Tehran’s Traffic

Tehran’s Traffic

By Reza Ganjavi

Most Iranians are great drivers because they learned to maneuver and manage to not get hit in the chaotic streets [update: it has gotten better over the years since traffic fines have gone up astronomically]. Some Iranians are terrible drivers, especially some of the owners of new cars who are arrogant and think they “own the whole damn road”. In general Iranian drivers have no sense of responsibility, consideration, care, consequence, and sense of safety in general. Many of them tailgate like there’s no tomorrow, go the wrong way in one-way streets, do not drive in their own lane, do not use blinkers, and barely stop at red lights. At the same time, they have great skills in maneuverability.

And the pedestrians are not much better – except for my mother I’ve never seen any Iranian who does not cross the street when the pedestrian light is red. Some of the motorcycles are the weeds of the street. They go the wrong way in the middle of a one-way street. They are the worst of the unruly – don’t be surprised if one suddenly jumps in front of you. The misses are a matter of millimeters. Everything is possible in Tehran traffic – turn right from the left-most lane… 

There are probably no moving-violation tickets given in the city traffic. People park in the middle of the bloody road. I’ve learned to laugh at it and it’s fun: driving in Tehran is like a bumper-car game – the idea is: don’t hit another and don’t get hit – no other rules apply. Iran has the least educated drivers of all places I’ve been to.

Most are shy to use a signal – they were probably never taught that to change the bloody lane you got to use a signal. 3 guys on a motorcycle with no headlight at night suddenly came my way – boom, baam, another successful miss!

A pedestrian was coolly crossing the freeway at night – we stopped for him but he wanted us to go first! I often give way to pedestrians and other cars which they appreciate and can’t believe – other times I am just like them otherwise you’ll never arrive.

The horn acts like a shepherd’s stick “stick in your own lane” – and also to announce your presence.

A damn motorcyclist polluted the entire sky and left a huge white smoke – is the police sleeping? Are there laws against these criminals?

The traffic cops often sit in their car on the side of the road and talk into their microphones: “go forward, faster”, “Peykan driver move”, “Taxi, pay attention”.

3 girls in all-black outfits standing in the middle of the road blocking right turn – talking – it’s like “excuse me!! Can I get through?”

You really feel sorry for a pedestrian with a leg problem who tries to cross the street.

A car was driving madly changing lanes like mad – suddenly it jumped on the right lane and put on the brakes – 2 girls were hitchhiking – another car stopped too – competition!

Most mini-buses are pollution factories.

The amazing thing is that there are very few accidents, but when they do happen they’re deadly.

X thought I am at the level of Formula-1 drivers!

Tehran is polluted – the vehicles are violently polluting the air I breathe – the traffic is pathetic.

The Swiss man said he is very scared of the traffic – and his driver has learned to not go so fast.

Sometimes on the freeway a jerk comes behind you and expects you to move over while there’s no place to move over… so just have to turn the mirror to the side and ignore his high-light.

It was amazing – the radio was playing lovely mellow guitar music together with one-liner smart poetic sentences. The whole freeway drove calmly and for once I saw everyone moving in their own lane – maybe the radio had to do with it.

A pedestrian has no rights whatsoever – cars are stopped at red-light – you want to cross the street – suddenly a bloody motorcyclist jumps in the middle of the crosswalk and almost hits you.

The car jumped in front of me from a parked position – I: what is the signal made for? He: The mirror was also made - I saw you!

A motorcycle was carrying a big bicycle!

Asked the officer: Where is Behjat Abad? “I don’t know, should I lie?” :-)

I let other cars go and pedestrians have right-of-way – they can’t believe it – and I use my signal when changing lanes…

It is not at all unusual for cars to have no headlight or brakes or parking light at night.

I have seen many nearly missed big accidents from cars jumping into motion from the parked position without using a signal.

New car – licensed to speed and own the whole damn road – a brand new BMW flashing its lights going complete zigzag – every second a different lane in heavy freeway traffic.

There is no law until an accident happens. The only rule is: don’t hit and don’t get hit. Practically everything is possible. At some cross-sections even the green light means nothing – and at most problematic intersections the lights are set as flashing which makes it chaotic like a gladiator fight.

