EPIC FAIL: the lack of road culture in Mexico City

(c) La Jornada, 2009
(c) La Jornada, 2009

I’ve written before about how people in Mexico have zero road culture, which leads to a complete breakdown of road infrastructure. A lot of this infrastructure’s correct operation depends on people abiding by the law. Yet most people do not. Usually the consequences are from nil (parking in a handicapped space for a moment, leaving your car double-parked, parking in front of a house’s garage) to a relatively minor fine (parking illegally and THEN getting towed because the  tow truck happened to be nearby).

However, when physical security of moving vehicles is dependent on the assumption that people will respect the law, things do indeed break down.

The metrobús is a Bus Rapid Transit system, which opened in 2005 in one important Mexico City avenue, and has enjoyed (in my opinion) great success, reducing transport times, improving traffic flow for private vehicles, and getting rid of dangerous Peseros along Insurgentes avenue. Everybody in Mexico knows Peseros are the worst offenders when it comes to traffic violations, where they blatantly run red lights, invade lanes, and generally do what they please without regard for others. So their sole disappearance was a blessing.

The price to be paid for this was that, since the metrobus runs on central lanes, left turns are forbidden along the avenue’s 26-km length. The reason is obvious: at the very least a significant disruption of traffic might occur if the bus has to stop for a car that’s trying to left-turn. At worst, the metrobus, a double-length behemoth, might hit another car with deadly consequences.

It’s been 3 years of the Metrobus operating, and this year a second line (running along eje 4 sur) was opened. This has caused an uproar because it appears this line has been misdesigned, creating several “death traps” and spots where, due to lack of space, cars and pedestrians have a tough time getting through. This has led to 18 accidents since the new line opened.

Some asshole in the government who needs urgent math lessons said that “98% of accidents involving the metrobus are due to private car driver’s imprudence”. For starters, 98% of 18  is 17.64, and assigning partial blames is absurd.

Anyway, what’s indeed clear is that most of the accidents are due to lack of culture by drivers. The all-too-common notion that “nobody wants to have an accident and if I just swerve violently in front of someone they’ll stop and swear at me but I’ll get my way” fails when the “someone” is a 15-ton monster  traveling at 60 km/h with 30-meter stopping distances.

Sometimes, then, images are worth a thousand words, so I’ll leave you with the conclusion that while it’s necessary to guarantee that people operating a car need to have a minimum of road education, it’s also not going to happen because the “it’s ok just this one time” mentality rules, and as long as we’re giving driving licenses to anyone without a driving test (right, in Mexico there are no driving tests, you just pay for your license and you get it) things like this are going to happen. I also leave you with an eye-opening video of exactly whose fault it was for the accident, a picture of which is at the top of this message.

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