Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Colombia's 'No Dar Papaya' School of Motoring

It's perhaps stretching it somewhat to say that how people drive gives a true reflection of their personality. This appears even more so the case when otherwise friendly, generally polite people turn into nothing short of aggressive lunatics when they get behind the wheel. A sort of Michael Schumacher in his heyday mixed with The Incredible Hulk, something along those lines.

You'll get this, what we'll call character aberration with many Colombians. Nice people in so many facets, yet when they sit into a motorised vehicle they transform into quasi-kamikaze pilots (of course this isn't unique to here, but we're looking at it from a Bogotá perspective for this particular piece).

Autopista Norte, Bogotá D.C., Colombia.
It's a battlefield out there ...
As much as an anomaly as it may seem, it does fit in with one cultural trait, the 'No dar papaya' mentality. Basically, on the highways and byways this manifests itself into 'I shall not give an inch of space because if I do, there'll be somebody waiting to take full, merciless advantage.'

Hence the driving at breakneck speed up to a vehicle stopped ahead or traffic lights that have been clearly red for some time. 'What?! Go through the gears and slow down gradually. You must be mad! We'll be overtaken by all and sundry." The sad part is, this is true.

It's usually the privately-owned public service vehicles -- the few old-style buses that are still plying their trade and the yellow taxis -- that are seen as the chief culprits in this. They're certainly masters of it, but the drivers of the public-private transport system, the Transmilenio and SITP, are no slouches either. 'To heck what you paying passengers think, you're in my reckless hands now guys.' (A note on the taxi drivers here: Some get themselves into a hissy fit if you don't close the door in the calm manner they want, an almost impossible feat, yet they proceed to drive the car like a weapon of mass destruction.)

Now whatever about not respecting your fellow warrior motorists, those also behind the 'comfort' of metal and glass that is, giving scant regard to those on foot is taking it to another level. Either we've many colour blind drivers here (that would explain a lot) or they just don't really care about those annoying human obstacles trying to cross the street, regardless whether the pedestrians have the right of way or not. Unfortunately it's more the latter case.

Didn't you know the streets are first and foremost motorist territory? No? Well you'd better learn quickly.

For sure, drivers here have genuine grievances; there's the very poor state of many of the main arteries, a lack of efficient traffic management and security issues, to name some of those problems. In such an environment, we can understand a bit of road rage, to a point.

Yet some motorists could try bringing just a modicum of that more laid-back nature they have in other facets of life when they go driving. Both your vehicle and other road users will thank you for it.
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