15 July, 2012

The Traffic / How I'm going to die in Colombia

In one day (14/July - the day after Friday the 13th!) I saw/heard the after-effects of 3 separate car crashes.

In Fontibon high street, there was an elderly lady literally under a bus, with a crowd of police and facebook-journalists surrounding her. Thankfully she was under the body of the bus, not under a wheel, but I hate to think how she got there. After I had passed her twice (aimlessly wandering round shops) a paramedic came running up. Walking (purposefully this time - going to get lunch) in the direction from which he came, about 2 minutes later I came upon his ambulance stuck in traffic. If he hadn't started running there probably wouldn't have been any medics on the scene for at least another 10 minutes. Until I saw the next two crashes I thought that the late arrival of help was scarier than the probability of being in an accident.

Leaving Fontibon, walking down a small one-way street, I saw a bus 'parked' slightly inside a car at a T-junction. The traffic jam behind was rather amusing - despite concerned passers-by warning oncoming traffic that the road was blocked due to an accident, the majority of drivers continued down the road anyway. At least with the old lady under the bus there were police to help direct/calm the traffic, but as noone was hurt in this accident, I have no idea how long they had to wait for a tow truck/police/etc. Also amusing was the lorry full of chickens and the bus behind that, both stuck in the queue. I'm not sure whether the chickens or the passengers looked more fed up... :D

The third incident happened just off the 26th - the biggest, fastest motorway that I've seen in Bogotá (when it's not filled with traffic jams). A taxi (why did each accident include a public vehicle? If it were just private vehicles playing bumper cars I wouldn't mind so much, but I get buses and taxis...) was turning off the 26th into a side road, when another car came up, crashed into the side of the taxi, and got into the side road first. I think the car also ricocheted off a second taxi that was turning onto the 26th, but I'm not sure. I'd just crossed that road and was only a couple of dozen metres away when I heard the crash. I have no idea if the taxi was turning without signalling (highly likely), or if the other guy was going too fast (also highly likely), or if they were racing each other (also highly likely). The maximum speed limit appears to be interpreted as a bare minimum by taxi drivers here, despite the fact that driving more slowly would allow them to earn more as the meter ticks on...? As the drivers got out and started arguing I thought I could see the aftermath of yet another crash a little further down the 26th. As I got closer though I could see that it was just a random spot-checking of licences and insurance etc by the police. I wonder how long it took for them to realise there was an accident less than 100m away?

Now, there are many who would tell me that walking in/around Fontibon is a greater risk than getting into a public vehicle, but after today I'm not so sure... Especially not when my bus driver was counting change with both hands, steering with only his elbows while going at over 70km/hour. I wonder how long it will be until he's in an accident? Or me? :(