(Still sorting out the insurance on that phone that got nicked. Photos will be less blurry once that’s all sorted.)
On a surface level, the one thing that separates Medellín from European city of comparable size is the way that people use the roads.
In Europe – or at least in the UK and Ireland – everybody is kept safe and sound through a collective agreement to stick to the rules.
Rules developed and ingrained through a fairly rigorous teaching and testing system.
And I would know, I failed my test four times.
Here are a few things that you learn when you take the theory test:
- Driving on a motorway? – Stick in the left lane, unless you’re overtaking.
- Passing a horse? – Leave eight to ten feet of space between you and the rider.
- Turning left at a junction? – Get in lane early and indicate.
Here these rules might be interpreted as follows:
- Driving on a motorway? – You have right of way in all lanes, both real and metaphysical.
- Passing a horse? – Of course, you’re not going to be beaten by a fucking horse.
- Turning left at a junction? – See rule one.
Traffic during rush hour can be overwhelming, even if you’re just a pedestrian trying to cross the street.
While there are pelican crossings that hypothetically give you right of way, a lot of the motorcyclists view these in the same way that a lot of cyclists back home view them – in that if you’re on two wheels you’re outside the rule of law.
In a bizarre nod to safety and accountability on the roads, almost all motorcyclists have their licence plate numbers emblazoned across the back on their helmets – as if that makes it easier to report them for veering across four lanes of traffic and mounting the kerb at a zebra crossing.
The other thing here is the buses.
They are not the sanitised, colour-coded, semi-irregular beasts that they are back home.
Rather the driver will pick you up wherever you want, and it’s something of a social faux-pas if your ineptitude at jumping onto a moving vehicle forces them to drop out of second gear.
Once both of your feet are securely on the bus, the driver accelerates – using their right hand to to simultaneously change gear, take cash from the passenger and give change.
It’s quite something to witness.
Most of the buses come adjourned with pictures of the Virgin Mary or other religious iconography.
You can’t really see it in this picture, but this driver had a Flava Flav-sized set of rosary beads hanging from his rear view mirror.
This is something I – quite rightly – find unsettling.
You shouldn’t need divine intervention to stop you from totalling a bus full of people into a wall.
Just drive slower.