In this edition of Travel Smarter Farther, we would like to discuss the three different modes of transportation while on vacation. My Name is Anthony and I will be narrating this segment called, “Pedestrians, Bikes & Cars in that order”. I will be mostly speaking from experience. Question; How many times have you gone on vacation internationally and wondered which mode of transportation is the safest to use? Maybe TFS and I can lend a hand to help you decide on when to walk, bike or use a motorized vehicle.
Walking is probably by far the safest and most healthiest way to get around. First rule – always look down every few feet for imperfections in the roads and sidewalks. The government takes very little effort to support the walkways along the roads. Second rule – don’t be fooled by thinking all you really have to do is follow the flow of the crowd. Stop following the sheep and take control of your own presence? How many pedestrians when traveling in a group keep an eye out for cars and bicyclist when crossing the street? I bet not many. If they aren’t looking down at their mobile devices, they are blindly walking along and depending on others to warn them about possible danger.
Mexico and most of Central America’s intersections, needless to say are somewhat of a misguided cluster of who has the right-of-way. Most drivers will abruptly yield out of courtesy only. And some won’t for one reason or another.
I see a lot of pedestrians who do not use crosswalks (shown – left) to cross a busy street. They aren’t always marked very well, but are still visible and usually have signage. This problem exists everywhere.
Most of the side streets in many foreign countries are not lane marked or striped. Cars and scooters are dodging, weaving and swerving to get around one another. If there is a vehicle stopped in the roadway, hesitate on whats approaching its blindside. Third rule – Always be aware of your surroundings and use extreme caution.
Motor scooters are just as guilty for not yielding to pedestrians as well. There are just as many scooters on the road as cars. They have no respect for traffic laws and seem to go wherever there is a gap in the traffic and/or sliver of room to motor by. This again is extremely dangerous for pedestrians, and in some cases worse than their counter parts.
Motor scooters (pictured right) in Latin America are pretty well considered bicycles with motors. Do not confuse them with motorcycles, which are held to the same laws as cars. The laws that govern cars and trucks don’t apply to scooters as it seems to me. They hardly never if ever yield to anyone. They go anywhere they want including sidewalks and bicycle lanes.
These two wheeled street buzzers seem to be driven mostly by very young adults (teens and early 20’s), food and pizza delivery people. Given this age group, think about back home and how you deal with similar demographics and their driving habits. If you are looking at renting a scooter or four wheeler – also popular, take everything that is mentioned in this article and apply for not only yours, but everyone else’s safety.
Bikes are a great way to get around town. Most countries are being proactive by implementing separate bike and pedestrian lanes. A word of caution as a pedestrians. Always look ahead and behind you when entering these segregated pathways. Bicyclist are just as vicious as their motorized counter parts. Some will speak up when passing you, others will ring a bell, and some will rush by you with no warning at all.
On some of the side streets and gated communities, the somewhat wider sidewalks are marked for bikes and pedestrians to share. This doesn’t always mean that everyone co-exists harmoniously. Be aware of bikes coming towards you, bikes coming from behind, and people walking on both sides of the sidewalk. Somebody has to yield. The decision is who will it be!
A rule of thumb that I have learned is to stay on the same side of the walkway as other pedestrians. If you are the only one on the path, stay to the inside edge – farthest from the street. If you are the bicyclist, pass on the street side – outside lane of the sidewalk. Easy enough, right?
On occasion, there will be 3-wheel carrier bike (pictured left) that will occupy the bike lane and sometimes the roadway. Being a pedestrian or a cyclist, it is advisable to yield to these cargo carrying pilots. They are usually toting around anything from liquid to lumber to people.
Last but not least, if you rent a bike, you should anticipate needing to yield to both cars and scooters. There is another rule that we have not mentioned and should also be practiced. Be aware of pedestrian friendly streets. The police will flag you down and possibly ticket you and confiscate your bike.
When renting a car in a foreign country, more than common sense has to be practiced. You should read up on the local laws. Have a competent navigator with a current map of the area you are exploring. You the driver should be 100 percent focused on the road. It takes team work to make your day safe and uneventful.
Some countries with smaller towns and/or island communities just off mainland, allow only gulf carts – with the exception of taxis and small delivery trucks. Golf carts are a little easier to drive around town for the simple fact is their top speed is usually around 20 to 25 mph.
This includes horse/burrow drawn two and four wheel carts (pictured right and below). Again, these types of transportation can be easily avoided when you are a pedestrian. But motoring around, these four legged apparatuses could be a little dangerous when passing or approaching an intersection that isn’t posted regarding any right-of-ways. Proceeding with caution is your best option.
A suggestion that should not be taken lightly and has been mentioned several times, read up on the country’s traffic laws. For example, if you are pulled over for speeding in Mexico, they write you a ticket and take your drivers licenses. You then have to go to the police station and pay your fine before your license is returned. If you double park or park in a no-parking zone, the officer will take your license plate off your vehicle and another mandatory trip to the local police station is required.
There are so many cautions that need to be practiced that it would be virtually impossible to mention them all. However, there are a few I would like to bring to your attention and/or repeat and they are in no particular order. Enter or cross blind alleys & side streets with extreme caution. Bicycles, scooters/smaller motorcycles, and cars will pass you on both the right and left. And last but not least, be ready for abrupt stops especially by taxis & buses – watch for their emergency flashers.
A brief Summary of “Pedestrians, Bikes and Cars”. Take the mentality of being in a big city and then shrink the area into small side streets. Its every person for themselves. Don’t doubt for a moment that someone will see you, stop for you and/or think they have the appropriate right-of-way.
Important author’s Notes: This information was provided by firsthand experiences. Official rules and policies regarding any three of the topics discussed should be researched and referenced to the specific destination you are planning to visit. Obtaining insurance in developing countries is sometimes iffy at best. If an incident does happen, make sure you always elect to take the optional added coverage to make sure that liability and compensation to you and your personal property is covered.
Author: Anthony Scopel
Photos: Anthony Scopel
Associate Editor: Maureen Scopel
Formatting & layout: Anthony Scopel
Published By: You, Me and The Dock – in association with Travel Farther Smarter
Technical Mastering: Matt Kemper