Traffic here is Cochabamba is exciting. I say that because I walk everywhere and almost never go in a car. If I were in cars more, I would say that traffic is horrifying instead. What makes it so exciting is this: there aren’t any traffic lights. They have lights downtown, but near me, where the roads are plenty busy, no. And no stop signs either.
As a result, the average driver here honks more in an afternoon that I have in my driving career. Honking is the way you let other cars approaching the intersection know that you’re not stopping. Here, inertia determines the right-of-way more than traffic laws do. Any time you walk by an intersection—even if there’s only one car—you’ll probably hear honking. Once I learned that, I answered one of my long-time Cochabamba traffic questions (i.e. Why are people always honking?).
Yesterday, I answered another question. I live on Calle Jaime Mendoza, a moderately busy four-lane divided road. Not infrequently, I see cars driving down the wrong side of the road for no apparent reason. My question is why do people drive on the wrong side of the road?
As I was walking to school yesterday, I had passed Abraham Lincoln Park (home of my city sheep) when I heard a car screech to a halt. I turned to see a near-accident; a truck turning the wrong way on to Calle Jaime Mendoza was almost ended by a taxi barrelling down the street. The truck reversed apologetically, allowing the taxi to continue. Then, to my surprise, the truck proceeded to turn the wrong way on the street again and accelerate quickly. Just as I was thinking, “I’ll never understand this country,” I heard a siren and a policeman on motorcycle flew by in pursuit. A police chase! The truck rounded a corner and sped out of sight.
Now I understand one possible reason Cochabambinos drive on the wrong side of the road: they are being pursued by the police and don’t have time to get to the other side of the divided road. Finally, something makes sense.