Daily nightmare of commuting on Egypt roads

A photo taken on December 12, 2017 shows an elevated view of al-Attaba district on the edge of downtown Cairo, Egypt. (AFP)
Updated 14 January 2018

Daily nightmare of commuting on Egypt roads

CAIRO: In a city as big and busy as Cairo, a daily commute is simply a nightmare.
From lorries ramming into smaller cars, to pedestrians suddenly stepping into the road, a journey in Cairo on a busy day can seem like navigating through hell.
To survive on Egypt’s streets, one must abide by an unwritten set of driving laws to which local drivers have accustomed themselves.
Your mission is not only to avoid mistakes, but most importantly watch out for errors by others.
Drivers must firstly avoid messing with big vehicles. Trucks and public buses own the road in Egypt and pay little regard to the smaller vehicles around them. Taxis, microbuses and tuk-tuk drivers must also be avoided as they operate under a whole different set of rules.
And despite it being 2018, don’t be surprised to find yourself stuck behind decrepit carts drawn by horses or donkeys.
Egypt’s roads often lack marked lanes. Even when the tarmac does have markings, it is nearly impossible to stick to them because other drivers force you to pull in to one side so they can perform their suicidal overtaking maneuvers.
In Cairo’s famous traffic jams, there is no room for manners. Drivers who manage to get their car slightly in front of yours will feel entitled to push in.
And then there are Egypt’s infamous U-turns. A disastrous piece of road planning found randomly on highways that are far too small to cope with the volume of traffic trying to use them. A favorite stunt among Egypt’s drivers is for someone to be out in the fourth lane and still attempt to make a U-turn — because why wait in line?
Egypt’s choked streets are notorious for the cacophony of car horns. Each set of honks carries a specific meaning, from swearing at someone to greeting another.
Most serious is the high price Egyptians pay for the chaos on their roads. Official figures say more than 5,000 people were killed in road accidents in 2016.
But these death tolls only count the number of people who died at the site of the accident. The actual toll could be double that when it includes those who died later from their injuries, said Osama Aqeel, a leading Egyptian roads expert.

Even Egypt’s Transport Minister Dr. Hisham Arafat admitted recently that the actual death toll could be as high as 13,000 a year.
The minister has also said that 94 percent of road accidents in Egypt are caused by human error and faulty vehicles, while road conditions amount to only 4 percent, and weather conditions 2 percent.
In 2016, a World Health Organization report placed Egypt among the 10 worst countries worldwide for its fatal roads.
Egypt in 2017 ranked 48th place globally for road traffic deaths, according to the transport minister.
The question of who is responsible for Egypt’s terrible driving, the government or the Egyptian people, has been left hanging for decades.
“’It’s a mutual responsibility between the government and the public,”’ Ibrahim Mabrook, a professor of transport and traffic engineering at Ain Shams University in Cairo, said.
Mabrook said Egypt can improve its road safety by “’engineering better roads, educating the public about road safety, enforcing strict laws, and applying the law equally on all members of society.”’ Aqeel said he finds the government 100 percent responsible for the high road traffic deaths because it is responsible for the entire strategy.
“’Saying that the majority of accidents in Egypt occur because of ‘human error’ is completely inaccurate in my opinion, because traffic regulation is the main factor,”’ he said.
In Egypt, trucks, buses, cars, motorcycles and pedestrians all share the same space on the roads. Aqeel said more than 40 percent of accidents that result in deaths involve trucks.
“’If we create alternative roads for trucks for instance to prevent them from driving with regular cars on major roads, the number of accidents resulting in death will immediately drop.”’
Ahmed Shelbaya, co-founder of the NADA Foundation For Safer Egyptian Roads, said road crashes are the “’number one killer of Egyptian youth.”’
He said the government does not take the road safety crisis seriously enough and that there is a lack of “’intelligent safety laws.”’

Key events in Egypt since the 2011 pro-democracy uprising

Updated 9 sec ago

Key events in Egypt since the 2011 pro-democracy uprising

CAIRO: Here are key events in eight years of turmoil and transition in Egypt, leading up to a national referendum on constitutional amendments that could allow President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to remain in power until 2030.

● Feb. 11, 2011: Autocrat Hosni Mubarak steps down after 18 days of nationwide protests against his nearly 30-year rule. The military takes over, dissolving Parliament and suspending the constitution after the uprising leaves hundreds of protesters dead in clashes with security forces.

● Nov. 28, 2011-Feb. 15, 2012: The Muslim Brotherhood wins nearly half the seats in multi-stage elections for the first post-Mubarak Parliament.

● June 30, 2012: The Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate Muhammad Mursi takes office as Egypt’s first freely elected president.

● Aug. 12, 2012: Mursi removes the defense minister and military chief, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, and replaces him with El-Sisi.

● Nov. 22, 2012: Mursi unilaterally decrees greater powers for himself, a move that sparks days of protests.

● Dec. 15-22, 2012: Egyptians approve a constitution drafted and hastily passed by Parliament amid protests and walkouts by other groups.

● June 30, 2013: On Mursi’s anniversary in office, millions of Egyptians begin days of demonstrations demanding his resignation. The military gives him 48 hours to reach an agreement with his opponents, but he vows to remain in office.

● July 3, 2013: El-Sisi announces Mursi’s removal.

● Aug. 14, 2013: More than 600 people, mostly Mursi supporters, are killed when police clear two pro-Mursi sit-ins in Cairo. Mursi supporters retaliate by torching government buildings, churches and police stations. Hundreds more die in subsequent violence.

● Dec. 25, 2013: The government designates the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization.

● May 26-28, 2014: Egyptians vote in a presidential election. El-Sisi wins with 96.9 percent of the vote.

● May 16, 2015: Mursi and more than 100 others are sentenced
to death over a mass prison break during the 2011 uprising.

● Oct. 2015: Egypt holds parliamentary elections, leading to an assembly packed with El-Sisi supporters.

● April 2, 2018: El-Sisi wins a second, four-year term in office, with more than 97 percent of the vote.
● Feb. 2019: Lawmakers submit proposed amendments to the constitution that allow El-Sisi to remain in power beyond
his current second four-year term.

● April 10: President Donald Trump welcomes El-Sisi to the White House for a second official visit.

● April 17: The Parliament, packed with El-Sisi’s supporters, overwhelmingly passes the proposed amendments.

● April 18: Egypt’s National Election Authority schedules three days of voting in a nationwide referendum on the amendments. The vote takes place Saturday through Monday.