Wednesday 2 October 2013

In my car: U-weeeh!

Driving in Singapore can be a lot of fun. Getting in lane, on time. Zigzagging motorcycles. Zooming taxis. Traffic jams. ERP systems. The U-turn. Finding your way with satnav equipment that does not seem to know its way around any better than you do.

The fun starts when I leave my house. When I exit our little jungle cul-de-sac, I have to turn left onto the main road. Even if, like most of the time, my destination is to my right. Our main road is eight lanes wide, with a unpenetrable barrier down the middle. And no, it is not a motorway. At the first traffic lights that I encounter, I can only go straight, or turn a pointless left into yet another dead end lane.

When I continue down, skirting the large nature reserve that takes up most of central Singapore, if I am lucky and it is after nine thirty in the morning, half way down the road I can make a U-turn. I knew of U-turns before moving to Singapore, off course, but this city has taken the phenomenon to a new level. The U-turn is ubiquitous, even my kids love talking about U-y’s, (pronounced u-wee), where to do it, how to do it, and most importantly, when not to. Because, in Singapore, you can only do it when there is a square blue sign saying you can. Which, in the case of the gap in the barrier halfway down our main road, means you can only do it after nine thirty in the morning.

And there is a reason for this. If I continue on, down the road, and I make my U-turn under the viaduct, I will get stuck in a jam. This jam, which I will have been able to observe with increasing trepidation while I was driving all those miles up the road, I have no means of avoiding. If I am not too unlucky, ten to fifteen minutes later I will find myself again passing my own street, but now in the correct lane. Appointments between eight and nine in the morning? Not a good idea.

The way back home requires no U-turn, but presents its own challenges. Our little drive is a left off the main road, just after you cross the motorway. And when I say just, I mean just. When you arrive, eager to turn left, you need to cut across traffic exiting the motorway. You have about ten meters to do so. And can you really blame motorists for not noticing the give way sign or the dotted lines at the exit? I often find myself stopping, honking, angrily shoving myself through, eyes closed, fingers crossed, hoping for the best. If you don’t make the turn? You will face the aforementioned drive to the U-turn, with a drive all the way back to the next crossing to make yet another U-turn which will allow you to try again in maybe fifteen minutes time. That is, if it is not before nine thirty in the morning…

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