Tag Archives: drivers

Pedestrians and Cars: A Two-Way Street

I cannot imagine what our ancestors of long ago would have thought of our casual disregard for motor vehicles. Tons of metal hurtle towards us and we will blithely walk in front of them with presumptions of our safety. And we, as drivers, hold these leviathans at our fingertips, feeling invincible as we do so.

But the truth is that hundreds of people are injured and killed everyday, the world over, because of cars, trucks, buses. Here in Vancouver, and most of Canada, pedestrians have the right of way. That’s most to protect the flesh and bone as they’re more vulnerable that people in cars. However, should a person run into traffic or jaywalk I believe they still have the right of way, even if they are breaking the law. But it’s great way to get yourself made into road pizza.

In Vancouver, the areas that have a lot of shops tend to be the ones that will bring out the jaywalking. I will never ever jaywalk if a car is coming because I don’t believe in inconveniencing people who truly have the right of way, just because I want to skip an extra minute by walking to the corner. I have watched people and been in my car having people step out into the middle of traffic or saunter across, or end up stopping the flow because in laziness they can’t wait.

This gets back to my pet peeve of the me-me-me world where everyone only thinks of themselves. The selfish pedestrians inconvenience the drivers and other folks because they pretend they own the world. Conversely, the selfishness of drivers can be even more deadly than the accidents that law-disregarding pedestrians cause.

Too many people pay no attention but to the road in front of them. A good driver and a law-abiding one is supposed to be reading signs and watching what goes on around. Without reading you won’t know if you’re in a construction zone, if the speed limit changes, or if there is a merge lane. And without observing what’s going on around you (in a non-rubbernecking way) you won’t know that traffic flow will change, that a person is crossing a street or someone has signalled and is backing up to parallel park.

It is every driver’s responsibility to pay attention and observe. That doesn’t mean pulling out into oncoming traffic just because your signal is on (if it’s on) but do so when it’s safe. The same goes for changing lanes. And should you see someone standing at a crosswalk, you are supposed to stop and let them cross, not zoom through because they can cross after. I have almost been smeared because I was more than halfway through the crosswalk when someone decided to just keep going. People get clipped when cars turn corners.

Of course car manufacturers can be blamed for some of this. My Saturn has a huge blind spot and when I’m turning a corner I have to look behind and in front of this blind spot. However, I almost hit someone when turning one night, not because I wasn’t looking but because it was dark and raining and this guy decided to run across the street. I only saw legs flashing by as I hit the brake. It behooves every person to keep a healthy ounce of self-preservation and realize that it is sometimes hard for drivers to see in rain, fog, snow and dark.

And yesterday I almost hit a bicyclist. I signalled, stopped and looked both ways, then pulled out to turn from an alley. But this guy sailed in front of me at a fast speed and there had been a parked van to my left. Every person on the street, whether driver, bicyclist, pedestrian (and god forbid, skateboarders) needs to consider what their actions will cause, and think about if a driver/pedestrian can see them. Crossing the street that has no lighting and wearing all black at night makes you hard to see. Consider that and make sure the driver has seen you before you step in front of them.

Pedestrians, use the corners and crosswalks and don’t dash in front of cars. Drivers, consider the road, the signs and the people along the walks. Follow the rules and laws of the road and consider that you’re not the only one on it. If more people just did this; pay more attention, be aware and conduct themselves safely, we could probably cut down on accidents by 30%.


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Driving Me Crazy: Driver Etiquette

I really think that there are way too many people on the road these days who shouldn’t be there, who don’t know how to drive or who have forgotten or who have become just plain dangerous. What’s the solution? Have them do a driver’s test every year? Well, that would raise the cost of our licenses and everyone would study up (which would help) but it doesn’t mean they would drive better the rest of the time. So, I’m not sure what the solution is. Spy drivers? Increase fines for when you’re caught? But fines, like death, are something that people think will never happen to them.

