During the week, UNPol announced that they would be clamping down on cars without licence plates, unregistered cars and unlicenced drivers. They were also going to target riding on the roof of microlets (mini-buses) – a very common sight outside of Dili.
The roof riding practice is a bit dangerous, particularly on some of the mountainous roads around the place. UNPol refer to the high accident rate but I would like to see some statistics on this.
One day, the infamous new traffic lights will actually be switched on and this is likely to cause quite a bit of trouble. People do not bother with give-way rules or stop and give-way signs so it will take some to time to become accustomed to a new road discipline.
My general feel is that speeding is the most dangerous form of driving here. Supposedly, the Dili speed limit is 45km/hr but I would think that apart from taxis, this limit is exceeded by most drivers most of the time. But I am not talking about drivers doing 50 kph but those sprinting down Dili streets at closer to 100 kph. When I am on my bicycle, I don’t like it.
Although I have never had a dangerous moment, I have withdrawn off the road a couple of times in the face of vehicles overtaking and coming straight for me. They had plenty of time to adjust their manouevre but elected to press on. I had plenty of time to move off the road and on the odd occasion, have enough time to make rude hand gestures and curse their mothers. There is just a bit too much overtaking on urban roads for my liking.
That brings us to “Whitey”. I don’t know “Whitey” but apparently, he was a well-known local fixture in the building contractor game. While riding his motorbike on New Years’ Eve, he encountered 2 F-FDTL army trucks seemingly racing down the beach road near the
Ocean Harbour View cafe*. He was hit badly and sustained very serious injuries. The army trucks did not stop and I am unaware if there has been any success in finding the trucks or drivers.
I believe “Whitey” has had a number of operations in hospital in Australia and I know a number of people here are thinking about him. It is worth noting that there is no insurance system in TL, so unless his employer has some decent cover, it could be a bit of a problem financially.
* I often make the mistake and call Harbour View the Ocean View which is of course the other end of town.