The ‘International Brussels Tribune’ has just confirmed a rumour for me: “Did you know that before 1968 anyone could get a driver’s license in Belgium just by asking. No tests were required. However, as the accident rate rose dramatically to become one of the worst in Europe, a new law made a test of driving theory mandatory. Only recently has a second law made a practical driving test compulsory. That is a test to actually prove you can drive. No wonder driving in Belgium is so hectic at times.”
I wonder how a driving culture originates in a specific country or even city, if I drive 5km up the road towards Brussels I daren’t hesitate at a green light for more than a split second while in my neighbourhood someone invariably parks on the railway bridge effectively blocking at least one lane of traffic, nobody seems irate, I don’t hear any hooters and people calmly wait for a break in traffic to cross the bridge. I haven’t been able to work out what the person is doing on the bridge, waiting for the train, deciding whether to jump? One day, I’ll screw up the courage to ask but what if this is the last act that sends someone over the edge?
Of course it works in my favour too because when I am managing a particularly difficult turn all across the street, the only people who are anxious are the South African passengers I have with me….but beware, the guy who has just turned in front of you or has made a u-turn in the middle of Brussels taking a five minute chunk out of your day, invariably hasn’t finished harrassing you, he’s immediately going to want to turn left into the busiest intersection imaginable, probably where it’s not really allowed. I’m calm about these little incidents these days and keep well out of the way of huge empty buses charging down the narrowest streets imaginable, plan your stop beforehand on these streets where parking is allowed on one side of the street from the 16th to the 31st and on the other from the 1st to the 15th, we don’t talk about the actual night of the 31st and the 15th, it’s dodgems!!! Yeeha!
Depending on where in the world you come from, remember to stop for pedestrians at pedestrain crossings, this doesn’t seem to be the done thing in Italy or South Africa where you take your chances as a pedestrian or a cyclist. Sometimes they don’t even look as if they want to cross the street, but don’t let this fool you, just because they are looking in a completely different direction and talking to a friend, doesn’t mean that they won’t step out into the street in front of you. You have the upperhand though if someone tries this where there is no pedestrain crossing, you could be fined for stopping, so there!
A motorist is lowest on the pecking order as communes undertake roadworks without seeming to communicate with adjoining communes even leading to complaints from police who have to take 10km detours to get to the neighbouring suburb and aren’t informed beforehand. I think the people who have the most fun though, are people who deliver stuff and who work on the roads, the ones with the great big trucks, these guys accurately calculate how far they have to park from the kerb to block traffic in all directions, the more the merrier, while your irate little self is contemplating the quickest detour and jumps up and down asks them if they could have moved 5cm left or right, they calmly sit down and have another sandwich while regarding you as if you came from another planet, I feel more and more like Arthur Dent….