Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Danger on the Roads

Above: Avenida 9 de Julio (20 lanes)

Buenos Aires has a mix of extra wide avenues and narrow cobblestone streets and a confusing one way system in many places. I used to think it was a figment of my imagination, that taxis seemed to veer across the street to try and run me over (extra points for a gringo n' all that) but others have also confirmed this to be the case. These are typically busy taxis since the available taxis curb crawl annoyingly slow as they try and pick up a fare.

Zig zag driving is par for the course for most porteños as they try and get a fraction ahead of the car in front so they can cut them off and hence gain one spot advancement in the traffic. It's almost comical as you watch the constant criss cross in the flow of traffic as porteños have debunked the theory that the quickest/shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Oh contraire! - It's actually more like a snake pattern.

Avenida 9 de Julio in the micro center lays claim to being the widest avenue in the world with twenty lanes and as a pedestrian you need to cross two sets of traffic lights just to get to the other side. The most interesting driving concept however is in the suburbs, where intersections have no traffic lights ('right of way' and 'stop' signs don't exist here). Thus ensues a perilous game of 'chicken'. Cars will literally brake then accellerate as they approach a blind intersection, seemingly hoping (praying), that if there is an oncoming car, it will back down and brake. Amazingly, this seems to work and I've yet to see a serious accident (touch wood).

Car theft is a big problem and steering wheel locks do big business, although there are some more novel approaches to car security as shown below.


Scotto March 19, 2008 11:00 am  

nice point about the strange porteño driving paterns, never thought about it that way before. I too am yet to see a serious accident and am thoroughly supprised by this, as Argentinians are without a doubt some of the most aggressive drivers in the world. Though they are aggressive, it is of my opinion that they are very good drivers in general (ability to avoid major accidents and hitting people and stuff). I also must give some credit to Buenos Aires bicyclists, most of whom never wear helmets

Quickroute March 19, 2008 11:34 am  

Scotto: I totally agree, they seem to have a sixth sense to avoid accidents. I too have great respect for the cyclists as I wouldn't want to risk life and limb with or without a helmet on these roads!

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