As you can imagine, if you’ve been reading these, crossing the street here in Bogota is fun. It’s not quite as bad as you might think, there is a certain method and set of rules involved, but said rules must be worked out on one’s own via observation and imitation of the locals.
There’s one traffic law everyone here obeys, thank god…
Lights. Everybody stops at a red light, and vehicles all respect pedestrian crosswalks when the light (for the pedestrians) is green. I’ve yet to see someone run a red light. I’m sure it happens, my point is that it’s definitely not the norm here and considered taboo. What this means is that you can always cross at a designated crosswalk, safely, by just waiting for the pedestrian light to turn green.
That said, that are much faster ways to get across streets that most people employ, more specifically: wait for a sufficient break in the traffic and leg it. This is what I do at this point. There’s a method to this:
- Be sure you’re going to have enough space to do this. Watch out for cars about to turn onto the street in your direction and who will likely do so when the gap you’re waiting for arrives, thereby significantly shortening that gap.
- Many streets here are one-way, so you just need to look in one direction, constantly, as you cross. Caveat: many of these streets also have separate bike lanes where people will go both ways; sometimes motorcycles (illegally) use these, watch out for this.
- On that note: watch out for fucking motorcycles and bicycles. They lane split like crazy and sometimes even hop the curb to use sidewalks and other spaces. When traffic is completely stopped due to congestion (but they don’t have a red light and so are moving forward at random intervals), a lot of people will take this opportunity to cross. This is fine, but the danger here you really have to watch out for is motorcycles and bicycles lane-splitting and cutting through the traffic. Not keeping an eye out for this is a fantastic way to get run over. This is probably the #1 tip I’d give you about crossing the streets here: watch out for motorcycles and bikes because you can be fooled into thinking you’re safe because all the cars and trucks are stopped but you haven’t considered the fact that motorcycles and bikes can and will lane split through this traffic (and right into you if you’re crossing and not watching for them).
- I’ve mentioned this before but I’ll say it again: the rule here is that on the roads, vehicles have the right of way, not pedestrians. If you’re lucky, you’ll only have someone blowing their horn up your ass after they screech to a halt to avoid hitting you, if you’re not they’ll hit you because they weren’t watching because they weren’t expecting you because they know they have the right of way here and so don’t watch for random pedestrians jumping out in front of them.
- Don’t cross right before intersections with side streets (those without lights). You will have to worry about vehicles coming at you from up to three directions (two if both the main road and side street are one-way, three if the side street is two-ways as is often the case).
No, you don’t get in trouble for jaywalking here. I feel like I shouldn’t have to mention it but I know there will be some people who will need to be told this (Germans). There are very few (any?) traffic laws that are actually enforced here, and jaywalking (if it is even illegal, I have no idea because it doesn’t matter) certainly isn’t one of them: cross wherever you like, but remember that it’s your ass, so be careful.
Here’s a video I took of me doing this and I intentionally did it across from an intersection so you can see the problem with that (notice how I have to watch for cars coming not just from the right but also turning right onto the main street from the intersection across from me):
I hope this helps someone, if you have any more tips or questions, please leave a comment.