Our cities are too congested, our roadways inadequate for the commuting, our public transit inefficient or too expensive for many commuters, our homes too expensive and so people buy further and further out. This all leads to people going long distances, speeding, feeling pressured, working too much and getting angry. Governments need to take a far ranging approach but also every person has to take responsibility for their own actions.

Here are some of the purely insane or stupid things I’ve seen drivers do. If you’re reading this, I hope you won’t/don’t do these or will consider not continuing to do them.

  • Changing lanes into a turning lane and then signal. Duh, it’s obvious once you’re in the turning lane that you’re going to turn. Let’s look at the word “signal.” What does it mean? If you signal someone or something you are attracting attention and letting someone know you’re going to do something. A turning signal lets people know you’re going to turn or change lanes. You use it before you move into another lane, not after. And as the bumper stickers say, it is not an option. It’s the law. If you signal that you’re changing lanes it lets the drivers around you know that you may be changing speed and merging. The signal should blink at least three times (not a half-blip) before you do any lane change or turn, giving everyone enough time to react properly. It’s done for safety and to avoid accidents. 
  • Speeding up to not let people in. I watched a guy in rush-hour traffic yesterday as all of us crept along. He would leave a big space in front of his car, but when a car signalled properly that it was going to change lanes and then merged into the empty spot, the guy sped up and honked his horn at the car, then of course veered into the HOV lane without signalling (and a single driver). Remember this, folks. No one is ever first on the road. It’s a long asphalt snake with no beginning and no ending (more or less) and there is always someone ahead of you and behind you. Try some courtesy and it might be returned. It’s give and take; if someone signals and gives enough time, let them in, and if you are the one signalling don’t cut off a car coming up quickly. Oh, and if someone does let you in, do signal them with a wave of thanks. It’s the polite thing to do.
  • Sideswiping and crowding. I’ve been nearly pushed into the retaining wall on the highway when I was already on the exit ramp and a truck came over from the next lane into me. I honked and he just kept coming, pushing me onto the shoulder. I’ve had some insane woman nearly crush me because I was coming from a merging lane, signalling, and she wouldn’t let me in, willing to risk damage. Another guy one night, when the highway was empty, came into my lane and pushed me toward the retaining wall. Why? I don’t get this at all. Where do you think people should go? We can’t disapparate.
  • Insane road rage. But perhaps the above is just another sign of road rage. Like the time I was in the curb lane with cars parked beside me. A car stopped in front of me, a taxi I think, to let someone out. The car behind me blared his horn. Then after the car in front of me turned off, that car followed me with his lights on high. I’m still not sure how I was supposed to do anything else.
  • Street racing: we can blame car companies partly for the increase in this. Ads always declare the cars fast and sexy. And yeah, young guys have to prove they’re cool by racing but it’s absolutely unsafe and enough people have already been killed in Vancouver because of it. Drag racing was the old style problem and again could be an issue for safety of other drivers and pedesterians. But the amount of souped up and super fast cars makes this even more of an issue. Speeds of 150 km in the city are not acceptable and you certainly can’t react fast enough at that speed.

Sideswiping, speeding, tailgating, rudeness, all are extremely dangerous and do lead to accidents and death. It is the worst type of bullying, and criminal. I still think of those poor guys, on the way to the airport, who were first pushed off the road and then the guy came back, insane with anger, and ran over one young man, killing him.  Why? Did they do something first? Who knows but this sort of escalation is completely crazy. Driving isn’t a game or a competition. Not on our city streets. It’s thousands of people, each one unique and important in their way, and they all have a myriad things going on. They’re busy, sick, preoccupied, worried, happy, rushed, relaxing, whatever. It’s about people getting safely from one destination to the next. You, the driver cannot possibly know why someone does something. People sometimes make stupid mistakes. But if we try to be kinder, calmer, not presume the worst and be more aware, perhaps we can save just a few more lives, or a lot more, on the roads.

