Gringo in Guadalajara

Crazy Crossroads

It's amazing how much a city's street layout can effect the daily tempermant of its people.  Boston, where I grew up, suffers from a street grid that looks the lines on a person's palm.  Roads run in every which way, supposedly dating back to the cow paths which set the original pattern.  Because of the chaos, driving in Boston makes one tense, irritable and sometimes downright angry.  When driving there, it seems humanity has suddenly collapsed.  Everyone cuts corners, drives dangerously and does pretty much whatever it takes to get ahead.  But it's really the street structure that is the culprit.  Cars are jammed into such small spaces that to survive, one is pretty much forced to drive aggressively.


Guadalajara has similar problems.  Many intersections are so poorly planned that accidents are pre-destined.  Even the most civilized drivers must adopt their worst nature in order to survive a structure which leads to the worst common denominator.

One excellent example happens to be just outside my apartment building.  With a third story view, I have an excellent vantage point on the chaos which consistently takes place at this intersection.  It is a horrendous convergence of three streets in which two of the directions do not have a stop sign.  As cars speed down the hill attempting to make a left hand turn, they come fast upon other vehicles attempting to proceed straight across their path.  A third group attempts to make a U-turn while encroaching upon the first two.  It's all a recipe for disaster.

On a busy night I can hear the blaring of horns every two or three minutes as hundreds and hundreds of drivers come across this same poorly planned intersection.  Again and again drivers become enraged at their fellow Guadalajarans, when it is really the street grid that is to blame.  Every couple of weeks, squealing breaks and then a dull thud is heard.  I race to the window to find that sure enough, two cars have met head-on in an all too predictable scene.  Eventually police cars pull up, tow trucks arrive, the drivers stand around making calls on their cell phones.  Finally, the scene is cleared and the blaring of horns begins all over again.

It's all just such poor design.