Thursday, 17 April 2008

Why have Cape Town drivers become so rude?

I had to spend two days in the city recently and commute from the suburbs to the CBD to work. I’m not going to bother whingeing about how it took me 1 hour and 15 minutes to get in and out of the city centre – there are roadworks galore going on ahead of the Soccer World Cup, and anyway Cape Town’s accesses to its CBD desperately need an upgrade, so delays are inevitable while this is happening – but my goodness, were people RUDE!

Bearing in mind that I live in a small town that has no traffic lights and only about five stop streets – and where a local who’s hindered by the effects of a stroke one-handedly pilots a golf cart everywhere in complete safety, and slow-moving tractors are in abundance – it’s not all that surprising that I find big-city traffic a little daunting. Still, I’m savvy enough to speed up, not slow down, on onramps; I’m confident without being aggressive at complicated intersections; and I really try to change lanes, when I have to, without causing unnecessary stops and starts.

I don’t know if I’ve just been in the koontreh for too long, or if the manners of Capetonians have deteriorated to the point where, on the road in rush hour, it’s just every man for himself – and, quite frankly, fuck you if you’re politely indicating, leaving the right amount of room between you and the next car, or not racing through a yellow light – but my driving experience was just awful.

And I’m sorry to bring this up as a first point, but I must because it’s a fact: the minibus taxis are still the very, very, very worst offenders. I’ve never gasped at so many near-accidents, heard so many insults flung from driver’s windows, seen so many rude signs flashed, been assailed by so many hooters, or so often been run onto the hard shoulder because some arsehole in a minibus decides he wants to occupy the very same physical space I’m occupying at that very moment if not sooner – and then, of course, brake suddenly directly in front of me with absolutely no warning to pick up another customer.

But the normal suburban commuters in their Nissans and Toyotas and VWs – and, of course, BMWs and Mercedeses and ridiculous enormous 4x4s, and why aren’t those things simply banned from any road that’s actually tarred?! – are almost as bad. People push into long traffic queues with an arrogance and aggression that astounds me; they refuse to let you change lanes, even when it’s clear you’re not doing it to get a jump on them, instead moving as close as they can to the car in front and pointedly not looking your way; they edge across busy intersections on the yellow light where they jam fruitlessly in the middle, preventing scores of cars from crossing the other way… The list of discourteous driving behaviour is just too long and too depressing to complete.

My friend Johann has posed the theory that we get it worse because we have out-of-town number plates – that any Capetonian seeing my registration knows I’m a country bumpkin and therefore I have no right to be polluting their roads with myself or my vehicle (or my bizarre ideas of road manners).

Perhaps he’s right. I’d like to see how that goes down when the World Cup comes around and 10 000 foreigners hit the Cape Town’s streets.

PS I spoke to my friend Ronaldo this morning, while he was in Cape Town and trying to negotiate the traffic. He was practically apoplectic with outrage. ‘What is WITH these people?!’ he said. ‘They’re absolutely disgusting! They have NO manners!’ So it's not only me. And Ronaldo, although he lives out of town, does have Cape Town number plates.

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6000 said...

Sorry. That was probably mostly me. Bad life at the office.

Muriel said...

Dear 6000, nobody who could make such a gracious apology could possibly be that rude in traffic. You're probably the lone soul who, as I was about to be forced onto the Muizenberg offramp because nobody would let me into the CBD stream, gave me a gap. Thanks for being nice to the country bumpkin.

settledowndude said...

Not to bring up the JHB vs CT war, but I have to agree that out of town plates are singled out for abuse (some twat, after stealing my parking from under my nose sighed at me "it must be terrible where you come from" And I live in CT for at least four days a month.So there is actually a polite distance thats more than six inches from your arse if you wish to pass on a highway . We understand this in JHB. And we choose to live here, erm cos its nicer. So fuck off is too polite a term for the sheer bloody insular patronising ignorant....rant over. So ok I did bring up teh war.

Muriel said...

Since you brought it up, let me go ahead and agree with you. I lived in Joburg for 19 years and in CT for 17 years (with frequent visits back to Jozi) so I feel I'm justified in saying this. While Joburg's traffic is every bit as hectic as Cape Town's during morning and evening rush hours, at least Joburg drivers know how to use the road.

Audrey said...

probly, the reason is, that so many jhb drivers are now driving in ct. cos of the diaspora and all.