And I have to watch it when these drivers drive me crazy. Therein lies the path to road rage. Right now I shoot them with my finger gun and leave at that, grateful that we do have gun laws. Maybe counselling should be added to every driver’s licence exam. Counselling before you get the license and every couple of years.

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Sidewalk and Stairway Etiquette

This will probably not be read because it doesn’t deal with sex or violence (unless I get really really aggravated), and really, you’d think that it wouldn’t need to be said, but some people are rude, some self-centered and some just stupid. And hey, it’s my blog; I can whine if I want to.

I am really getting tired of the me-me-me attitude that permeates not just the roadways, where drivers without passengers feel entitled to use the HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes, drive slow in the fast lane with no intention of pulling over, and tailgate everyone who doesn’t want to go 120 km in a 80 km zone. I have complained about this before and how, even in supermarkets, people push and park their buggies the same way that they drive.

It all comes down to a massive lack of consideration, where the only person that matters is that one person and maybe the family members they have with them. Too many people out there think that only they are important or have places to be. Guess what, folks, you don’t own the world, the mall or the highway, so share it with everyone and share nicely. Didn’t your mothers teach you how to share? If not, now is the time to learn.

So sidewalks: remember, as you’re walking along that you don’t have eyes or mirrors in the back of your head. You don’t know who is behind you or what they’re doing. Try not to meander left and right like a demented drunk. Stay to one side of the walk and be aware, if you’re walking down the middle, that someone else may be walking at another pace and would like to pass you. (I mailed a letter yesterday at the street postal box. I turned to move into the flow of the busy sidewalk. I was still not moving and this woman was coming right at me. I had a car beside me and the post box behind me, and people to the right. She almost ran into me. I could only laugh since maybe she thought I was going to levitate.)

If you happen to be walking with several people, then more than two abreast tends to take up the width of most sidewalks. It means that one or more of you will need to walk behind or move over since people use both directions on sidewalks. You’d think it was common sense and courtesy. But many people must believe they own the sidewalk. The more in a pack they are the more likely that they’ll walk at a real slooooooow pace and no one can get by. This goes for people with dogs or strollers as well. You can’t take up the whole sidewalk even in one direction. Be aware, be polite and move over if someone wants past unless you want them to walk on your heels.

And stopping suddenly when you’ve been going at a good pace is a very bad idea, equivalent to braking suddenly on the freeway. Even moreso, people don’t have to worry about giving a car’s length on the sidewalk. If you’ve seen something  or realized you forgot something and have to turn back, slow down gradually, moving to one side of the sidewalk and then turn. That way, anyone behind you will be aware that you’re changing your pace or direction and will be less likely to run into you. This goes for malls too.

Stairwells and escalators work somewhat differently. On an escalator, which goes only in one direction, in North America, it is common to stand on the right and walk on the left. If you’re in a hurry, you walk up the escalator and no one is blocking you. If you’re at a leisure pace, you stay to the right, just like car lanes but people are actually better on escalators than they are on the road. It used to be you would see signs on store escalators explaining this system but I haven’t seen signs for a while now.

For stairs, a person coming down them is more likely to need the hand railing or could possibly trip and fall than if they are going up them. So what does that mean? If you’re walking up the stairs, move away from the railing and let people use it to descend. If you’re old or incapacitated, then yes you might need to pull yourself up the stairs. And if there is a wall that people must walk around, really really try not to hug that corner  in either direction because you’re likely to meet someone nose to nose.

Addendum: I’ve changed my mind about this as I was walking up the middle of the stairs to give room for the people coming down. There were so many and again they were in a cattle like state that I was nearly knocked backwards down the stairs. Now I walk up on the right.

Do I need to even mention how gross and disgusting, uncouth, uncivilized and downright unsexy gobbing and spitting on sidewalks and stairs is? You are not cool and not attractive and not tough. You’re just a pig. Try having some tissue on hand or seeing a doctor if it’s congenital.

