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Old 10-03-2012, 06:22 AM   #30
Cisco_k OP
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Joined: Feb 2009
Location: Houston, TX
Oddometer: 43
Reflections on riding my motorcycle in Colombia

I, like most if not all people I’ve spoken to at home, felt that the driving in South America would be pretty wild. Many of my impressions have come from riding in taxies or buses in foreign countries where the drivers usually acted as though they were competing in NASCAR. Actually on a recent occasion, when my wife and I traveled to New York City, our van driver acted as though the brake and gas pedal were a switch that was either on or off with nothing in between. A wild ride from the airport was had by all. Crowded cities and streets where one doesn’t know their way around or know the local “street customs” can be intimidating wherever they are driving or riding. That said there are still distinct differences between the way people drive in the States and how they drive here.

To the newly arrived casual observer the driving situation looks like sheer chaos. There are cars, trucks, motorcycles and bicycles zipping about in every direction and added to that, there are pedestrians walking, crossing and selling things along and in the streets. It appears that there are no traffic rules being followed. In fact I have begun to wonder if the government actually sits down and devises laws and posts them with the idea that someone will follow them. The posted speed limits mean nothing. They seem to be set exceptionally low, like 30 kph (19 mph) on most city streets and 40 to 50 (25 to 31 mph) on most secondary roads. Out on the highway there are very few passing zones and the speed limits on all but divided roadways are 60 to 80 kph (38 to 50 mph). I have never observed anyone doing the speed limit, although people don’t appear to be driving at unsafe speeds. Passing is done whenever one feels like they can make it without crashing into an oncoming vehicle. At traffic signals all the motorcycles go around the stopped cars and buses so that when the light turns green, they can be the first to go. Passing is done on the left, right and anytime someone slows a bit like at one of the numerous speed bumps where the highway passes through small villages. At times the motorcycles look like ants as they swarm around vehicles in an attempt to get an inch more ahead.

But, and this is a big but, I am beginning to arrive at the conclusion that the drivers are much safer because they have a much greater situational awareness. There isn’t the attitude that is found in the states that one owns their lane and space and that no one better interfere with them as they ride along in their cocoon insulated from the world and texting or talking on their cell phones. The drivers really seem to look out for each other and know the moves to expect from the other drivers. For instance it is no problem for a motorcycle to pass another car with an oncoming motorcycle in the opposing lane. The two motorcycles treat the opposing lane as though it is two lane and they pass in opposite directions without even a flinch. When going the same direction, the slower of two motorcycles rides to the right side of the lane so they can be passed by a second motorcycle. Or, when the lane is wide enough, a car will pass a motorcycle while another car or motorcycle approaches from the opposite direction. It’s all done without a whole lot of regard to the center stripe. Because everyone does it and because everyone is aware of what’s going on there is no problem and traffic flows better with the limited road space. In heavy traffic, cars and trucks will allow someone to cut in and the only times they seem to blow the horns is to signal that they are there as a means of being seen. Trucks will signal when it is safe to pass when in hilly or curvy country and will also pull over to block and prevent a pass when they see that it would not be safe. As a final bit of evidence, very few of the cars are beat up. It would seem at first glance that there wouldn’t be a straight fender or door on the cars but one sees very little damage. Drivers do appear to do their best to avoid collisions.

However, all the above said and understood, I’ll still keep a watchful eye out for the crazy drivers that are surely lurking out there somewhere.
"Right is still right if nobody is right, and wrong is still wrong if everybody is wrong," ~Archbishop Fulton J Sheen
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