Big yellow taxi

posted in: Teaching in Lesvos | 0

What is odd about the taxis in Mytilini is just how many of them there are for a relatively small place.  There is a big rank at either end of town, plus more at the airport, plus plenty driving around. I can only suppose they don’t need many fares to scrape a living.  I do like the way that, at the rank near me, they use the gentle slope to edge forward without switching on (though they sometimes need to give the car a scoot) – better for their wallets and the air.

But this is not just about taxis (I just couldn’t resist the title – such a great song) but about traffic here in general – another perennial topic.  On the whole, the place is relatively civilised.  Drivers stick to the rules, the traffic light system is efficient and well-observed, by both drivers and pedestrians, and there isn’t that constant blaring of horns that blights so many cities.  And the zebra crossings – tiger crossings actually, as they’re yellow and black – though mostly worn away, are observed if you are bold enough to step out.

However, there is a major exception to this civilised road culture: motor-bikes (and scooters, and mopeds, and even one guy in a motorised wheelchair, which attains astonishing speeds.)  One, they don’t count as vehicles, apparently; two, there are thousands of them.  My direct route to school is along Ermou, a busy shopping street that is pedestrianised for certain parts of the day.  Except, of course, for motor-bikes, which use it at any time, weaving through the shoppers when it’s busy, and blasting along at high speed when it’s not. 

They do make sense, however, because of the other main problem, which is extremely narrow streets, which were simply never intended for the motor car, though cars – and vans – use them anyway.  For the driver, you REALLY have to know exactly how wide your car is; but for the pedestrian, especially with virtually no pavements, it’s worse, as you always have to be squeezing yourself out of their way.  And never an acknowledgment of your courtesy.  Though, to be fair, given the situation, it would give the driver RSI.

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