Yes, in my perfect world, people would be polite and considerate. They would say sorry if they bumped into you, allow you to pass them on the sidewalk, not hog the whole thing and yes, they would drive politely. The last time I saw multitudes of polite drivers it was in Saskatchewan; not Alberta, not BC, not Washington nor Oregon. Just think, we could have contests to see if people excel in politeness and courtesy. I can dream, can’t I?

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Traveling in India: Removing the Mask

Years ago, I traveled in India for two months. The first month was in Meghalaya, a Himalayan tribal state in the northeast corner of India. I was there with my friend, a native Khasi of Meghalaya. (I’ll talk about Meghalaya some other time.) The second month I set out on my own, traveling to India and Nepal.

The hard journey began almost immediately. Because the Meghalayans were fighting with the Assamese (and because the plane out of Meghalaya, Vayudoot Airlines, was too scary to fly again) I had to take a bus into neighboring Assam. It was a very long, hot bus ride where we passed a crowd on the road standing near the stiffening corpse of man who had been hit by a car (I presume) and was bloating in the hot sun.

Hours later I arrived at the airport where of course the plane ran on Indian time and was over three-hours late. I had left in the morning but by the time I got into Calcutta, not that far really, it was early evening. I had a Lonely Planet guide and used it to find quality and affordable hotels. Except they were all full. I tried several places, each less reputable than the last, until I finally found a place. It was dirty, there were so many cockroaches that I slept with the lights on and the water sprayed from the tap at a 45 degree angle. I was completely dehydrated by the time I got into this hotel and asked the staff for some boiled water. They brought it and it was suspiciously lukewarm. I added iodine (this was before they had perfected cheap and easy to carry water purification kits or tablets) but I had to drink it.

Sure enough, three days later began the fall into dysentery and three weeks of traveling to go. Skipping forward, I was back in Delhi and sick as a dog, puking or hanging my butt over a toilet. I spent a lot of my time laying in bed in the hostel, too sick to eat and tired. But I decided one day to go to the Red Fort I believe. It’s been a while and it may have been some other edifice.

Having now been in India long enough to know you had to ask specific questions and bargain, I made a deal with a motorized rickshaw driver (there were bicycle and foot rickshaws as well). We agreed on the price and I said, “That’s for both ways, right?”  He agreed, but when he dropped me off at the fort he asked, “How long are you going to be?” I shrugged lethargically and said maybe a couple of hours or so. And off I went.

You walk a gamut of merchants at the entry of the place and I was looking in this one shop when this merchant reached out and grabbed my breast. I was too sick and shocked to do more than look and walk away. I should have slugged him. But I saw the fort, took pictures and left a couple of hours later. When I get outside there is my rickshaw driver and he starts yelling at me about the length of time. We argued as I said this is what we had agreed to. I had told him I didn’t know for sure how long I would be, etc. etc. However, there were about another ten drivers standing around all staring at me, arguing in both languages. I felt intimidated by the pressure so pulled out half the fee for the one-way trip and threw it at the guy, stalking off to find a bicycle rickshaw driver.

I agreed to a price with him and got in, completely dissolute by the experience. I didn’t look at anything and just sat there in a distant haze. Only motorized vehicles were allowed around Connaught Place, the giant traffic circle (with many lanes from many directions) in New Delhi.  Around the outer circle were stations for the other rickshaw drivers to drop off their clients. I paid and despondently got  out of the rickshaw. As I trudged away I heard, “Mems’ib, mems’ib.” I turned back and there was the original rickshaw driver with the police.

At that point I didn’t think about the corrupt Indian system and paying baksheesh or about the lies this guy had told. I freaked out. I started screaming at all three of them, walking up with my wrists together saying, go ahead take me away. You’re trying to keep me here and who knows what other delirium was going on. Keep in mind that I was very sick and had been traveling with an overloaded backpack and a bag and a carpet (another long story) for three weeks. I was way beyond my normal comfort zone. I cried and screamed and then pulled all of the cash out of my wallet, threw it at the men and then went and sat on a wall and cried. Actually I bawled.

