Driving in Iran and Tehran especially can be quite nerve racking, even for us with our varied riding and driving experience. The style and pace of traffic and pedestrian movement can be overwhelming and difficult to follow. We have however not noted a single incidence of road rage in-spite of actions that would drive western drivers to distraction. We see on a constant basis, actions and reactions that require intense concentration at all times, but sadly none of us are capable of sustaining that level of concentration and accidents happen here all to frequently. We have heard the phrase “people go out to have accidents” is used by staff in Iranian hospitals. The following are observations. They are not designed criticisms of the type of driving, we have enough of our own traffic problems, but a reflection on the driving style and the higher level of risk that it presents to road users.
Iranian driving observations
We start to see the Iranian driving we have heard about -drive close alongside, hold conversations, take photos, drive closely behind, pull out, overtake at speed, then cut in front and stop. The faster they overtake, the more likely they will stop sooner.
Taking a leaf from the credits at the end of movies: “The road markings depicted in Iran are fictitious. Any similarity or suggestive purpose to road markings in other countries is merely coincidental.”
Pulling out into traffic is a measured thought out process to give those already on the road enough time to adjust for their presence which is coming eventually. They do not wait for a gap as we would.
We think that you give way to traffic on the roundabout if you have an even numbered number plate and give way to traffic coming onto the roundabout if you have an odd numbered number plate, or visa versa, we cannot work it out after 2 weeks here!
Pulling over takes no care or thought for those behind you, normally the faster a car passes you the quicker it will pull over without warning and stop as quickly as it can, thought and action are one and the same.
More conscientious drivers will stop in the middle of the road, or roundabouts, to take or make calls.
Wearing gloves on motorbikes makes it impossible to text or surf the net while riding, so do not wear gloves.
Wearing helmets limits the ability to make and receive calls and smoke, so don’t wear a helmet.
Men occasionally wear helmets, their female passengers never do.
Motorbikes are mostly 125cc, but they still race past us in towns, usually with one or more passengers.
Additional Tehran motoring observations:
Toughest traffic to ride in: vehicles move quickly, see a space, fill a space. We have not ridden in a more challenging city environment. You cannot watch all directions at the same time and rely on others’ road skills or lack of, as the case may be.
Seems to resemble down hill skiing in the manner that those behind must look out for those in front, so be in front!
One way streets have a special invisible lane for motorbikes going in the opposite direction: dodge the on-coming traffic and you are ok. Very useful to avoid the one way systems – we have used it successfully.
If you find you have gone the wrong way, put the hazard lights on, just reverse and then do a u-turn, even in one way streets!
For motorbikes and mopeds, it is quicker to go the opposite direction around the roundabout if you are going to the third or fourth exit (only seen a couple of times).
Groups of pedestrians can be found walking in the road and even around, not across roundabouts and streets without any regard for traffic.
Can confirm the reason motorbikes and mopeds ride so close to the vehicle in front is to see that vehicle’s speedometer as their instruments and lights are covered by the helmet.
Vehicle lights are optional at night.
Bus lanes are great for motorbikes even if they are travelling in the wrong direction, they just get out of the way when a bus comes.
Traffic lights must be used for colourful decorations as they don’t have the same significance as we know them to have. We regularly see traffic going through very red lights with no one caring but simply adjusting their speed or direction to avoid any collision.
Traffic lights have countdown timers, but several go down to 3 seconds and stay on 3 for an unknown number of seconds, and others go from 17 seconds to 1 second in 1 second.
Having said all this, do not be put off, it is an amazing experience to see how people can operate without road rage and with a level of cooperation we do not see in the western world. You will get used to the traffic and the perceived chaos.
– Anthony & Anne