Monday, December 10, 2007

Faster than a car!


Fed up with traffic jams and pollution in Bucharest, a Romanian journalist races modern technology. His aim? To prove that cars are increasingly useless in a busy capital.

By Paul Ciocoiu for Southeast European Times in Bucharest

Bucharest is turning day by day into an overcrowded city. Its antiquated infrastructure was initially built to support up to 200,000 cars. But nowadays their number exceeds one million and is reportedly increasing by at least 100,000 a year.

Under such circumstances, traffic jams at rush hour are becoming an ordeal both for drivers and public transportation passengers.

"I have a nasty migraine. It must be from the gas emissions," writes Emilian Isaila, a journalist with Evenimentul Zilei, at his blog Stockholm 330. Fed up with pollution and traffic, Isaila recently staged an unusual experiment. He raced to his office on foot, covering the 11km distance in 57 minutes.

A car from Realitatea TV, which monitored the experiment, took the same route. It finished in 1 hour and 25 minutes. On another attempt, it managed 1 hour and 10 minutes.

"I was running under a lot of stress for fear a car might hit me," writes Isaila. "It's not the distance that's the issue, but the city. The drivers were kinder than I expected and many of them encouraged me. The experiment met its target. It proved the traffic is infernal in Bucharest and its time that we give up cars."

Cycling could be an alternative, but with conditions the way they are, it's just too dangerous, comments Tatae. "I once tried to go to work by bike, but I gave it up from the very first day. Crazy traffic, gas emissions straight into my nose, up and down the curbstones, pedestrians and cars I had to avoid. I finally got to work -- tired, nervous and in a sweat."

ForestGump joins the debate. "No more, brothers! I've come to the point when, if the elevator is out of order, I get a depression. The city is beginning to strangle us and we're not aware that only through sports we can evade all these negative consequences of excessive urbanisation," he declares. "Bucharest starts being a city populated by cars and not by humans."

"Is there a more traumatising experience than taking more than an hour to get home in the evening, in an overcrowded bus, after a day's work?" asks Vartej (Whirlwind). "Let's invite Bucharest's officials to spend at least a couple of minutes like this to taste a sample of the wonderful life in our little Paris."

Nutzu calls for immediate action by local authorities. "One thing is certain, dear folks: unless concrete and urgent measures are taken, we will find ourselves one day not being able to step forward, backward or even sideways," he writes. "Cars will become a mere exhibit. Those who believe the horrendous traffic in Bucharest is an ephemeral problem are dead wrong."

"You, Emilian, did a unique and suggestive thing. It's our duty now to follow suit, but I doubt your message has been grasped," he concludes.

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