Lebanese Rally driver Roger Feghali has become the first Arab driver to win the famous Antibes Côte D’Azur in France after beating Jean-marie Cuoq, the Championship leader, in the final classification. Roger competed last year and was going strong before he had to retire, but he came back this year and dominated the event in his Ford Focus WRC.
Feghali and Matar beat Citroen C4 WRC driver Jean-Marie Cuoq by more than 2 minutes, which is a very comfortable margin. This marks Roger’s fourth rally victory of 2015, after dominant wins in Jordan and in Lebanon (31st Spring Rally and 4th Jezzine Rally). Feghali won’t score points from this rally as he’s Lebanese but it’s still quite an achievement to beat talented international rally drivers in a entry list that included 135 drivers.
I normally respect traffic laws and I’m not a reckless driver but I sometimes do check my phone when I’m stuck in traffic and the cars are not moving. I also don’t think it’s wrong to answer your phone (using speakers or ugly blue-tooth headsets) but I heard this is not even allowed in the new traffic law which doesn’t really make sense.
In all cases, I was driving from Adonis towards Kaslik last weekend and we were barely moving when I received a phone call that I had to take, so as I was about to pick up the phone and put it on speaker my wife notifies me that there’s a police officer on his bike passing right next to us, so I quickly gave her the phone hoping that he didn’t notice anything. As it turns out, there were two cops actually, the first one on the bike was texting or playing on his smartphone and the other was looking the other way. It’s definitely not the first time I spot cops breaking the law, but it would have been the first time that I am fined by a policeman breaking the law himself. I was wondering how I would have reacted to that if he truly had stopped me. Few hours later, I received the above picture via whatsapp.
Needless to say, we should still abide by the new traffic law and hope that everyone, including policemen and politicians, do the same. Things have improved drastically in the past couple of months but it’s still too early to judge success of this new law.
When I first read the title of this article, I checked the date to make sure it’s not an old post, then I read the whole thing 3 times just to make sure it’s not a satire post and I still can’t believe that someone, Robert Fisk in that case, would believe that “Beirut has the chance to revive its steam-age role as a key transit hub”, and that Syria’s relaunching is going to happen sometime soon and have a positive impact on Lebanon. I mean seriously? A Tunnel from Baabdat to Chtaura? A train from Beirut through the Bekaa, Syria and the Gulf and all the way to Europe? Who are we kidding here?
Eugene Sensenig-Dabbous, an Austrian politics professor at Notre Dame University in Lebanon and engineer by profession, told his Unesco audience that “railways are a regional, international issue because infrastructure development is one of the keys to the future of the Middle East”. Talking later, he was more specific. “The majority of the freight for re-launching Syria after the war will obviously go through Beirut. The Syrian port of Lattakia is too small. The reopening of the old Tripoli-Homs train line, which is still relatively intact, could be done quite quickly.
Now the funniest part is how Mr. Maalouf is “relying on the sheer frustration of the automobile-intoxicated Lebanese to bring back the trains”. Don’t get me wrong as I have the utmost respect for the Ecuador-born Lebanese filmmaker Elias Maalouf, but Lebanese have been cursing yet electing the same people for more than 20 years now, and they seem to be fine living without a president, without infrastructure, water, electricity or internet. They couldn’t care less about trains being renovated or turned into UN heritage sites and they are building houses and nightclubs all over them (unless the government paves a new road over the railway).
All in all, the poster below is the closest thing we will get to seeing trains in Lebanon again. Enjoy the [article] and keep dreaming Lebanon 🙂
This video was shot by a student for a school project and shows several violations (including one by an ISF officer) in Beirut. I’ve also been spotting many violations on a daily basis but I’ve also noticed Lebanese are not speeding anymore and driving safely which is a good sign. I think the ISF and Interior Ministry are doing the right thing by taking things slowly, but I still want them to punish officers who break the law more severely in order to further gain people’s trust.
There are three things that came to mind while watching this video:
1- Where are the cops on that road? It’s one of the busiest ones in all of Lebanon.
2- Why doesn’t he have a license plate on the bike?
3- Last but most importantly, who’s the guy filming all these stunts? Why doesn’t he try to film them as landscape?
I posted back in 2010 about a shortcut road in Dbayyeh that might save you 20 minutes of morning traffic. The road (shown in red above) was accessible to everyone back then but they’d close it randomly sometimes. After a while, they closed it for good yet I’d notice army vehicles or convoys using it from time to time, but more and more cars have been using it in the past couple of weeks for some reason. I asked around and they told me you need some sort of “wasta” to have your name registered at the gate and they will let you in.
