Thursday, November 4, 2010

Honk and Dart

"Stay close to me when we cross," Tim said.

We were about to cross Sisowath Quay, the street running parallel to the river. Cars and motos honked and darted past, observing uncertain traffic laws. They veered for the elephant wearing shoes, but not for me and Tim.

"This is like Frogger," Tim shouted back to me as we dodged traffic.

We hopped across, surviving several near misses. Unfortunately, this was not the only time during our jog that Tim led me through traffic. We braved other intersections and one roundabout that I was sure would flatten me. Tim ran undaunted; I shifted in fear.

My distrust for Cambodian drivers has good cause: Pedestrians don't get the right-of-way. On my block certain rules govern the flow of traffic. One ways, traffic lights, stop signs, and crosswalks direct us. In Cambodia these signals are irrelevant. (For this reason, the book Go, Dog. Go! will not make any sense to my friends' son growing up overseas!)

Motos are the main form of transportation in the city. Cheap and versatile, the moto serves as a taxi, family transport (sometimes carrying 5 people), storefront, and delivery vehicle. By law, drivers are required to wear helmets, but few other regulations exist. It is, however, a courtesy to honk when darting past someone.

Honk and Dart defines the streets. Motos do it. Cars do it. Vans do it. Buses do it. Pedestrians just dart.

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