At one point the rickshaw driver came back and put my change beside me. I don’t know if he had an attack of conscience or if the police kept him honest. I didn’t care. I cried and cried and have no idea how long I sat there. At one point I heard a timid, “Mems’ib,” again. When I looked up there were about six men looking at me, concerned. One asked, “What is wrong?”

I cried out something like, “nothing,you’re country is trying to keep me here,” etc. I was at the end of two months and heartily tired of trying to fend on my own which had not been easy in many ways. Eventually, I wandered back to the hostel where I was staying. Before I got there a beggar came up and touched my arm, looking up at me with wide eyes. This was a child of maybe 12. Now I had already been told by my friend, and observed, that no one touches another in public in India. Actually no man will touch a woman and strangers do not touch. She had said if someone touches you, it’s a sign of disrespect. After the illness, the breast grabbing, the fight with the rickshaw driver, the police and my general lack of coping by this point, I sobbed at this poor beggar, “Oh just go die, it’s easier.”

Yes, I told a beggar to die, because at that point it’s what I wanted to do. It was perhaps the ugliest aspect of my personality and was one aspect of a life-changing journey. Before I went to India, I had this group of friends and that group of friends. I had the calm me, the conservative me, the partying me, the studious me, etc., and very few saw all of me. Like many people in our culture, I had my masques for different occasions.

Between the dysentery, the overloaded packs and the very different culture of India and their way of  dealing with time and communication, I ran out of coping mechanisms. I was stripped down to my essential self. When I returned to Canada and was at some point telling  a friend about my journey, she said, “Yeah, you’re more accessible now.” After that, everyone pretty much got the same me, amalgamated for good or ill, with fewer masques.

India was a very hard journey into my self, where I learned many valuable lessons about culture, environment, people and life. The biggest lesson was about me. I would still recommend that everyone travel to a third world country if the can. It is an eye opener and truly shows many of us how privileged we are where even conservation can be a luxury. But those are tales for another time.


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Sucky Drivers & Yahoo Tracking

Yes, yes, I’m going to post some observations on the bad drivers in Greater Vancouver. I didn’t last week, because surprisingly I didn’t see anything overt.

The first winner this week was an unmarked police car (which I can always identify by the nubs on top of the roof, the very dark glass and the shade o’ grey paint) license # 657 KGV (BC). If you get right behind them you can also see the police lights inside the rear window. Not only did these guys turn left in an intersection where the light was well into red (usually two cars can get through a left turn who are already in the intersection) but they also decided to change lanes with no signalling.

Granted a lot of people don’t signal, that still doesn’t make it right. It’s one of my pet peeves. If you’re a good enough driver, you should be able to do all your road maneuvers AND still signal. And it does warn people of what you’re going to do. Usually a line creeper is an indication that someone is going to change lanes. Back to the cops. Even an unmarked, but still noticeable, police car should follow the rules and police are supposed to be examples of and uphold the law. Oh right, how could I be so stupid? They’re bigger on flaunting it these days, beating up innocent people and getting overzealous in tasering. Why would they do something as simple as obey road signs?

Okay, well, they’re not alone in sucky driving. Yesterday was  a bonus crop with goldy and yet very dirty Mr. Chev Cavalier (licence #484 JSA) going 40 km in a 50 km zone and then speeding through the playground and school zones of 30 km and going 50 km. Nice going guy, inconsistent in all ways and irritating to everyone. Some cities have laws that if you go too slow you can be ticketed for obstructing traffic.

Then there was Mr. Key Food Equipment, white van #16 (licence # 6515 KA). Nice going as I was coming along at a good speed and you suddenly pulled out from the lane beside me, no signalling, no warning. I had to slam on my breaks. There is a law here too that says whether you signal or not you change lanes when SAFE to do so. There was nothing safe and I fell like calling your bosses. Hope you didn’t wreck any equipment with your race car driver tricks.

