Street Car in Almaty and Traffic Issues of a Developing Car Culture (A perspective of a U.S. citizen)

Street Car

I have been trying to get a good clear and clean photo of one of these trams for about 7 years now. I finally got one and I made this line drawing.

The city of Almaty is beautiful except for one thing. There are many cars here and I’ve seen a ton of accidents here. You can walk around the city and see one or more accidents a day!! I’ve seen more accidents than I’ve ever seen anywhere in Almaty. Cars here go fast up and down the straight and wide streets. It’s unclear here if there are speed limits. The roads are well paved, so cars can move pretty fast here. Another reason is that I hear many of the drivers pay someone off to get their drivers license and don’t take the drivers test. One other issue may be that during the Soviet Union only the elite drove cars and so perhaps anyone and everyone needed to step out of the way when a car came by so it may be indeed a cultural thing here. In the era of Post Soviet Kazakhstan the rise of the middle class and rich have given them new access to cars via internet sales and new auto dealers throughout the city. Here you will see Jaguar, Mercedes, and Lamborghini’s driving on the streets as normal as a Honda, or Chevrolet in the USA. The fancier the car the faster you go is my observation. Recently I saw three cars piled together in an apparent accident and was struck at how everyone kind of thought this as normal. It didn’t look like anyone was injured but it was an amazing and scary thing to see. As a pedestrian here you have to watch out! Cars take precedent over the pedestrian. Always assume that the car has the right of way or you’ll likely be a casualty here. Remember this even when walking on a sidewalk. You will likely encounter a car on the sidewalk honking and even coming dangerously close to you. Of course you should remember that this is not a personal attack but a different attitude and relationship of the car and the pedestrian in public space. Better for you to move out of the way and be safe than to react negatively. Drivers will not know why you are mad at them.

Recently a subway was opened after a long intermission for the construction completion when the fall of the Soviet Union happened. Now the subway is finished and it looks beautiful! Though a small system yet it is still a great and safe alternative to the mean streets of Almaty.

The street car or what locals call the Tramvey is also a wonderful alternative to traveling by car but of course is a victim to the rise of the automobile in Almaty because it is subject to the street traffic along it’s rail lines. Perhaps it would be good to make dedicated rail lines for many future street car lines.

Another note is that I have seen a huge rise of bicycle traffic here in Almaty. The roads are ideal for bicycles but the cars are quite dangerous because there is very little information or sensitivity to bicycle culture from the automobile drivers. There has been a push in the city of Almaty to construct bicycle lanes.


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