A big truck full of iron with no lights was backing up in the middle of the freeway! Welcome to Tehran traffic where everything is possible.

The traffic is heavy as usual and has an amazing order within amazing chaos. A guy jumped in the middle of the street maneuvering among oncoming cars to cross the road - I am too rusty for that but did a little bit. Although generally, the absolutely crazy flow is without incidents, I’ve witnessed several fights within a couple of weeks.

Some cars have interesting sayings on them. Aside from “Dark Side of The Moon” – saw: “FALLOW ME”, and “YAEMAMRAZA”.

Some people pass some red lights and don’t stop at some green lights.

If you have no fear you’re alright – you just move with the flow. The moment you’re afraid and make a jerky move you’re finished.

Most of the streets have 2 names: the new and the old, and many times it can be confusing as many people still use the old names…………

Suddenly a car passes you on the right with a distance of a single millimeter.

Suddenly at night a truck in front of you with no tail lights hits the brakes and turns left.

I am absolutely convinced that a large majority of drivers do not know that the signal must be used when you want to pull over – and not just for turning!

It is very normal practice that at an intersection the car in front of you suddenly stops because decides to turn left – with no signal – and blocks the whole what-you-might-call-lane.

Coming back from Karaj, late in the evening, there was a very horrible accident on the freeway involving several cars. Most of them were damaged very badly, and a few, especially the front ones were totally crushed – the passengers must have been juiced. The reason: Nothing but an easily preventable one – which makes it so very sad – where is the respect for human life?!?!?!!? There was construction on the right lane of the 2 lane Tehran-Karaj freeway – major construction with many trucks and workers. There was not even a single warning signal telling the drivers the road was blocked. So the first car arrived and suddenly saw the road being blocked, hit the break, and so on. Guess what: coming home we saw at least 2 more cases of road work with ABSOLUTELY NO signal warning the drivers from any distance. Only at the site of the construction – come on – where is the sense of safety – for responsibility?!?!?! The way to do it is to block the lane from a kilometer away, put several warning lights….

A car from “Blood Transport Organization of Iran” was honking for passengers (doing taxi work).

No sign for major freeway intersections at the critical time when you need a sign (Hemmat going into Moddares South).

½ of a tunnel was filled with visible, touchable, thick air pollution.

A public bus driver was so crazy – a bus FULL of people – on the busiest night of the week on the busiest spot (near Park Mellat) – he passed the masses of cars by extending to the left (illegal), and jumping back in – absolutely crazy…… - I called the number on the back of the bus to report him – it was a wrong number: not the bus company but the zoo!!!

All it takes is 2 women hitching a ride by the freeway to disrupt the whole flow as cars compete for them.

Car with no head or tail lights passed the red light at high speed.


Back in Europe – on a bicycle – feeling in incredible shape as far as maneuverability after having driven in Tehran for some weeks without any incidents.

2 lanes go, 2 lanes come. Both lanes blocked? No problem, he just took one of the lanes of the incoming traffic. Public buses do that too – the bigger you are the more cloud you have. A military car almost crashed into a car from recklessness.

Monday, November 19, 2001

'New Paykan' Touted in Iran


By BRIAN MURPHY, Associated Press Writer

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - At the factory that has churned out the little Paykan sedan for 34 years... “If we can produce a new car that has good results in the market, then we may start to phase out the Paykan,'' The Paykan, or Arrow, is a four-cylinder time capsule. The design has barely changed since the first model was copied from the British Hillman Hunter, which ended production in 1979. An estimated 70 percent of the passenger cars clogging Iran's roadways are four-door Paykans, which seem like shoe boxes next to the Buicks, Cadillacs and other pre-revolution American behemoths that Iranians somehow keep going. ``The Paykan is a piece of gold in Iran,'' said a guide after a plant tour. ``You can fix it easily. You can sell it anywhere.'' It comes in two colors: white and off-white. Don't bother asking for a sunroof, air conditioning or other options. Parts are available in even the most flyspeck villages. More than 1.5 million Paykans have been made since 1967 and the round-the-clock assembly line currently pushes out 520 a day. ``No matter what happens, the Paykan will be part of Iran forever.”