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Mongolian Traffic

In Mongolia, Mystery Trip on September 23, 2012 at 9:52 pm

The traffic congestion in Ulaanbaatar can be attributed to two things:  1. poor construction planning, and 2. new drivers.  Construction envelopes the entire city and no one gives any thought to managing the traffic implications of closing a road.  The result is multiple road closures with one-way alley routes that were originally built solely for pedestrian use.  Up until ten years ago people were still getting around by horse and there were very few cars.  With the arrival of the mining companies the automobile has increased exponentially with poor infrastructure lagging far behind.  And this leads to the second problem, a very ‘young’ driving population.

Most of the Mongolian drivers have been on the road for only two years and a large percentage would have purchased their licenses.  Defensive driving is non-existent and this turns everything into a competition with no knowledge of how to navigate traffic jams.  Traffic lights are necessary because without them cars grind to a halt in utter confusion, so you can imagine what road closures would do to their already discombobulated minds.

Arrogance and pride also play into the general chaos.  Because everyone has to win no one can lose.  If two cars approach each other from opposite directions in an alleyway, they will get stuck for up to five minutes while they stare each other down, scowling at the other to give in first.  It’s stupid and yet the learning curve seems to be rather flat.  One wonders how long they’ll tolerate this behaviour before they change their ways.  Until then, if you need to get somewhere in the city make sure to add at least 30-40 to your estimated trip time.  Happy travels!

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