But…there was in fact a light in the highway to hell. Mr. Sporty Black Toyota with the sunroof,(licence # 365 HVV) hats off to you and kudos for excellent driving. We both were getting tired of the doddering traffic (and yes I speed a bit, like most Vancouver drivers–actually most speed a lot) and go about 10 km over the limit. At one point I got stuck behind a slow car and signalled (yes signalled) to move into the right lane. Mr. Toyota was coming up fast so I motioned for him to go by. He actually slowed down to let me in.

Since we were going about the same speed he also didn’t feel the need to zip in front of me and slow down and at times I was in the one lane and he in the other. He continued to signal and never cut anyone off and in fact caused no problems compared to the other annoyances and downright dangerous drivers. You cops could take a lesson from this guy. It just goes to show that there are some people who can drive well and still follow the rules of the road, and do it politely.

Other than that, the writing world, like everything else is rumbling as magazines fold or re-evaluate their structures with the current money crunches. I haven’t seen any anthologies folding yet. As always, www.ralan.com is the best place to find up to date info on speculative markets.

And for anyone who is on any yahoo group, you’ll want to read this and decide if you want yahoo snooping into your every move:

SFWA reported this and I feel it’s important enough to share. Yahoo is Tracking Group Members and basically being a spy and snooping where they don’t belong. Talk about Big Brother. Hey guys, didn’t you hear, George Bush is gone!

If you belong to ANY Yahoo Groups – be aware that Yahoo is now using “Web Beacons” to track every Yahoo Group user. It’s similar to cookies, but allows Yahoo to record every website and every group you visit, even when you’re not connected to Yahoo. Look at their updated privacy statement at http://info.yahoo.com/privacy/us/yahoo/details.html.

About half-way down the page, in the section on *cookies*, You will see a link that says *WEB BEACONS*. Click on the phrase “Web Beacons.” On the page that opens, on the left find a box entitled “Opt-Out.” In that section find “opt-out of interest-matched advertising” link that will
let you “opt-out” of their snooping. Click it and then click the opt-out button on the next page. Note that Yahoo’s invasion of your privacy – and your ability to opt-out of it – is not user-specific.
It is MACHINE specific. That means you will have to opt-out on every computer (and browser) you use. Nice, eh? More insidious than corn. Maybe the name yahoo is better suited than we thought.

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Deplorable Drivers of the Lower Mainland

I have decided to start doing this weekly because the driving habits of many people are just terrible. Let’s mention inconsiderate and selfish too. I remember a few years back when driving in Saskatchewan, I couldn’t believe how polite drivers were. If you were coming up on a car on a single lane highway, it would just automatically pull over to let you by.

In BC and Alberta, that car would drive like no one was on the road, or even slow down to irritate you. If it was a two lane road, that car would not move from the left-hand “fast” lane and if you then tried to pass in the right-hand lane, it would speed up.

Road rage. One man has just been charge in the murder of a young man last year, when the guy first forced the people off the road and then came back to run them over. In one sense I can understand road rage because people are just not paying attention or think that the world does in fact revolve around them. Listen up, people. You’re unique because no one else quite has your DNA but everyone is unique and everyone has a right to a decent life.

You don’t own the world or even your patch of road. You may not even own your car but if you do, you’re responsible for driving in a polite and safe manner. Remember, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. That means, don’t wait for someone to be nice to you first, just carry out your life and do things as you would like to find them. Let someone in in traffic, if you would like to be let in at some time. Don’t sideswipe someone, unless you want it done to you. Don’t shoot someone, unless you want to be shot. It seems a pretty simple principle to live by but obviously it’s not.

