Ten days in Mexico City. Countless Uber trips, two bus rides, one bus trip out to the pyramids at Teotihuacan, and 35 miles – at least 35 miles – on the shoe leather express. Thrown in with all of that were the usual assortment of archeological sites, art museums, public parks, and even an evening at the Ballet Folklórico. Again, Viva Mexico!
But at heart, I’m a car, truck and motorcycle guy. And if you’re still reading this, you are as well. So, I wanted to see how they made it all work. What kinds of cars do they drive? What kinds of bikes do they ride? Where do they park them? How well do they handle them? Basically, anything and everything I could discover about keeping the traffic flow going in a large metropolitan city.
And with 22 million residents, assorted tourists, daily commuters, delivery vehicles (both two and four-wheeled), how do they keep all that traffic from simply stopping?
The easy answer is…it’s a combination of things, including smaller cars, fewer pickup trucks and SUVs, much more public transportation, lots of single cylinder motorcycles for both personal and commercial use, rental (docked) bicycles and, as noted above, lots of pedestrians. Plus, there are the cops that direct traffic and keep it moving.
I live in Austin; consequently, I’m at the mercy of one thru road (IH-35), one metro rail, one bus service, and practically everyone (including me!) driving around town solo in something bigger than they need. But hey, my dog doesn’t want to stay behind! And I’ve got groceries to haul and errands to run! Not to mention, commuter traffic in Austin.
So, it’s important to note that drivers in Mexico City navigate traffic intersections that would strike fear in your heart, pass between other vehicles with ease, grab every opportunity to find a hole in traffic that allows them to stay in the flow without stopping that flow. And that – in and of itself – is beautiful to someone who has spent most of his life behind the wheel of a car or on the seat of a motorcycle.
Unless you do something truly outrageous or dangerous, no horns are honked at you. Everyone seems to realize that we’re all in this together. And that’s important. With smaller cars and fewer large vehicles, visibility and mobility are greatly improved. Oddly enough, this brings to mind self-driving vehicles, and whether they will be an improvement, at least as far as traffic goes? And that’s a great question. What keeps Mexico City traffic going is the skill and the attitude of the drivers.
As far as motorcycles go, there were plenty. But for the most part, the single cylinder bikes roamed the streets doing their thing on weekdays, and the big Harleys and BMWs stayed home until Sunday, when they came out onto the streets or languished by the cafés.
Here in Austin, the sheer number of people in vehicles out running around on the weekends can often cause traffic jams of their own. Whereas in Mexico City, the traffic is noticeably less than on weekdays, primarily because goods and services are more prevalent in areas where people live. Which means that to get a quart of milk, or a box of cereal, or a beer in Austin you have to get into your car and drive somewhere. In Mexico City, you can get all these same items – and much more – within walking distance of your residence. And that’s a huge advantage. Wider sidewalks and tree-lined boulevards make walking or riding a bicycle a pleasure rather than a risk.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, as the saying goes. We will change things here, when the personal passenger vehicle – whether a car, truck, or motorcycle – becomes more burdensome than liberating. After all, vehicles were invented to make it more convenient for people to ‘get around’ – as the Beach Boys would put it – not less so.
Below are some street scenes from Mexico City, where the food was wonderful, the people friendly and helpful, the police ready to jump in and direct traffic when and where needed, the juice carts available everywhere for any combination of freshly squeezed juices on the spot; small shops and open-air markets were everywhere. Plus, there were beautifully tended car and motorcycle dealerships from every manufacturer. Viva Mexico!