Lest you had come to think anywhere is safe on the streets of Phnom Penh, I’ve been meaning to post about this phenomenon for a little while now. Parked cars.
Given how scary the roads and even pavements are for pedestrians, an unwary walker may be tempted to attempt to weave a route through the maze of parked 4×4 and SUVs that line the streets almost bumper to bumper in busy intersections. People will park just about anywhere, and most big businesses, or even quite small ones, will have a designated parking official who will watch bikes or cars in return for a few thousand reil (actually, I have no idea what the going rate is). These monster vehicles are often double or even triple parked, and it has been a minor mystery to me how it is possible to get them in and out of such parking lots amidst such congestion and such random comings and goings. Similarly, for the uninitiated, it can seem a cunning shortcut to squeeze between the bumpers of the toyata hiluxes (no idea what the plural is) in a vain effort to have temporary respite from the fear of instant death as you navigate the roads. Well, dear reader. I can report that to do so is simply to put yourself in the way of another death by crushing risk. ‘But why?’ I hear you cry out with incredulity. Well, don’t worry, I’ll explain.
Basically, it would not be possible to park up this many vehicles and for others to come and go if they remained in the same place once the driver had departed. Clearly also, no driver/owner of such valuable vehicles would leave it unlocked for someone else to manoeuvre in their absence. What can be done? Simples, you just leave the hand brake off. The security/ parking monitors then shunt the vehicles too and fro according to the need of customers to come and go from whatever business premises they are frequenting. This means they literally will put their shoulder against the rear of a vehicle to shove it forward and hurl themselves against the front of it to stop the shunt at the appropriate moment. The more safety conscious operatives will put a brick or stone fore or aft to stop complete freewheeling, but such nods to the desire to live are rare.
I have tried to photograph this, but it doesn’t really convey what’s happening in the shots. Just take my word for it, don’t squeeze between parked up vehicles, one false move and one or other will be set in motion and someone, somewhere is going to get squashed. I don’t know how much those monster vehicles weigh, but it’s a pretty safe guess any give is going to be by the human body being squelched into submission, not by any of that metal work and bull bars crumpling.
You have been warned.
Keep safe out there.
Lest you feel there is no hope for pedestrians in Phnom Penh what with the potholes; pollution; bag-snatchers; the torrent of bikes and traffic and now even stationery vehicles as potential crushing machines I did see one news story that gave a small ray of hope through poetic justice. The Phnom Penh Daily – a paper that delights with its extravagant use of alliteration – reported that a pincer attempt by four moto riders on two respective bikes, attempting to snatch a bag from a third moto rider, ended in disaster, when all toppled over like dominoes. On that day at least, the intended victim got away – apart from being knocked off their bike that is, but hey, let’s look on the bright side. Glass half full and all that eh? 🙂