Driving in Penang…

…can be a very tiring affair. So much so that at the end of the day, all you want to do is just curl up to a nice comfy anti fatigue mat.

Now why do I say this?

First of all, there is nothing wrong with Penang roads. Sure it has some quirks like how some lanes are just for turning left or right, how it can start off with two lanes and suddenly end up as one or how two-way traffic ends up becoming one way (in other words, no entry signs are plentiful and so are u-turns). Of course there are potholes too but for the most part, it’s normal to have less-than-perfect roads. I attribute this to how the island has been developing – over already existing roads (long story there about how the state government has to find ways to develop the place because it’s opposition-led).

The problem lies with Penang drivers. Here is a list of some things I experienced and noticed so far…

…Penang drivers can’t seem to stick to their own lanes. More often than not, a typical Penangite driver will hog two lanes and stay in the middle. They don’t know how to control their steering wheel and will often end up in another lane when making a turn. The issue with drivers hogging two lanes on a straight road is due to two things – lousy driving skills or other people’s laziness (for an explanation on the latter, please see the next item).

…People here love to just park their cars anywhere and everywhere. Never mind that there is perfectly decent, legal AND empty parking space about 100-200 meters away from their destination. If the roads are wide, this wouldn’t pose to be a problem but trouble is that the roads are often narrow so when you have cars parked on both sides of the road shoulder, it turns traffic from a two-way one to one-way. And if you add a lorry into the equation or a car that is double-parked…well, you get the picture, don’t you?

…They love danger…or just that they are not very patient. People here will overtake uphill on a winding road with a double line just because the guy in front isn’t pressing down on his accelerator hard enough. They will create lanes just because they think that it’ll get them to their destination faster (never mind that it actually has the opposite effect). Breaking the red light, speeding when you should be slowing down (like going downhill), etc.

…I feel sorry for those on motorbikes but sometimes they can be a darn nuisance too. Some motorbike drivers LOVE to hog the road and by this, I mean they love to ride their bike in the middle of a one-lane road or stay in between two lanes. So the only way you can pass them is by heading into the lane meant for oncoming traffic. Haiz.

One thing nice though is this – Penangite drivers are pretty tolerant of their peers. No honking and lots of giving allowances. In KL, there would be plenty of honking, finger showing, lights flashing and who knows what else but here, no such thing. Road rage, it would seem, isn’t part of the driving “lifestyle” here.

Sometimes I feel as if I’m in an alternate universe after having driven in a large city like Lyon and then a small town like Dole and then back in a large city like PJ/KL and now in Penang. Surreal, I tell you…

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