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Driving on the Left in Cyprus

March 4th, 2015 · 4 Comments · tourism, Travel, UAE

Of all the things the British could have left behind, in Cyprus:

The awful habit of driving on the left side of a street.

Cyprus is one of four countries in Europe that has the driver on the right side of the car, and the car in the left lane.

The other three?

The UK, Ireland and Malta. And the second two, like Cyprus, were being run by the UK, the world’s ultimate colonists, when motor cars took over the streets, a century ago.

For North Americans, and most Europeans, including Russians (and lots of Russians are in Cyprus), driving around here is a mental burden. If you are not paying attention all the time, you are liable to drive up a small street on the wrong (right) side.

When we lived in Hong Kong, another left-side-of-the-street place, the risk was on a pedestrian level — because we didn’t have a car. And the risk to pedestrians can be significant, no doubt. Most of us are trained to look left before we step into a crosswalk — when the immediate threat will come from your right.

According to this wiki link, 65 percent of the world’s population lives in right-hand-lane countries, and 35 percent in left — thanks to India and its 1.2 billion people pushing up the stats of the on-the-left crew.

However, 90 percent of miles logged in motor vehicles, globally, are on the right side of the street, to only 10 percent on the left.

(If you care to delve into the “why” of left-side or right-side driving, feel free to wade into this welter of explanations.)

So, I have been driving around the island on the wrong side of the road — as far as most of the world is concerned. The one advantage I have is that we rented a tiny car with an automatic transmission.

That means no left-handed gear shifting, an added ordeal that makes the left-side-drive an even more oppressive test of nerve and attention.

(Luckily, the pedals are the located in the same order, even on the other side of the front seat. The accelerator is against the door, under your right foot, the brake is in the middle and the clutch, when you have one, is on the left.)

So far, in Cyprus, despite driving hundreds of miles, I have managed to avoid being part of some heinous crash. Though I have a few days left to manage it. I admit to making a right turn … and then finding myself on the right-hand side of the new road. The wrong side.

Remember, too, the “fast” lane is on the right; off ramps are on the left; the turns involving crossing traffic are right turns.

It all can make a driver nervous. Edgy. All those last-second “is this right?!?” moments, and several of them are going to be wrong, and all you can do is hope no one plows into you.

I wonder we do not have even more carnage on the roads in the UAE. The country is a sensible one, and drives on the right, but it has about 100,000 Britons who may have come direct from their “wrong side of the road” islands, as well as tens of thousands of Indian drivers, who picked up the bad habit from the UK.

I will be happy to hand over the car at the rental place, look to my left one more time before crossing the street, and then get back to “normal”.


4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Mike Davies // Dec 28, 2018 at 12:19 AM

    Apart from large swaths of Africa, India, Japan & Australia you fucking moron. I have no problem driving on the wrong (right) side of the road as I’m obviously no a retarded American.

  • 2 ian hornby // Feb 22, 2019 at 3:33 PM

    The Roman empire drove on the left, you’re chatting shite!
    Anyway, by your logic, your steering wheel is on ‘the wrong side!’

  • 3 Bill // Mar 5, 2019 at 8:19 AM

    Hey Mikey, here in America. we say “I’m obviously NOT a retarded American.” But then again, we are all retarded I guess.

  • 4 Walter Softie // Aug 28, 2019 at 4:06 AM

    In 1918 half the world drove on the left; from 1925 onwards after the signing of the Vienna Convention many countries changed over. The Netherlands, Portugal, Denmark and all their colonies drove on the left until then. Ditto the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
    The US Virgin Islands still drive on the left as a former Danish colony.
    There is no “right” or “wrong” side to drive on, merely differing traditions and a whole lot of history if you could be bothered to read some.
    Perhaps you could explain why the US persists with pints and gallons, inches and feet, screw-in light bulbs, left-hand thread screws, 110v electric supplies with crappy little two pronged plugs…
    It is quite a blessing that the US continued to speak a form of English rather than Dutch or German.

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