There is a wild side to Cuenca while walking its streets. It's called "taking on the bulls", which this pedestrian and every other pedestrian matador unfurls every time anyone crosses its streets. There are few traffic lights, and not many stop signs—not that either of them matter. Whether I wish to cross at the intersection or in the middle of the block, the goal is to cross the street without being gored by the mechanical bulls. Rarely anyone in Cuenca simply walks across the street, even at the intersection. It is you or the bull. Scurry at a minimum, but better yet just run across the street. The bulls are the masters of the roadway, and our fate is in their hands, and if not careful our hides can become permanent hood ornaments along the roadway of life.
It is amazing how autos just ignore stop signs with regularity and at best just slow down to a roll through the intersections. As soon as a traffic light changes, it is like New York City, everyone is on their horn. Coming from Chicago, where the pedestrian has the right of way; stepping off the curb, and crossing against the lights are common. That kind of mindset will get you killed in Cuenca. Many of the streets are narrow, since they were built before the days of automobiles. Yet parking may be allowed along one side of the street, while the other lane is used for traffic. Therefore, space is a precious commodity, and the drivers like the bulls of Pamplona, grasp for whatever inch of pavement they can get as they meander through the narrow passageways of Cuenca.
I took a taxi ride yesterday to the Del Rio Mall. It was just after a shower and the streets were slick. Cars were constantly bobbing and weaving in and out of traffic for the advantage. In that respect, it was like riding on the Dan Ryan in Chicago. Although even I was surprised at the number of drivers who ride two lanes simultaneously, as if deciding which lane will give them the advantage before relinquishing the other lane. At one point, I thought my own driver was going to skid into the back of a truck on the slick pavement, when he miraculously maneuvered around the truck as if it was nothing. Of course, it’s always more nerve wracking in these situations when you are the passenger and left to be dependent upon the skills and foresight of the driver. Being known for my own heavy pedal to the metal driving style, I think I could hold my own on the streets of Cuenca. I much prefer Cuencano driving styles to the slow motion driving in Honolulu. A driver behind the wheel could be dead for years, before anyone in Honolulu would ever notice that the driver was no longer viable. But being a pedestrian in Cuenca, not so good.