We all have our opinion of the war in Iraq, but as the NY Times and other media outlets have been reporting, lately people have been getting back to their daily routines thanks to a decline in violence in Baghdad. This is undoubtedly good news for U.S. soldiers and Iraqi citizens alike, but a side effect has been an intense spike in vehicular traffic in Baghdad. A typical commute already includes broken streetlights, people driving on the wrong side of the road, checkpoints and military convoys. But, as a recent NY Times article points out, "tens of thousands of Baghdadis have found an antidote (to the traffic) in the venerable motor scooter."
Scooters have become popular in Iraq for the same reason they are popular all over the world, namely, affordability, efficiency, and maneuverability on busy streets. But Iraqis also have some unique incentives to purchase scooters: "Guards at checkpoints often wave scooters through. Soldiers tend to view scooter drivers with less suspicion because, unlike people in cars, their bodies are in plain sight. Scooters are easy to navigate around blast walls." And lastly, owning a scooter "carries the implication that one is of lesser means, a good thing in a city where having money draws attention of the wrong kind."As the number of scooters on the road has dramatically risen, "a thriving support network for the care and maintenance of scooters and motorbikes" has sprung up as well, benefitting entrepreneurial Iraqis capable of fixing the often faulty wiring on the cheap Chinese imports. But, as with so much about Iraq, the good news is not entirely good:
The police have started enforcing a traffic law that requires owners to register for expensive scooter licenses. They have also started barring smaller, slower scooters from the city’s streets, saying they are unsafe on Baghdad’s roads.
Scooter accidents are increasing. And suicide bombers have been known to ignite their explosives on scooters, so the police and soldiers have begun stopping and searching some scooters and their drivers.
Still, for many Iraqis the scooters are not only a convenient way to go about their business, they are also fun, something the war-torn country desperately needs. Of course, with Iraq's strained and vulnerable gasoline supply, eventually even internal combustion scooters will become impractical. Electric scooters would make sense as a long-term solution were it not for the intermittent supply of electricity. However, Iraq is blessed with abundant sunshine, a resource that could one day be exploited to power all sorts of electric vehicles in Iraq.
Sound overly optimistic? Almost certainly. But we can dream. . .
See Also: ::The Bag That Could Have Saved Baghdad. . .(for at least 1,001 nights!), ::Iraq's Marshland Still Not Safe, ::Iraqi Dam Collapse Could Result in Half a Million Deaths, ::Solar Locker for Electric Bikes , ::Are Electric Vehicle Charging Stations on the Way?, and ::Arab World Responds to Climate Change