• Liz Lopez

Rules of the Road

One of the toughest parts about being a new country is learning the lay of the land, including the rules of the road.

First and foremost is that drivers occupy the left side of the road in Barbados. That was a challenge getting used to, both the driving, plus walking on the right side of the road.

The biggest snag of all is that damn windshield wiper living on the left side here, and the blinker on the right; you have no idea how many times I turned on the wipers instead of using my turn signal. (Lopez stopped counting after the 20th).

In Barbados, turn signals are discretionary; they mostly aren’t used at all.

Pedestrians do not have the right of way. We almost got run off the road a few time times our first time walking to Massy's. When we asked our driver, Ezra, about this, he literally laughed and said “No, you need to watch out for cars when you're walking.”

Drivers here honk all the time. Ezra explained this en-route to our quarantine test, describing honking here as a non-aggressive act. Short, succinct honks are merely a way of notifying people you’re there, which is especially important given the tiny roads, the plethora of cars and of course all of us walking.

Last week, it was wet outside when I was walking in the road to school pickup. A quick, polite beep from the car behind me launched me to the side of the road, and as soon as they passed, I hopped back on the road. Easy peezy.

Fun fact – all people leasing cars on the island get an “H” license plate. Locals therefore know that we have a high potential to drive like idiots, or on the wrong side of the road. They’ve been very kind to us on the road, stopping to let us out at busy intersections, to let us pass or simply smiling and laughing if we ended up closer to the right side than the left. “Be nice, I’m an H!” is now a common Lopez household phrase. Other license plate letters denote the parish, a ZR or a taxi. I'm sure there are more but those are the important ones for us!

Finally, while pedestrians don’t own the right of way, Bajans on the road try to help you out. The first time we had to cross a busy road, a woman walked right into the road to stop the cars coming from both directions, and Penny, Cal and I crossed like little ducklings.