A Question of Speed

So, I’m having an excellent time here in Juarez, meeting wonderfully friendly people and getting a decent tan. I’m even rather enjoying driving in Mexico. Is the style a bit aggressive? Are the rules rather open to interpretation? You bet. But it’s a creative enterprise and it keeps you entertained on your commute.

However.

I do not yet understand the seeming fondness among Mexico’s municipal governments for speed bumps. Rooted though they may be in the desire to regulate speed on residential roads, the zeal with which speed bumps have been deployed (around Ciudad Juarez anyway) is alternately hilarious and terrifying. Long and loping or short and violent; gently sloped or almost square in shape; painted a shocking yellow or concealed amongst innocent (and flat) black pavement the speed bump is as integral to the driving experience here as the roving patrols of federal police in pick-up trucks and That Guy (and there’s one on every block) whose car horn, deployed with obvious glee, plays “La Cucaracha.”

The speed bumps themselves seem to do very little to regulate speed. A Volkswagon traveling opposite to me yesterday that rounded the corner on three wheels, hit a speed bump of the short and violent variety, briefly took flight, and landed with a crunch that had auto repair shops three counties away perking their ears up in delight, returned to its previous cruising speed with almost insouciant rapidity. It seems a matter of pride to flout, avoid, out-maneuver, or sail over the ubiquitous bumps. The speed bumps also don’t seem deployed in any rational way, i.e. to control traffic in pedestrian-heavy zones. Random lumps of black pavement in vaguely speed bump shape appear at random intervals on main thoroughfares. Many of them only go across one lane. These speed bumps in particular are never painted and emerge at random. Now, don’t get me wrong. The resulting wild zigzag of cars executing a merge of desperation across three lanes of traffic to avoid a camouflaged lump of black asphalt in the leftmost lane certainly livens up the driving experience. But one of these days it’s going to liven up my car repair payments and that is not a day I look forward to.

It’s a mystery, this affection for speed bumps. I hope to one day get to the bottom of it. Though hopefully not while holding the last remains of my suspension in my hands, sobbing, as “La Cucaracha” toodles in the background.

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