Sunday, November 21, 2010

Playans, Playan traffic, and the street grid

I have yet to meet a native Playan, though I'm sure they do exist.

The other day I dropped off laundry at the launderia around the corner. When I picked it up later that day, the three staff and I chatted. Two of the three have lived in Playa for about a month; the third has been here for about three months.

Usually I hear a range between one and six years. People I've talked to came from:
  • Mexico City
  • Chiapas
  • Queretaro
  • Guadalajara
  • Sinoloa
  • Brazil
According to one source I read, Playa del Carmen is one of the fastest-growing (or was til recently) places in the world. For a time, about 100 families moved to Playa every month. This is a drop in the bucket for a city that is already large, but for a town the size of Playa, that is huge.  

From 1990 to 1997, Playa's population grew from 2,000 to 20,000!

Newcomers like the lack of congestion and other problems that come with large populations.

But speaking of congestion -- Although 5th Avenue is a pedestrian street, cars reign supreme on parallel streets 10th and 15th. Fortunately, these are both one-way streets so you only have to look in one direction before risking your life to cross the road. Occasionally, a driver will slow down for you to cross.

10th Avenue has a cycle path (or, as I misheard my British tutor say: There is a psychopath on 10th Avenue) that pedestrians and cyclists share, sometimes with disconcerting results. 

In theory, Playa's street grid is logical and easy to follow. But this only holds true after you also learn that avenidas ("avenues") run parallel to the beach and calles ("roads") run perpendicular to the beach. Plus, you must learn about the "half streets" designated with bis, as in Calle 10 bis.

Furthermore, the avenidas (which run parallel to the beach, remember) go by 5s, so there's Avenida 5, then Avenida 10, then Avenida 15, etc.

Calles, on the other hand (which run perpendicular to the beach) go by 2s, so there's Calle 2, Calle 4, Calle 6, etc. Oh, except for the calles bis. These are tucked in between the Calles 2, 4, 6, 8, etc.They are not alleys so much as they are streets that don't go the length of the city as the "full" calles do ... OK, never mind.

So until you know the concept about the calles versus the avenidas and about the bis streets, the idea that you seek Calle 10 bis, which is between 10th and 15th Avenues, is a straight road to getting-lost hell.

Now I can go directly to the intersection of Calle 10 bis and Avenida 10 and know that I have not, in fact, slipped into a weird parallel universe.

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