I can’t really confirm this info but the sure thing is that more and more cars are using it and I’ve been spending an extra 20 minutes in traffic because of this shortcut which is unacceptable. If they need the road, they can use it for emergencies or security reasons, but otherwise it should be kept as closed once and for all!
Update: A friend told me that he faced the same problem once and that they told him that he doesn’t need to pay any fines if the fine is older than the car registration date.
I’ve been supportive of the new traffic law ever since it came out, but there are 4 issues that I’ve stated in a previous post and that I believe need to be tackled ASAP: 1- Political and security convoys: Is the police allowed to stop them? What happens when they are driving dangerously and cutting off people? 2- Fake License plates: This is unfortunately becoming a trend whereas crooks use fake car plate numbers and cause other drivers to get fined. 3- Settling the fines: Fines always used to come late (sometimes a year late), which is unacceptable. The ISF needs to figure out a way to automate the process. 4- Valet parking companies: Valet guys park everywhere illegally and throw away fines sometimes. They need to be severely penalized and banned if needed.
To be honest, I don’t believe anything can be done in regards to convoys, but the other issues are easy to tackle and should be done the soonest, specially the part related to fake license plates. Yesterday, everyone was sharing the story of a young lady who had just bought her 2015 Nissan X-trail only to find out she has a fine from 2013!! This is not the first time I hear about such a thing and it won’t be the last for sure, as there are a lot of criminals and thugs who put fake license plates on their cars and get other people fined. However, what’s alarming this time is that the car was newly registered and no one noticed the fine somehow, which means that the authorities did something wrong in the first place here.
This being said, something needs to be done to handle these cases because the fines are serious now and no one should be wrongly fined and forced to pay for a violation he didn’t commit. A year ago, I shared an idea about an app that could help detect stolen cars and fake license plates in the process and I still believe it is relatively easy to implement it. Moreover, and based on what I’ve been hearing from people who got wrongly fined, the ISF should make the whole process of submitting complaints and following up on them easier and smoother to the people. The last thing we need is people using “wasta” to resolve such problems.
Drivers who run a red light or don’t respect pedestrian passages will be fined up to 700,000 according to the new traffic law, yet most drivers in Lebanon chose to abide by the first rule and ignored the second one. Most pedestrian passages in Beirut are dangerous whereas cars park all over their lane and drive away even when there are people still crossing the road.
I was at the Four Seasons Beirut Beirut the other day and tried crossing the road to get to Zaitunay bay. I turned my phone’s camera and started walking as soon as the light turned green. As you can see in the video below, I almost got run over by 3 cars and a motorcycle. Even worse, by the time I got to the middle of the road (around 5 seconds) the light had turned red which is quite absurd. This is just one tiny example and there are other crossings as dangerous as this one, like the Saifi-Gemmayze one and the Centre Sofil one on Charles Malek’s avenue in Achrafieh.
I remember Volvo tried a social experiment last year by installing blue pedestrian stands in several spots in Beirut but the outcome was disastrous as the stand was damaged few times and cars kept parking on the pedestrian lane in front of the stand.
I think what we need are pedestrian crossing activists like these guys, but I’m worried carrying a car is not an option because of the abundance of SUVs in Lebanon and I’m worried cars might run people over (or shot or beaten up) if they defy them and ask them to drive back. This leaves us with one option: Put a cop on every crossing and fine every car parked over the lane.
Here’s a video showing how the Jdeideh ISF officers warned a driver who wasn’t wearing a seat belt and talking on the phone today. I’m not sure if this was staged or someone actually filmed it while driving on the highway but I hope to see videos where these guys are warning and fining other officers breaking the law. (see below)
The ISF started implementing the new traffic law today and were distributing as well a small booklet that sums up the major violations and their corresponding fines. It’s a small 6-pages guide that I uploaded here for those who are interested. I also shared few tweets from the ISF account regarding the main violations such as speeding, or not wearing a seat belt or texting and driving. You can also check the summary I did few weeks back [here].
I know that we aren’t satisfied with the way this law is being implemented, specially when police officers are still breaking the law and roads are in bad shape, but let’s try make the best out of it and become better drivers for our own sake. If you have any complaints, you can submit them to the ISF [here].