Today, I’m listing two losers of the week. The first, Mr. Sporty Red Truck with a cherry red finish (BC licence # BA 9595) decided that he owned the road on Monday, January 12th on Commercial Dr. at Gravely. I was waiting at the corner to cross, but in Vancouver, you can’t just wait, even though by law, pedestrians have the right of way. I step off the curb and start to walk out slow. It was dark, yes, about 10:30 pm, but I moved out slowly (and I always watch because I have a good reason for not trusting drivers). I was into the middle of the oncoming lane when Mr. Sporty Red Truck decided that he wouldn’t stop for me and swerved around me, missing me by two inches. I yelled, “Hey, asshole” at him and was so mad that I’m writing this. Plain and simple, pedestrians have the right of way at ever corner, whether there is a crosswalk or not.

If you don’t know this, you should turn in your licence. There are rules of the road, which are law, and there are rules of the road, which come into common courtesies. The latter would be letting someone in who is signalling and not blocking them out.

The second loser of the week was  Thursday, January 15th, at 10:50 am, one Mrs. Silver Van (BC licence# 809 LBX) at the merge lane of the #1 Highway joining onto the Brunette Highway going west/south. It’s a merge lane. It says merge. The lane disappears.  Merge means just that. Like the large semi before me, I came up the ramp and signalled to get into the lane. The semi merged. I let the car in the left lane go by and, continually signalling, began to merge into the lane as is the way. One car from the left, one car from the right, one car from the left, etc. BTW, signalling is not an option; it’s the law.

Mrs. Silver Van not only closed the gap on me but start pushing me back into that disappearing lane, laying on her horn. The thing was that lane also ramps off to a right-turn lane, but there was no way she was going to let me in, into the thick of traffic. I really would have loved to see her shove over the semi. So Mrs. Silver Van, giant asshole that you have exhibited yourself to be, may you get a flat tire in the pouring cold rain, and find your jack doesn’t work and that no one will stop to help you because you could exhibit a common courtesy.

I have stronger words for these two people running through my head but I’m trying to censor myself. I really wished I had rotten tomatoes for that van, and the truck, though for the truck a sharp piece of metal would have worked, and I wouldn’t even have reached out. I always try to stop for people at crosswalks and corners. Once in a while I don’t seem them until it’s too late, but if they’re on the road, I do always stop.

So, drivers, you don’t own the road, you won’t die if you stop for someone, or let someone in. And if next time you’re trying to merge or change lanes and no one will let you in, well that’s why. People aren’t always in a race against you. Sometimes they just want to turn a corner or get to their destination. Play nice in the sandbox or your mother will ground you.

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The Idiocy of Winter Driving

Inevitably there is always someone (or more than one) who decides they’re outside the laws of nature when it comes to driving, and driving in winter. Really I should call this Sex and the Idiocy of Winter Driving and it will get more hits but I just can’t work sex into this…in most cases, and really I don’t want to know.

As I ranted yesterday, Vancouver doesn’t handle real winter well. We’re just not used to it. Not that the first snowfall doesn’t cause havoc in the rest of the country, and it often does but I can observe first hand the idiotic behavior here.

So yesterday, snow falling, roads sanded and salted but still icy and city trucks not keeping up everywhere or on the Number 1 Highway. There were accidents, there were lights out at intersections. There were many of us who opted for SkyTrain and bus. I did because even if I was cautious I didn’t want to deal with those who might not be and the traffic snarls. I’m glad I didn’t drive after I heard about the accidents. There were at least two deaths. I don’t know the details.

But as I was waiting for the bus last night, having stayed late at work to hopefully avoid delays (I didn’t) this is what I saw on the slushy, still slippery road: people booting it through the lights. Revving up on slippery snow and ice is bound to get you spinning your tires and going nowhere, or worse, sliding out of control. People running red lights. This is par for the course in Vancouver and dangerous at any time but more so when you have less control on the road. People dialing and talking on their cell phones, driving with one hand. Why am I surprised? People always think they can divide their attention between driving and smoking and talking on the phone and drinking coffee, sometimes all at once.

