Gringo in Guadalajara

Round and Round

They are called traffic circles, rotaries, roundabouts and in spanish, rotondas, but just because you can name it, doesn't mean you can drive it. Whenever entering one of these hair-raising driving challenges I think of the scene in European Vacation where Chevy Chase gets stuck for hours in a London roundabout, pointing out Big Ben and Parliament.  But actually Chevy had just two lanes of traffic to deal with, while the big Guadalajara rotondas have three to four lanes and often a pretty statue or waterfall in the middle to add further distraction.

What really makes the Guadalajara rotaries difficult is that you have to be in different lanes as you revolve, depending on how close you are to exiting.  This is because according to the traffic rules here, it is the far right lane (and often the next one over depending on what street is approaching) that is supposed to peel off and take the exit.  This means that if you are planning to go 3/4 of the way around the circle, you cannot simply stay way over in the far right lane because cars will A) cut across you while exiting and B) expect you to be exiting.

So what the experienced driver does is enters the circle on the far inside lane and slowly moves right until he is ready to exit.  But this isn't easy, especially given that a) usually the traffic circle lanes are not painted, b) that there are sometimes traffic lights inside the circle and that c) most Guadalajarans drive extremely fast.

Ah, Chevy never knew how good he had it.