Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Europe 2005 - Driving

Roads are much narrower for all the different types of roads here except the freeway compared to anything in the USA. This makes for much more communal driving is the best way of putting it. On ramps are much shorter so traffic in the slow lane (far left) moves out of the way. (I got honked at the first time by the merging car since I am used to California territorial type driving. People in the right faster lanes are really going faster and get back over once they have passed. I have only seen one instance of a car passing another car on its left and I’ve been watching since at this point I’m thinking it is law. When I used my turn signal to get into the passing lane the car slowed down instead of speeding up. On the smaller highways trucks use the turnouts provided to let cars pass (there are usually no shoulders on the road.) cars get to the left part of the lane to allow other cars to pass easier and with me not knowing where I am going cars have always let me in to the turn lane and vice versa. For the number one thing that bugs me I have yet to see anyone zoom up in a lane that was ending the try to nudge over into the line of traffic. This has been for both Ireland and Britain. I have heard horror stories about France and Italy so I am not expecting it to continue.
All the road signs are pretty discernible although there is a general lack of speed limit signs. With an over abundance of signs every where showing that they are using camera to enforce the speed limit. I just wish that for every sign warning that you could get a ticket that they would also tell you how fast you should be going. The reason that I am having the trouble is that a road can go from 3 lanes with a shoulder and center divider (equivalent of freeways) then suddenly there is a circle with stop lights. And for the next mile the road switches over to a two lane highway where you have to go into the oncoming traffic lane to pass and returning to freeway conditions in a mile all the while keeping the same road name. Our GPS shows up going off the road a lot in the new freeway areas showing that the map has not been updated since they replaced a piece of road with freeway. So I guess they are just relaying the roads a chunk at a time.
I have gotten used to driving on the left (it took about a 2 and a half days to not have to think about it when making a right hand turn) I am now worried that when we go to France that I will try to go left around the circles.
There are almost no SUV's. In Britain there were a few Range Rovers as could be expected since it is a british company, but I saw more Range Rovers in California then I do here. Most of the delivery trucks are vans that look similar to an Astro van or they are escort vans. (think front end is an escort and the back end looks like a refrigerator sized box.) It is amusing to see regular 4 cylinder cars pulling horse carriers and campers.
Since there are no emergency lanes they have pull off areas about every mile or so called lay-bys. I guess you hope you will make it if your car does break down. what has sprung up is that little snack shacks have sprung up at the lay-bys, I guess the only thing that I could compare them to are the roach-coaches that are at any construction site. They also have things similar to the toll roads on the east coast. They are called a "welcome break". There is a gas station, restaurant, and small market. When you are done you have to get back on the freeway since they have no roads.
I was curious to find out if shifting with my left-hand would be easier, since I am left-handed. It doesn't feel any easier, but I adapted to it quickly. I guess that is still a question for the ages.
As for city driving the yellow light flashes before it gives a green, it seems like it encourages racing but I have yet to see anyone try to drag to the next light. As far as people being so polite on the freeways make no mistake that politness does not extend to pedestrians. When walking you have no right of way.
As a side note I always thought that driving on the right led to people passing each other on the right, like for stairs and in hallways. However driving on the left here has not made people pass each other to the left. At first I just thought this was in London where there are so many people foreign born but except where the subway put the escalator on the left most of the time even here people pass on the right.

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