Sure, some of these drivers might just be from the Interior or Alberta or Ontario where snow and ice are a factor of winter. But reckless and unsafe driving negates the fact that they know how to drive in winter. If they’re driving like that, they’re not aware. Then there are all those who may not know, who incorrectly judge how fast they can stop, how slow they should turn a corner. My biggest fear in taking the bus was standing on the street and watching some vehicle spin out of control and into me.

Today I drove, deciding to take my time. That meant brushing all the snow off my car, including my lights and the roof so that it didn’t blind someone driving behind me. That also meant pulling slowly out of my parking spot, driving carefully down the ice and snow packed street, coasting gradually to a stop at the corner and signalling well in advance. The main roads were pretty good and overall, on the city streets, people were driving reasonably, not too fast and too close.

On the highway, traffic was lighter than usual and moving well. The speed limit is 90 km and we were moving at speed or 100 km. That wasn’t enough for one guy who decided to pull suddenly into the HOV lane, roar along at something like 130 km and cut back in front of a car without signalling. Obviously the recent news of a family losing two of their young boys in an accident when a single occupant driver drove into their van in the multi occupant lane did nothing to deter this guy. That driver was charged and a second driver (also single occupant who hit the other one after it hit the van) will likely be charged as well.

I shake my head and wonder who else will be a statistic because they thought they were immune. Like the stupid teenager last night, who arrogantly kept walking closer and closer to the cars driving by (while waiting for the light to change). He made one taxi come to a stop in the middle of the intersection on slippery snow. That kid will pull his tricks of power until he becomes a statistic or loses a friend. I wanted to smack him and muttered, “There’s someone who deserves to be hit. ” I got a look from one pedestrian, but really, if you’re going to court disaster, don’t be surprised when it takes you up on the offer.

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Driving Me Crazy: Merging

I would love to have a job where I didn’t commute. This is the place (the road) where the self-centeredness of people becomes evident, and aggressive, distracted or stupid moves can be worth someone’s life.

Today’s aggravation is merging and merge lanes. A merge lane has one of two signs (in BC). One will say “Merge.” The other will show two lanes merging into one. The protocol, the rule, the law (in some areas), in fact,  good common sense says to do the following.

Merge does not mean come to a full dead stop. Merge does not mean follow the car right in front of you and butt in too. Merge does not mean cut off a person merging into the traffic flow. Notice that word “flow.” Merge lanes are designed to try to keep the traffic flow steady. Many areas are now extending those merge lanes even farther. The Number 1 Highway between Kensington and Gaglardi (Greater Vancouver) and along the I405 (Seattle and surrounding areas) have lengthened merge lanes to try and alleviate traffic flow problems.

Merging means oncoming traffic and merging traffic alternates, one by one into the flow. If you’re on the highway and in the right-hand lane, you have two choices: either move into the left-hand lane to facilitate the merging people, or slow down so that they can merge without crashing into you. Speeding up and driving side by side is pigheaded and stupid. Pay attention to what traffic is doing and try and make it a dance, not a traffic accident.

If you are the person merging, then merge, slowly, safely, coming up to speed if possible. Don’t stop but continue pulling ahead in the merge lane, shoulder checking and looking in your sideview mirror. Do not merge at the very entrance where the ramp joins the highway, but continue pulling ahead in the merge lane. This does two things: alerts the cars on the highway that you are merging and allows for the flow of the cars behind you who then won’t be backed up and stopped. It completely wrecks the flow if someone decides to merge too soon onto the main thoroughfare.

Traffic going east on the number 1 where it went from North Vancouver over the Ironworkers’ Memorial Bridge into Vancouver is the only place where I’ve ever seen merging work flawlessly. People do that commute everyday. Whether they still merge politely, I don’t know. Sometimes there is just too much traffic for the flow to be anything but slow, in the merge lane or on the highway. But if people try to pay attention, to alternate cars from both lanes and adjust their driving accordingly, it will certainly keep the pace going much better and keep tempers down. Presume that it’s the law to be polite and then just try it for fun.

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