Contrary to what the media may suggest, people in Mexico City are not particularly aggressive; not that is, until they get behind the wheel of their cars and set out into rush-hour traffic.
“Rush hour” is actually a bit of an understatement. It starts at about six in the morning and runs through to 10, then it resumes from one to three in the afternoon during school terms, and closes out the day from six to 10 at night.
A cursory glance at a long stream of cars advancing slowly but inexorably into town each weekday morning, and out of town again in the evening, suggests that the average number of travelers per car is one point something.
People who are otherwise quite passive can become very annoyed when the prospects of reaching their destination on time are threatened by the refusal of others to let them through. Everybody knows that some days it can be impossible, but many places — schools, for example — no longer accept it as an excuse for arriving late.
It’s been said that if you can drive in Mexico City, you can drive anywhere in the world. The newcomer to driving in the capital will discover that the horn can be a more useful accessory than indicators to turn or change lanes. A signal to change lanes can actually cause someone coming up behind to speed up and keep you from doing so.
According to the Mexico City government, over 21 million trips a day are made in the capital and the adjacent parts of the Estado de Mexico. In Mexico City alone, there are over 3 million vehicles registered, of which more than ninety percent are private cars. Numbers vary from year to year, but the city government once cited a study showing private cars accounted for 16% of trips, slightly more than the Metro but much less than micros.
Not surprisingly, since it takes up so much of people’s time, traffic congestion is a frequent topic of fill-in conversation, beating even the weather or sports. It’s not unusual to hear people wonder why we can’t be like other major cities around the world, where commuters leave their cars at home and take public transport. For some the question is mostly rhetorical, since they already have the answer. They wouldn’t be seen dead on the Metro. The question should be rephrased as why can’t other people leave their cars at home so I can drive more comfortably to work?
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