If you are a driver in Ecuador there appears to be one rule – the car always wins. One obvious reason is that cars are bigger than people, although some of the cars in Ecuador are pretty small compared to the giant SUV and truck contingency in the U.S.
But, size is not the only factor although very important. If you see a car of any size coming around the corner at 25 or 30 mph it doesn’t really matter if there is a green light on the corner indicating that you as a pedestrian now have the privilege of crossing the street. Maybe it’s only a mid-size motorcycle (not a 750 cc Harley, but perhaps a 175-200 cc Yamaha) but it can still cause enough damage to ruin your day.
The fact is that the motorized vehicle trumps the foot powered pedestrian – in almost every case. Occasionally a motorist will actually let you cross with your cute little beeping green light. More likely, however, you are risking serious injury or death if you just blithely cross with the green without making sure there is not a driver bearing down on you at full speed. Let me explain what that green light really means.
A pedestrian who encounters a green light at a street crossing has the privilege of crossing the street if there is no vehicle wishing to turn the corner into your crosswalk, be it actually painted or just imaginary. The chances are, however, that there will be cars turning as long as the traffic signal is green and their concern is not for the pedestrian who somehow believes that green light showing a human figure gives them any right to cross. As a pedestrian that green light is just a way of recognizing that some people are actually foolish enough to walk.
It’s true that a lot of people in Ecuador do have to walk. Autos are expensive although gasoline is relatively cheap. Right now it’s about $1.08 for regular, $1.48 for super and diesel is typically cheaper than gas – as it should be! So how does the non-automotive group get around. That’s easy – they use the terrific bus system that has a very reasonable cost of only 25 cents no matter how far you ride on the same bus. I don’t think they have transfers, but there is some sort of card you can obtain which I assume probably makes it even cheaper.
So, with all the buses you have a large number of pedestrians once they leave the confines of the bus. Now they’re back in the danger zone just like the dedicated pedestrians. What to do?
O.K., here is the system and how it works. The pedestrian is at the bottom of the transportation list. What the pedestrian has to do is simply use the funny green light as a guideline that might indicate he/she now has a slightly better chance of crossing the street. But that is really for neophytes. What the astute pedestrian knows and understands is that the traffic is so clogged that no matter where he/she is traffic will soon come to an absolute standstill. By looking ahead in the direction of the traffic flow one can easily gauge how long it will take before the autos immediately in front of the pedestrian can begin to move. Three, four or more cars stopped – it’s time to make the dash between cars to the other side of the street. I don’t know if there is a Spanish word for jaywalking, but if there is it appears that the myriad police don’t know it and certainly don’t enforce it if they do. Just remember one thing – most of the cars have manual transmissions – you also have to hope that no ones foot slips off the clutch, etc. while you’re squeezing in between cars. They never leave much room from bumper to bumper in fear of another care slipping into that space.
Fortunately for you, the pedestrian, many of the streets are one way which really does help in getting to the other side. Keep all this in mind, cross safely and . . .
Keep on Traveling!