drive with your headlights on so that people hellbent on suicidal passing can see you, people will flash their lights at you.
My pet theory on this is there is great fear that if you have your lights on, then the authorities will require everyone to have their lights on and then they would have to replace them sooner. I don’t get it, but what really blew my mind was a a truck flashing us when it was so dark that we couldn’t even see him coming at us to only them turn the headlights off again once he was past us. That kind of thing is scary and reason to stay off the roads at night.
Again, we refuse to this insane system. The headlights come on at least a half hour before sunset and people can flash all they want. In fact, I encourage it, so that it wears out their lights faster to defeat this attempt at saving the bulbs which doesn’t work.

4 Replies to “Ivorian driving that blows my freakin’ mind”

  1. It’s true that ‘the rule is there are no rules’. Also, ‘expect anything’ is a good motto. Above all beware of empty taxis which are allowed to stop on a sixpence. You quickly become accustomed to having a third eye for whether taxis have passengers or not.

    1. What’s a sixpence? ;)

      There are certain zones that I pray I will never need to take a taxi in. Unfortunately, I shall experience my first “international” buses in a few days when heading to Mali…

    2. According to P J O’Rourke, the lights are turned off at night to save the battery, but I got to admit that your theory is more elegant. Anyway, remember to slow down for donkeys and pedestrians, speed up for goats and stop for cows!

    3. Enjoy your blog, thanks! The backwards roundabout right-of-way may be a gift from Colonial France, where the entering traffic used to have the right of way. They reversed this rule in France many years ago everywhere except, famously, Etoile where the insane-go-round amuses tourists at the Arc de Triomphe daily.

Comments are closed.