16 February 2012

Driving in Kyiv

Those of us who are 'visitors' (aka foreign residents in Ukraine) and are brave enough to drive a car on the streets of Kyiv, know all too well the risks we endure each day.

Monday 13 February 2012 - Even in the severe winter weather with snow falling in the evening I witness people trying to avoid the biggest problem of all......The DAI. (Department of Automobile Inspection). I cannot think of any other country in the world where a Traffic Policeman, standing at the side of the road in thick snow, will stop a passing vehicle to perform a 'document check'.
But as we all know they are all trying to supplement their meager salaries by encouraging drivers to 'help them'.
However, driving INTO Kyiv city centre on Monday night I was surprised to find how easy it was. The streets were so free of traffic, for a few moments I began to think that some VIP was in town and the streets were cleared to allow them free passage, as is the norm here. But I genuinely think it was down to the traffic cops/local cops doing a good job by controlling the traffic flow. However.......if you were trying to drive OUT of Kyiv you would have been waiting in almost gridlocked traffic for many hours.

Tuesday 14 February 2012 - Rush hour(s) traffic in Kyiv on this day must have been the worst for many years. I doubt it was due to all those men rushing around buying flowers and gifts on Valentines Day. Admittedly more snow had fallen that day which added to the bad road conditions. But I think most of the people driving in or out of Kyiv will agree it was a nightmare on the roads. But even in these bad conditions and very slow moving (if at all) traffic, our friends from the DAI were as vigilante as ever trying to spot any motorist who dared to commit the smallest offence, so they could stop the driver and demand a 'reward fee'.

I must declare that I rarely get stopped by these DAI 'highwaymen' and on the odd occasion that I do get stopped I politely inform them that I do not pay money, even if I had committed a so called driving offence. After realising that they are talking with a foreigner, they give up quickly and allow me to proceed so they can get their eyes back on the road to search for the next 'customer'.

Parking - There are no public carparks in Kyiv city centre unless you include the underground car park at Arena City which tends to be full most of the time. Megamarket supermarket car park is probably the nearest but a long walk from the city centre. So.....where do you park a car in Kyiv? Well just about anywhere you like really. The pavement is a favourite place at any time of year. Apart from main street Kreshatyk it is possible to park just about anywhere on the road or pavement. (But even in Kreshatyk you can park on the walk ways). Car park attendants are ever present but they do a good job in actually HELPING YOU to find a place to park so they can accept a small parking fee from you. Lets be clear there are no traffic wardens in Kyiv. There is no one sneeking about looking to see if you have over stayed your parking meter like in London or if you have parked 2 inches inside a yellow line so they can order your car to be clamped and later towed away. Oh no...this is Kyiv, the standard of driving amongst Ukrainians may add to the challenge of driving here but you have the freedom to park where you like without the fear of being hunted down by a traffic warden. I know they tried to introduce clamping in Kyiv not so long ago but it proved to be a negative experience for all concerned so it appears to have died away already.

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