This morning I was stuck in a traffic gridlock so dense we didn’t move for just over one hour. To people living in Sai Gon this type of occurrence is only too familiar, particularly when you happen to be on a main arterial road leading to a bottleneck such as a bridge or major intersection. This gridlock occurred at the confluence of Cong Hoa and Truong Chinh roads practically at the end of the Tan Son Nhat airport runway in the major peak hour traffic at 8am.
I’ve been stuck in many traffic jams here but today I was able to witness first hand the pig-headed, stubborn stupidity that caused this to happen. I apologise in advance to any of my Vietnamese friends who may read this, but honestly, what I witnessed this morning was stupid and belligerent and I cannot believe what I saw. I’m just at a loss to understand the thinking (or lack of) of the multitude of Vietnamese people who, after causing the jam by riding the wrong way up a dual carriageway to try and force a shortcut, refused to move back to allow oncoming traffic to clear the intersection. Mind you, it was the on-coming traffic that caused the problem in the first place by failing to stop at the red light thereby blocking all traffic now on a green light.
Eventually so many bikes moved through a gasoline station and into the wrong lane that all traffic movement ceased. They had become like a solid concrete plug stopping everything from moving. There were no police present but after about 45 minutes some citizens began to urge the wrongdoers to turn around and go back to unplug the stoppage. But, and this is what I can’t understand, even though they were not moving one centimetre most could not be convinced to turn back and clear the road.
Finally the police arrived and cleared just enough bikes to allow the traffic to begin flowing but even so, those who had been backed up behind us for over an hour began swapping lanes again and re-blocking the traffic. What an unbelievable example of selfish stupidity. It really makes me wonder if there is any collective consciousness among people here or if in fact they are so impatiently intent on their own purposes that they just don’t give a shit about anybody else.
Well, that’s my rant for this week. I saw it all happen, my brain took it all in, but I’m sorry, to me it just doesn’t compute, I just don’t get the line of thought that causes this situation every day. This particular intersection is modern, multi laned and well designed. Gridlocks like this would never happen if drivers here would be more conscious of others and obey traffic laws.
I guess the images tell the story
The traffic on the left (the lane I was in) has the green light and is going in the correct direction but can’t move because the intersection is blocked by on-coming traffic which, at the stage I took this picture, was gradually being blocked by the bikes on the right heading up the road in the wrong direction.
Here are the bikes heading in the wrong lane which eventually shut down all traffic flow. These people could not be convinced that it was in their own interest to turn around and go back to unblock the road. They simply sat there unmoving.
Here is the resulting gridlock behind us. Many people, like us, were prepared to accept that they couldn’t go anywhere and to sit patiently and wait, but many more became impatient and defected to the wrong lane exacerbating the problem.