From Costa Rica and beyond

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Commentary on Speedbumps

Think of Mexico, and tacos and Mayans come to mind.  Beach resorts are also well known.  Corona beer with a slice of lime...oh yes.  Having traveled some of this beautiful land will leave me with at least one more, slightly more perturbing memory:  the speedbump.

More accurately, speedbumpS.  There are as many variations on speedbumps as Bubba Gump has recipes for shrimp.  Their names vary too, although it`s not always clear why they vary.  "Reductors de velocidad" is a fitting label for almost all of them.  "Topes" or "Zona de Topes" is another label.  One other is a bit different:  "Vibradores", which I know probably makes some of you with dirty minds think of something other than a type of speedbump.  Get your minds out of the gutter and back on the road!!

Speed bumps here vary from town to town, state to state.  They vary in height, width, length, spacing, even texture and color.  And they are found on every road in every little town or big city, no matter how great or small.  There are the big bumps over which cars nearly bottom out.  Some of those have rounded tops, some have a short flattened top (picture a staff sargeant), others are long enough to let a vehicle set atop it before heading over the backside.  Some are very short, but have sharp corners that double their impact.  Some are sculpted nicely with smoother corners so you can roll over them more gently.  Some only rise a couple inches, but then have several grooves across the top, perpendicular to the direction of the road.  I have also encountered stretches of pavement (barely elevated if at all) about 10 ft in length that also have such grooves.  Some of those grooves  may be squared in shape, others are wavy or goovy.  Those are usually categorized as vibradores, although other vibradores are distinguished by their spacing.  Vibradores may also be little speedbumps about 10ft apart accented by white stipes.  These may be trying to slow you down or simply warning you about a school crossing or a "curva peligrosa".  I have even encountered a tope on a dirt road, as if the road itself was not enough to slow one down.  Perhaps that is an effort at some kind of socialist egalitarianism?  Would Mao also want peasants to enjoy the fruits of speedbumps, not just the proletariat?

So what`s the big deal? It is nearly impossible to drive 10km without having to come to a near complete stop for these merciless constructions.  Usually, it´s more like every 2km.  Downtown Guerrero Negro (in Baja) had one every two blocks, making cruising in the evening a bit more onerous.  I wonder how much better off Mexico would be without them.  Think about the drop in fuel mileage, the wear and tear to motors and brakes and suspension.  Do you smell a plot?  It`s probably the mechanics and the cement lobbies pushing their proliferation!  Consider the poor souls in the back of the plethora of buses that ply this land. Maybe the chiropractors are in on the plot too! Air pollution is defiitely worse because of them.  Poorly muffled diesel trucks spew black particulate matter after each bump.  So, while people are nominally protected from speeders, they are in fact breathing tangibly worse air.  Speedbumps probably even add to the drug problems here.  If I really had to live with these not-always-marked impediments, I might turn to drugs too!  Dope might make me just chill out about it; cocaine might make me think I can beat the buggers; tequila might make it so I am totally oblivious to their existence.

Alas, I have found advantages.  Motorcyles like mine can usually go over these speed reducers a lot faster than cars and trucks.  That is a huge bonus when I am stuck behind a caravan of vehicles on a two lane road with no good passing opportunities.  See a sign for topes and I know I can zip past them then.

Perhaps the real problem is my yankee mindset.  Everything is ben on efficiency and minimizing time wasted.  Maybe I am just an Andy Rooney.  Fortunately, all the other things Mexico has to offer assuage my aggravation, especially that Corona and lime before bedtime.

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