Traffic: The Unique Driving Rules of Lahore

Posted on March 31, 2007
Filed Under >S.A.J. Shirazi, Environment, Law & Justice, Society, Travel
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S.A.J. Shirazi

The word is out and it is saying that Lahore has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Asia. Known for its beautiful gardens, exquisite fountains, delicious cuisines, and rich heritage of architecture, art and music, Lahore is once again reinventing itself. This time it is changing into a crowded habitat. This second largest city of Pakistan and fourteenth largest city in the world has unique driving habits.

Few drivers have this well-known style: they will always drives at a speed less than 40 kilometres per hour along the middle of recently beautified, recently widened Lahore roads, and forget the distinctly marked speed lanes. They drive without looking left or right as if mesmerized by the taillights or what ever is written on the back screens of the vehicles they are following closely. Surely they feel safest but what happens when one drives slowly in fast lane? The fast lanes remain always clogged, and the only way to escape a ‘fast lane blockade’ with confidence is to drive fast in slow lane, which happens to be empty: violating universal traffic rules, negating right of way even to the cyclists and pedestrians and or causing accidents. This is one of the worst driving habits.

It is free-for-all society once we take to the road. Traffic police has placed signs at different roads that read, “Drive beautifully on beautiful roads.” How seriously drivers take such advice can be seen while driving on any city road. Such traditional nuisances as stop signs, Silence zones, traffic lights, Zebra crossing markings, and lane divisions are, for the most part, generally not observed.

Stand at the traffic lights in any square and you can see auto rickshaws and motorcyclists moving in and out of the gaps between parked vehicles like cockroaches. One wonders what is it that keeps the city’s traffic going, which spills all over the road, irrespective of traffic dividers placed near some of the busy squares or uninterested traffic cop standing in some obscure corner of a square waiting for his duty hours to end. Every body stops as near the white line as possible without the due respect for the traffic that is to turn left and as per rules the turning left should always remain open. I have friends who live in Lahore and who refuse to drive here. And many foreigners leave this historic city, shaken and stirred, asking questions mainly about traffic. Because only he can understand the driving habits who has lived in Lahore for enough years.

Why do the drivers step on the brakes when they can see a green light and slows down, turning the entire stream of traffic behind them to a crawl and then suddenly accelerate forward in a sudden ejaculation of speed just as the light turns yellowish-brown? No one knows nor can any one predict before it actually happens. But what happens? Bumpers crash into bumpers, tyres burn as rubber grates on tarmac, a few screeches, and some other motorcyclist suddenly appear and move on making best of the situation. And, all those who cannot move on immediately keep blowing horns and keep pressing accelerators emitting toxic fumes and clouds of soot in the process. Their feet ache in neurotic beat between the clutch and the brake pedals it appears.

Karachi – Peshawar main railway line passes through the centre of the city. Besides goods’ trains 24 passenger trains pass over the main line daily. There are many crossing on the railway line without overhead bridges. Mixed traffic of the city has to stop on either side of the line whenever the crossings are closed to pass the trains. Sometimes the crossings are closed to allow two trains one after the other. Every one always seems in a hurry at these crossings. In the absence of any traffic management on these choke points, traffic remains blocked even after the trains have passed.

Sometimes one feels it more than other times; rush hour in Lahore. Traffic police insist on having roadblocks and lane separators during peak traffic hours in the mornings and afternoon? Not to catch criminals or terrorists of course. It only causes problem for the citizens who happen to be driving on roads.

Lahore has some of the best roads in Pakistani cities. Lahore’s class structure is also reflected in driving scene on roads: big cars, sleek cars, new and old models and Land cruisers to old vintage and coughing smaller cars. But come onto the less privileged roads and the byways. Or come to the roads inside housing colonies. Why does someone have ‘planned and constructed’ speed breakers at unexpected places, without any marking, and surely on public expense? These ‘sleeping policemen’ are hell for the suspension, and high enough to perversely grate the underside of any car. Motorcyclists and cars suddenly appear out of side lanes at breakneck speed, without looking either left or right, and nonchalantly make a wide curve? It is like a real life video game as people come onto the roads.

The traffic management has to be improved not only on the main roads but also in those parts of the city where no VIP passes. Muhammad Munir who loves to drive in the city says, “Driving scene in Lahore will improve if someone can insure that driving licenses are issued only to those who meet the criteria fixed for the purpose.” Ideally the heavy traffic should not enter the city during day. The animal transport should also be segregated and restricted to specific areas if it cannot be banned. Moreover, the auto rickshaws should not be allowed on the main roads. And, there should be more places reserved only for pedestrians. But this management may only be possible when the city is given a good inter city public transport system on all possible routes. Remember the double-deckers that used to ply the roads of Lahore! Introduce and manage the public transport system for people to move about more frequently and commerce will manage the rest.

