Attack of the undertakers
Chances are that if you live in Qatar, you do it. Either that, or someone else does it for you. Any fresh-off-the-plane, self-driving, self-blogging expatriate is bound to mention it. Welcome to Driving in Doha.
We all know this guy. He drives up behind you, flashes his lights, turns on his beams, honks like some insufferable goose. You’re in the right lane, minding your own business, driving at the speed limit, belting out the lyrics to those brilliant tunes on QBS. You’re standing your ground against tailgaters, righteously refusing to give in to the intimidating silhouette looming in your rearview, flashing a triumphant can’t-touch-this smile at him. And that’s when he makes his move, deftly maneuvering his Camel into the emergency lane, zooming past you and re-entering way down there where the shoulder meets the road. BOOM. You just met the undertaker (yes, ironic reference to the guy who arranges your funeral wholly intended).
Given Doha drivers’ penchant for using any surface—tar, sand, dune—as a Formula 1 practice circuit, this shouldn’t be surprising. Veteran Doha driver Sherry Patrizi sums it up succinctly: “The shoulder is a lane, even if it has stripes painted on the road, or even curbs: it’s a lane. The bike path? It’s a lane too. Sidewalk? You guessed it—a lane!” If it looks like a road, sounds like a road and acts (well, vaguely) like a road, then its probably… a road, right?
A rigorously scientific and extensive ten-person survey reveals the following opinions:
Upon closer inspection, it is found that the hard shoulder or emergency lane has a number of important, if slight, differences from a regular lane. For one, it is narrower than a usual driving lane. Shoulders also tend to disappear at exits or turns, merging back into the main road. They are often marked by painted stripes. A hard shoulder is designed to serve many purposes, including:
- To get out of the flow of traffic in the event of a breakdown
- To increase road safety by providing buffer space for a motorist to take evasive action
- For emergency vehicles like ambulances and police cars
- To provide space for bicycles and pedestrians
- To provide structural support and help to move water off the roads
The most significant difference may be that using the hard shoulder to pass another (slower) car, is illegal. This knowledge, however, is unlikely to change this offensive behaviour on Doha’s roads anytime soon. So the next time someone gives you the cold shoulder, don’t let it get you down. Instead, follow @drivingindoha’s sage advice: “Don’t sneak up the hard shoulder discreetly in gridlock traffic—FLOOR IT and leave all those law-abiding losers trailing in your wake!” After all, what’s the fun in owning an off-road vehicle unless you’re going to drive it off-road? Every. chance. you. get.