Thursday, November 18, 2010

Continental Drift: driving in town

I would NOT say that the French are terrible drivers...... but I miss the relaxation of being behind the wheel in San Francisco.  Those steep SF hills never got to me even with a stick shift.   And there was an impressive police presence in California so we didn't get out of line.

We don't have a car here but we hire one from time to time.   This is our latest C5 above.

By not owning a car here, I will probably add years to my life.

 Instead I take my chances against dogs, prams, and armpits of serious neglect which may be found jammed together on the bus or tram.     Armed with music or a journal to scribble in,  the bus can be as close as possible to a pleasant experience in mind control.

To DRIVE in France you should be aware that:

  l. Any opening in traffic will be BOLDLY AND ASSERTIVELY filled even if a line is merging.  Shoving in the queue is a national pastime.

 2. If a lane is clearly marked in the street it is just a SUGGESTION.  (Anyway,  lanes are only the width of a car.... give or take a few centimeters.... so one should be expected to wander. )

 3.  If you are on a scooter, there are NO RULES ( that are followed)...after all you don't have to have a proper driving license to ride one.  (You can and will take off the muffler right away because you are probably a 14 year old boy.)

 4. Cities were built for carts and buggies so you have to expect DOUBLE PARKING for deliveries or the quick purchase of a pack of cigarettes, and streets changing from the right to the left side 3 OR 4 TIMES in the space of a minute.  Stay alert.

 5. Narrow lanes (like my street) are open to two way traffic.  You will always be the one to back up.  (Watch out for the ditch on your side though and scraping your side mirrors on the retaining walls.)

6.  POLICE ARE FEW ON THE ROADS.  It costs the state a lot to hire a policeman and give him extra benefits for life so you almost never see a traffic cop in action. Radar is used a lot for speeding. Without a police presence people will get up to a lot of nonsense, won't they?  Of course they will.

7. There are huge curbs 30 cm high to separate bus from car lanes.  If you need to turn right across the bus lane, Godspeed .  If you wait too long for the bus to pass you will get honking behind you.  Stay cool.

    The bug-a-boo for me is the AGGRESSIVE stance.

     My french girlfriend tried to pass her driving course and was left in tears each session with the instructor screaming at her to force her way into the fray.

     Finally he gave her a question that she knew she could answer:  "If there is a choice between getting forward or following the rules of the book of the route, which is it?"  Easy she said: " you follow the official guidelines."

    " WRONG:  Go For it!  Take the initiative", the instructor barked.

    The next worst driving habit is what I call Continental Drift.

     If there is a bicycle (velo) in your right lane don't wait or pull over or check your mirror to get around him.  Just drift over into the guy in the next lane left of you, without signaling. #*!**

    (And where is the fellow on the inside lane supposed to end the flower bed?!!!)

    We rent a car to get in the big shopping and so that I don't lose my nerve.  I am driving this week, in fact.

    I get in, say a prayer and before long I'm into it ... ALLEZ Y, AN OPENING !!    I could do this.


    1. Personally, as a pedestrian in Nice, I've worked out it's much safer to walk in the road, seeing as the sidewalk is crammed full of motorbikes making their way about town.

      Once, a few weeks ago, I even espied a rider (in my street) driving up to the double doors of his apartment block, leaning forward to open them with his key, and subsequently riding into the foyer.

      Every morning as I wander into my bathroom I now express surprise that there's nobody already in there on his scooter, cleaning his teeth before me...

    2. Yes, Etoile... Also remember to walk in a straight line and don't make any quick moves when on the sidewalk so as not to surprise the bikes and motos coming up behind you.

    3. Oh Mary. Brings back memories of Milano!!!! Driving there was Ken's favorite activity....


    4. I have a permenent twitch here in England. I just can't believe that drivers actually signal before turning...I must loook, look and look again, then its too late to cross the street! Thats 10 years of France for ya...

    5. cool photo.

    6. "Armpits of serious neglect" I love it. What a great look into your life!