Extreme Road Rage in Moscow Sparks Backlash

moscow russia cars traffic jam photo

Traffic in Moscow. Photo: Adam Baker / Creative Commons.

Plenty of cities around the world are known for their congested roads and insane traffic jams -- Beijing, New Delhi, Mexico City, and Istanbul all come readily to mind. But nowhere more than Moscow, it seems, have elites taken their desire to avoid traffic to such deadly extremes.

Last year, New Yorker writer Keith Gessen described a city facing an "existential threat": traffic so bad patients were dying in the backs of ambulances while they were stuck on the roads, the first snowfall of the year could paralyze the city, and people wounded in a terrorist bombing had to be helicoptered out because they couldn't be reached in time by ground-based emergency vehicles. "The city is on the brink of transportation collapse," one traffic expert told the journalist.

Abuse Of Car Sirens Rampant In Moscow
Gessen also reported how wealthy Muscovites in "besirened black Mercedeses had been running red lights, using the emergency lane, and otherwise tyrannizing other drivers" -- sometimes with fatal results. But, says Foreign Policy, "the plebes, and their cell-phone cameras, have started fighting back."

Public anger at the abuse of VIP car sirens -- either by officials on non-urgent business, such as picking up their dry cleaning, or rich people with dubious claims to state importance -- is rising, Julia Ioffe reported earlier this month:

This is why the Blue Buckets movement -- a bunch of people armed with cell-phone cameras, a blog to monitor abuses, and blue buckets resembling migalki [sirens] strapped to their car roofs -- has become such a major concern for the Kremlin over the last two years. People I spoke to in Moscow expressed an understanding that the envelope had been pushed too far and that something had to be done.

Despite a few high-profile figures being stripped of their traffic-evading privileges, legislative attempts to reign in contempt for traffic laws have thus far proven ineffective. The "pedestrian revolution" Ioffe suggests may be provoked by bad driving behavior still seems a long way off.

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