It came out of nowhere. The car that ignored the red octogen sign with the word PARE. A word that’s supposed to mean stop. Or maybe those zebra crossing stripes mean Try Your Luck. I scream at the car barreling towards me, waiting to see my life flash before my eyes or at least a highlight reel.  

Really God? Is this how I will go? Not eating a bad bug in a remote Asian village? Not falling off the side of a cliff in Vietnam trying to fetch my phone? But by crossing the street in Peru where a Policia is supposed to be watching?


Good thing I filled out a DNR form.

Nothing makes you appreciate the order of a communist country more than lousy transit systems in socialist countries. In Kunming, China, my home for twelve plus years, there were official buses with official bus drivers. They wore uniforms. They all equally screamed when you tried to exit the front door. They threatened to kick you off the bus for putting your hands out the window. They were all equally impatient when you fumbled for your fare card.

As for Lima? Remember that scene in French Connection or any Tom Cruise movie with screeching tires and overturned fruit carts? That’s what traffic is like, on any given day. I swear the city’s transit system is run by a group of middle-school boys.

For starters, Lima city buses are a competitive business, not a centralized company. If you can see over the steering wheel and hang a Jesus shaped air freshener off the rear-view mirror, you are ready to roll.  Just spray the name of your destination on the side of your ready-for-a-junkyard-vehicle, and that’s about it. Wait– there are no junkyards in Lima. The roads are clogged with vehicles that would have been recycled into washing machines anywhere in else the world…loud, smoke-burping washing machines.

Depending on where you are going, Lima bus riders will pay between one and two Sol for a ride, or between thirty and sixty cents. Drivers will make change for you on the bus, having a drawer full of coins behind their Plexi-glass door. That way, you’ll have money to purchase a frozen paleta from the solicitor in the aisle. They drag race down Lima’s streets, all competing for the same colorful passengers. 

The buses, far from new, are supposedly purchased from China, or a demolition derby.  Some are mini vans, with passengers routinely hanging or jumping out of an open door. Other buses are shuttle sized, like the ones that drive weary passengers from Terminal A to Hertz at airports. Potential riders hold up a finger to wave down a bus–uh, not that one. That’s because there are no signs for official bus stops.

The good thing about Lima traffic is that the majority of their streets are one way. That way, you only have half the chances of being hit. Even if you choose to walk on a quiet one-way street, a bus will come speeding out of nowhere with that same frenzy of the shark from JAWS, ready to plow you down. Maybe that’s why Jesus is painted on so many streetcorners.

Even the cyclists drive crazy. Yesterday, I almost ate asphalt thanks to speed cyclist who didn’t knew PARA means stop, either. And, with all of the food choices in Lima? Asphalt is not what I’d choose to eat.

So, if you are a pedestrian in Lima, wear a helmet. Or stay clear of the buses. And if you fantasize about being a NASCAR driver? You may find your dream career here behind the wheel of a city bus.

2 thoughts on “Lima Traffic: This is how I will die.

  1. Best comparison ever…transit system run by middle school aged boys!! Do the “buses” smell like them, too?

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