By Julie Etra
Topes (speed bumps) are an integral part of the Mexican transportation landscape and associated culture. With the exception of very few stretches of road, and toll roads, they are ubiquitous and a great low-tech way to get drivers to slow down without costly traffic lights. But there are just some stretches of road that are just painfully slow. Hence this article was inspired by our trip from Huatulco to Palenque in Chiapas and the particularly miserable stretch from Ocosingo north (and south). There is no specification or detail for a tope on the MexTrans web site, and it appears individual communities, especially on dirt roads, install them where they determine they are needed. Dimensions also vary. At times during our trip we had a tough time discerning the rationale for placement and spacing, as well as what defined a “community.”
But first I would classify them into two broad categories, Permanent versus Temporary. Temporary topes can take various forms but are placed for a specific purpose, such as collection of donations (patron saint), sale of various goods (corn in the Isthmus), or just to additionally slow down holiday traffic on the hope of producing less dust and increasing local sales (road to San Agustin during Semana Santa). They can be string topes, rope topes, recycled tires, or simply compacted soil topes. My unnamed source indicated that there are several recycled tire topes in Huatulco’s sector, U2 but we could not find them; we did find an ineffective rope tope.
Then there are vibradores and reductores. What is the difference? As far as I can tell vibradores are a series of low, closely spaced topes or else round metal discs embedded in concrete or asphalt. Reductores, on the other hand, are more gradually graded on both sides than topes; but also wider, producing a less intense impact. But there is also the reductor that is nothing more than a series of stripes.