Crazier than Christmas: Vikings at the wheel

The true Viking spirit emerges when a Dane sits in his car or on the saddle of his bicycle. And on a bike, he even wears a helmet (albeit without the horns).

They say that an Englishman’s home is his castle. For a Dane, it’s his car.  From his upholstered seat, the Viking lords his way through the orderly traffic, and woe betide anyone who challenges him or gets in his way!

Don’t do distressed damsels

I live on a one-way street in Frederiksberg, and when I try to drive out into the traffic of Vesterbrogade, no Viking allows me to move into the flow of traffic. I gave up the idea of playing the helpless woman long ago. That good old female number doesn’t work in Denmark.  A driver is a driver: male or female.  When I try to edge into the flow of traffic and force a car to let me in, I am never surprised  by what I receive – at best a scowl and at worst a finger – for the sheer impertinence of my action.

And any infraction of the rules of the road, like parking in the wrong place or accidentally turning down a one-way street, can risk a wagging finger from a pedestrian or a bang on the roof of your car from a passing cyclist. The Vikings may no longer rape and plunder, but they demand their right of way and strict adherence to their laws.

No safe passages in India

Picture the difference in India where I am writing this. I cannot believe the traffic chaos I can see and hear from my hotel window as I write this. Indian drivers think that their cars run on the horn not petrol. Here it’s about driving however you please.

Trucks don’t stop at give-way signs, bikers don’t wear helmets and whole families travel on two wheelers. There are no traffic lights and no-one uses indicators. There are pigs at the garbage dump on the side of the road, and dogs and cows wander around as if they own the roads – and this is in the city!

Compared to Western standards of road safety, the regulations for cars, taxis, rickshaws, motorbikes, scooters, pedestrians, cows and goats are nothing more than a joke. The only rule seems to be: ‘If there is a gap in the traffic, fill it.’ As a foreigner, the only advice is to hire a driver, close your eyes and buy good travel insurance.

And everybody seems to accept this appalling traffic problem. Voices are never raised in anger. Car drivers are never scolded. On the contrary, the bigger the vehicle, the more it gets right of way. Local buses are lethal weapons. Trucks with the slogan “Horn OK” on their dust-splattered rears are death machines.

Missing the Vikings

In contrast, Denmark is amongst the top five countries in the world for having the least traffic-related fatalities.
So, as I once again steel myself to brave the heat and madness of the streets of Mumbai, I find myself looking forward to that war-like finger from a Viking seated in his sleek mobile