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November 03, 2007


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Bruce Tasker

The sudden increase in traffic has not gone unnoticed, especially for those who regularly drive the streets of Yerevan. At first it seemed the jams were because of the building of new underground emporiums, which has recently become the craze. But although these create havoc, that is not the full story. The overriding reason for the upsurge is more subtle; it is the result of removing roadside traffic police from the streets. Remember the time when the everyday Tomian, Dickian and Harryan would dread taking to the road for fear of being pulled aside by a roadside traffic cop. Maybe his car didn't gleam as much as the officer thought it might have done, or possibly the front windscreen had a crack in it. These appalling violations would attract a minimum mandatory fine of 1,000 Drams, whilst a genuine traffic offence would cost anything up to 10,000 Drams. At holiday times and other cop-shop party times this could happen to the everyday family man several times in a single journey. And to add to the pleasure, whilst he would be surreptitiously paying his dues, he would have the privilege of watching how the traffic cop would completely ignore the elite in their specially numbered SUV’s tearing up and down the wrong sides of the roads, brushing aside women, children and pensioners on their pedestrian crossings, and jumping any amount of red lights.
Why would the authorities deprive these traffic police of their very profitable pastime; after all they were a vital part of the regime? The answer is of course so that the everyday Tomian, Dickian and Harryan would have no second thoughts about sitting at the wheel of his banger and taking to the roads. The result was exactly as planned, and so now there are many more cars on the roads, piling up on top of each other in the bottlenecks caused by the underpasses, and burning up more fuel, much to the joy of the fuel barons. This is understandable, there is an election coming up, and that will be a very expensive affair. But if a very small percentage of the added profits could have been allocated to pay for a few of those thousands of redundant traffic police to control the constant traffic jams, then maybe the everyday Tomian, Dickian and Harryan would have even more reason to be less disgruntled with his life?

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