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Madness on the road

Sad statistics despite slight improvement

The number of cars in Kiev grows. The volume of traffic has for the past few years been much higher than what the city's infrastructure can cope with. While in 1990, there were some 200,000 cars registered in Kiev, in 2006 it was already close to 700,000. Additionally, there are tens of thousands of cars owned by Ukrainians that come to Kiev for work. The city belongs to one of the most congested in Europe. The past two years seem to be the peak of the crisis with extreme traffic jams and drivers ignoring traffic rules. The chaos is not only frustrating, it is also the main contributing factor to the rising number of car crashes in the capital. In 2007, there were 50% more accidents reported than in the previous year.

The most dangerous spots include the junction of Kreshatyk and Institutskaya, Prospekt Peremogy, Moskovska Square, Brovarskyi Prospekt and Kharkovskoe Shosse. Kiev bridges are also often blocked due to accidents.

As of the end of 2007, there were approximately 1,000,000 cars registered in Kiev. During 2007, 9.500 people died in a car accident in Ukraine. For comparison, in Germany there are some 45 million cars registered yet “only” 4,650 persons were killed in 2007.

New traffic laws have been implemented since January 2008. Now, every violation represents a certain number of penalty points. If a driver collects 30 points, he automatically loses his license for up to 3 years. It is said the points system will be poorly controlled and may cause an increase in corruption within the DAI. But compared to January 2007, traffic accidents involving injury or death decreased by 15.3 % and the number of deaths from accidents fell by 21%, meaning the DAI campaign has brought an improvement.

Problem number 1 - Infrastructure
Pedestrians are constantly at risk as desperate drivers got used to parking anywhere possible. Pavements are frequently completely blocked by cars, in better case drivers leave their cars double-parked in already narrow streets causing further congestion. Traffic jams make drivers more agressive and disregard traffic signs, lights or whatever else is in their way. Most roads in Kiev are in a bad condition with large potholes and uneven surface which just adds to the bad driving conditions.

Kiev City Administration plans to invest 3.6 billion dollars to relieve the situation. The budget is supposed to cover construction of a number of underground parking garages in the center, set up of terminals along the key routes to Kiev city center so commuters could leave their vehicle and get downtown by public transport. There are plans to build pedestrian underground subways, bypasses etc. Furthermore, there are two bridges under construction.  

It is surprising, that given the worsening traffic situation, the city administration hasn't yet resorted to some restriction system such as these applied in Western Europe. In Germany, some cities only allow public transport and cars with special permission into the central areas. London eased traffic jams thanks to the fee system charging drivers for entering the city centre. Other cities opted for underground tunnels or overpasses.

Problem number 2 - Misbehaving motorists
To continue improving the road infrastructure, the city needs money. Car parks are one source that could provide at least a part of the necessary resources. Many parking places in Kiev, however, stand empty and drivers keep on parking on the streets and sidewalks for free.

The bad behavior of drivers is encouraged by a ridiculous fine system. Official fines are often as low as 2 dollars and in most cases, it is enough to give the police officer some small cash and the problem is solved. In effect, the fine for parking may be lower than actually leaving the car in a place for that designated. If the fines were as high as in for example Russia or Western Europe, drivers would probably think twice before breaking the law again.


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