On the eve of Jashn-e-Baharan last spring, one of the city development agencies arranged training for taxi drivers (and a schedule of fair from Airport and Railway Station was also issued). But what about the driving courtesy and manners? Who can change that!

24 responses to “Traffic: The Unique Driving Rules of Lahore”

  1. H.-H. Seym says:

    I am a German living and driving in Lahore since more than one year. I was interested to read and know the traffic rules of Pakistan and I found them in a kiosk on the motorway to Pindi. I was astonished that the rules here are similar to the rules in Germany with very few differences.
    In Germany I was working for the government testing and examining people who applied for driver licences for all classes: small, middle and big motorbikes, cars, trucks, busses and I gave them the licence if they were able to show me that they were respecting the rules and drove without coming into dangerous situations because of their faults and careless. Also the energy saving driving is a topic during this exam which contains: 1.theoratical test and 2. driving test. Time for drivint test: for small and middle motorbikes and cars : the minimum of a 45 minutes drive, for big motorbikes 60 minutes, trucks and buses 75 minutes.

    The students are coming for their test drive with their driving teacher, who may not help with words or signs otherwise the drive and test will end immediately without success for the applicant.

    Mistakes during the test for example: not driving with not respecting the unbroken line which separates the lanes, not giving way where you have to, during a turn not to make a wide curve, driving at night with full beams to blind the oncoming drivers, and many other mistakes are reasons enough not to give the license. Driving at red traffic light, too fast or too slow driving: in the city 50 kms/s max, with sign 30 kms/h, Motorway 130 kms/h for some time, not using the mirrors or indicators when changing a lane, too short distance with bike drivers or pedestrians, not stopping when somebody wants to cross the road and many more faults are possible not to get the licence.

    When I see the uneducated stupid and brutal drivers here and without any knowledge about the traffic rules, escaping after accidents, let me expect that not even in 500 years this city and country will get a standard like you will find it in Europe. Today I can say that nobody of the people whom I see every day sitting behind a steering wheel will have a chance to get the licence in Germany. All of them have to be trained by a professional driving teacher who needs a special licence for teaching which needs him to make a course for minimum one year with a difficult exam at the end.

    When I see the scratches and dents on most of the cars, how trucks and buses look like with rusted & broken bodies and without lights, hand written or no number plates, children sitting in front without any security and always ready to die, I have to ask myself which kind of parents are those who spend money for expensive cars but never for a special child seat which always has to be fixed on one of the back seats.

    During this one year I saw only my brother in law and an uncle using seat belts. Not using the belts in Europe means: the next policeman has to fine you with a minimum 40 Euros (= approx. 4000 PakRupies) To save your life and that of your children in case of a frontal crash for which not you must be responsible costs you some rupies ant the will and knowledge that seat belts can save your life and the lives of your passengers. But it needs also a little bit of brain to understand this, but brain seems to be missing in 99 % of the heads of the drivers, owners and passengers in cars, trucks and buses & motorbikers who own a helmet and don’t use it or don’t close the latch of their helmet during the drive. First the helmet will fly away in an accident and then the head will crash onto a wall, a truck, bus a.s.o.

    When I daily see policemen or the new traffic wardens on crossings in the city and what they are doing in their light blue nice new uniform and see what they don’t do: not watching and fining those who drive against all the rules or bringing other drivers in dangerous situations than I ask myself : What kind of job do they do? What did they learn during their training? Who is supervising them in their duty? We were so hopeful that the new traffic wardens will bring a tremendous change in the chaotic traffic, but they still allow people to break so many rules e.g, driving in the opposite lanes for many metres.

    Please wake up policemen. Try to improve the image of Pakistan for foreigners as well as for the natives who are sick of the endless stupidity on the roads. Please make it better!!

  2. Rafay Kashmiri says:

    @ Sahnon nehr walay pull tay bula kay,
    tay khawray mahi kithay reh gayaaaaaaaa !!!

    The poor Mahia got a ” leg-break” in a traffic accident
    and was clean “bowled”.

    Ravi jo Baich khaya hay, thuggon kay tolay nay
    Mahi bechara doob gaya, yunhi beghair pani day

  3. FARooq says:

    is there any web site which hava all the traffic rules and license rules

  4. Pervaiz Munir Alvi

    Ravi has become a waste minor and nothing else.

  5. Harris says:

    I went to Lahore after 10 years and watched the traffic paterns. I have concluded that the problem is that half the drivers in Lahore think that their cars should be inside the two driving lanes while the other half thinks that the line should be in the middle of the car.

    It’s amazing how drivers in Lahore manage to get five parallel lanes of traffic going on a road with only three lanes.

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