After nine months living in Kyiv, I’ve found that driving a vehicle in the capital is chaotic at the best of times, and a risk to life & limb at the worst. Kyiv, like any big city suffers from traffic jams, poorly-maintained roads and limited parking, but here, everyone seems to take it in stride – Ukrainian style.
Like other post-communism cities, Kyiv was not built in the most logical fashion and has nearly doubled in size since independence thirty years ago. There are dozens of both new & old apartment buildings all over to house the new inhabitants, but none of these have a parking garage! After all, very few people in former Soviet Union satellite states owned a car, so city planners are only now considering personal parking requirements.
You can imagine the chaos on streets with buildings housing hundreds of residents with cars, but no designated tenant parking. People actually drive their cars over the curb to park on the sidewalk. In fact, as long as you leave a two meters space for pedestrians to get by, it’s completely legal!
However, never block an entrance to a building. If you do, in no time a flatbed tow truck with a crane will arrive and literally lift your car into the air, place it neatly on its bed, then deliver it to the impound lot. There’s a entrance to a bank across the street from my Hotel Bursa, and I’ve seen at least twenty cars plucked from either side of the bank’s main doors every day.
Road to nowhere
I’ll be honest, the roads in Kyiv are pretty bad. The tram rails nearly shake the teeth from your head every time you drive over them, and it’s tough to avoid the suitcase-sized potholes everywhere. Repairs are routinely started but rarely completed, so you always find blocked curb lanes causing additional havoc for drivers.
You’d think the lack of parking, shoddy roadwork, and drivers constantly changing lanes would result in road rage, assaults and hundreds of accidents every day. Not in Ukraine. Drivers are so used to weaving to avoid roadwork and double-parked delivery vans, they simply let people in and receive polite acknowledgement by a flash of the hazard lights.
Making traffic even more congested, Kyiv is the world capital of ride sharing. There are three services, Uber, Uklon and Bolt – all of which are busy every day. Add standard taxis to the mix, and there are thousands of cars criss-crossing the city ferrying Kyivans and the occasional Canadian to and from appointments, restaurants and stores.
Even when air raid sirens are sounding, you can be picked up and dropped off, complete with loosened teeth and a few blinks of the hazard lights.
It’s definitely an adventure owning and driving a car in Kyiv, yet even with all the chaos, there’s no road rage or screaming. A flash of the headlights to indicate you’re letting someone in is acknowledged by a wave and blink of the hazards. It’s understood that we’re all in this together.
Which is exactly what’s important when your country’s at war.
Slava Ukraini! Heroaim Slava!