Crossing the street in Lima is like being in some post-apocalyptic, Mad Max-style alternate reality. Anarchy reigns. Symbols of the old order like traffic signals and crosswalks are openly defied. The weak are trampled upon while the strong race through the lawless streets in marauding gangs.
But with a little luck and deftness of feet, it is possible to move from one side of the street to the other in Lima without being crushed, maimed, beaten or otherwise disfigured. Follow these tips and you may make it across in one piece.
Tip #1: Just because the sign says you can walk, doesn’t mean you should.
In many countries, the changing of a pedestrian signal from “don’t walk” to “walk” generally means that it is now safe to cross the street. Not so in Lima. The signals will change, but the cars will keep coming. Attempts to cross during these times will be met with honks and exasperated looks from drivers. Needless to say, it’s best to wait till the coast is clear, even when the lights say (wrongly) that it is.
Tip #2: You don’ t have the right of way
A cousin to Tip #1 is this simple rule: even when you do have the right of way in Lima, you don’t. The internal combustion engine trumps two legs here — no exceptions. There’s a sort of Darwinian logic to this. In other places, they have traffic laws designed to even the playing field between man and machine. In Lima, they let nature run its course.
Tip #3: Never assume
See that taxi cab slowing down? Chances are, he’s not letting you pass, he’s just testing his brake pads before careening off, taking out any unsuspecting pedestrians in the process. It’s best to never assume in Lima that drivers see you, or will stop for you, or have any concern whatsoever for your general well-being. Unless somebody implicitly waves you across the street, don’t cross. And even then, proceed with extreme caution.
Tip #4: Don’t do as the Limeños do
After a lifetime of surviving hazardous street crossings, the people of Lima are amazingly adept at zig-zagging their way through traffic. Don’t think you can do the same. If you see others crossing, look both ways and listen for any sounds of sudden acceleration before doing so yourself. Blindly following the crowd here could end poorly…
So there they are, tips that may keep you alive should you ever find yourself in Peru’s sprawling capital. I’ll save my tips for enduring the near-collisions and breakneck speeds of a Lima cab ride for next week.