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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Does Moscow drive you crazy?

For years, I believed all the hype about driving in Moscow.


Sneering at my 15 years of road time in Europe and North America, my acquaintances terrified me with stories of the pitfalls and potholes of Moscow's mean streets.


I read with horror about the evil traffic police, hellish traffic jams, and fiendish local motorists. No wonder Moscow's streets are built in concentric rings, I thought. This is Dante's inferno for drivers.


After four years of sardine-can metro rides and fare wars with increasingly intolerable cabbies, three months ago I finally threw caution to winds and jumped behind the wheel. and you know what? I love driving in Moscow.


Forget about the obvious advantages of owning a car for a busy expatriate - no metro, no buses, no taxis, no drivers, freedom, and all that. When you look at the supposed disadvantages of driving here, if you compare Moscow with other big cities, you will find that Moscow consistently comes out on top.


Potholes. I have two square wheels and the character building experience of changing a tire in the middle of Tverskoi Bulvar during rush hour to show for my first week on Moscow's streets. As in most big cities, the way you avoid potholes is by driving around them, which, at times, does cause confusion and consternation.


But Moscow has an advantage over other pothole-ridden towns (Philadelphia comes to mind). In Moscow, the potholes never change, they are a permanent fixture, like a stoplight or a crosswalk. In Philly, potholes appear and disappear without warning. Potholes in Moscow are like little detours - you learn them, and they cease to be a problem. Advantage: Moscow.


Traffic. Moscow has some traffic, mainly in the center during rush hour. But there are also lots of little side streets seemingly created to allow drivers to escape the crowd. In London, even the main streets are like little side streets, and they're always jam-packed, in both the center and the out skirts. More often than not, driving in Moscow is sailing down a wide open prospekt (swerving occasionally to avoid the familiar potholes). Advantage: Moscow.


Scooters. Moscow is devoid of that scourge of Rome, those devilish youths on aptly-titled "Wasp" scooters, who derive pleasure from appearing out of nowhere to cut you off out the right. Advantage: Moscow.


GAI. I have heard all the stories (and wrote one of them) about fine-happy, stick-pointing traffic cops. They do stop me once a day (I have a Soviet car with local plates) and they do know who I am (I have an international driver's license). But I think they are just lonely. I have gotten a lot of advice on where to get paint for my license plates and how to fix leaky tires, but no fines. When you are pulled over by an American policeman, it is time to reach for your checkbook. Advantage:


Moscow.


Driving in Moscow is fun. It is exciting. It gets you there and back.


I could go on all day, but I have to hurry. They are selling 93 octane gas today out at the Agip at Leningrad-skoye Shosse, and I want to make sure I get some.