How to drive in New York: A practical guide.
Let's see, I've already provided insight into how to shop in New York, how to use an umbrella in New York (or more accurately, now not to), and even how to take in a little theatre.
So, time for another. How to drive in New York.
Driving in New York City is something of an odd blend of experience, instinct, and reflexes. As Manhattan in particular, as well the other boroughs, have some of the most dense urban driving conditions in the world. That's not especially surprising, given that some eight million people live, work in or visit The City daily, and quite a lot of them drive in.
Of those who drive in The City, there are a few distinct categories of motorists:
The Jersey Driver. For reasons unknown, not one single resident of the state of New Jersey can drive. None. Zip. Nada. If you see the tell-tale yellow license plate on a car in front of, behind, or to the side of you: Get the hell off the road, as you're about to have an accident.
The out-of-state Driver. Out of state drivers, or New Yorkers who rarely visit The City, are typically quite easy to spot. They'll be the ones leaving enough space in front of their car and the next to land a 747 while in stop and go traffic, or those who inexplicably slow down when merging into traffic-- a maneuver we New Yorkers like to refer to as "sudden death" for obvious reasons, or those who sit at an intersection for hours with their turn signals on, assuming that at some point people will actually stop walking in front of their cars without any intervention on their part.
The Bluehair. Bluehairs are, in effect, soccer moms, often driving large SUVs equipped with automatic transmissions, and often doing so in a marginally suicidal manner. While not quite as bad as Jersey drivers, they are definitely in the ballpark, and should be avoided at all costs. Note that passing a Bluehair is typically quite easy given a light volume of traffic, as they will always cement themselves in the fast lane while doing five miles per hour over the limit. This allows one to pass on the right, flip them off, and accelerate ahead.
The New Yorker. The New Yorker-- and I mean a real one, as in someone who either lives in The City and owns a car, or commutes in on a daily basis, are among the few people who actually know how to drive in incredibly dense traffic. We drive fast. Really fast. See, speed signs in The City are more of a rough guideline than a hard and fast rule. As such, we tend to exceed them by 50-100%, unless it's raining, at which point we're busy swearing at the 95% of motorists who have inexplicably forgotten how to drive. The New Yorker has one of the most evolved natural senses of collision avoidance in nature, and as such we are perfectly comfortable doing 80 down a one way street with a few hundred other cars no more than a few inches away. We know exactly how much stopping distance is required in any given situation, and are equally comfortable in padding that distance by approximately half an inch "for safety". Our horns are kept in peak operating condition, often through extensive use, and we have no qualms about using them to illustrate a lack of cognitive function from another motorist.
The Cabbie. Cabbies are New Yorkers who have gone insane. The standard New Yorker collision avoidance has been programmed into their very genetic code, and as such they tend to drive as if driving the Indy 500. There are, however, exceptions to this rule. They are Cabbies In Training. Cabbies in Training typically have only been driving a hack for a few weeks in The City, and thus still tend to make just about every mistake imaginable. Oh, and they don't speak english, so if you are unlucky enough to ride with one, assume the universal language to be chirades.
Motorcyclists. If you see someone on a bike in The City, they're probably somewhere between a professional race driver and a kamakazi pilot. You can safely ignore most bikers, as you are little more than a traffic cone to them, and will be quickly passed and forgotten about.
Now that you have a basic understanding of the types of drivers that will primarily be encountered in The City, we'll move on to basic driving etiquette.
When driving on a Highway, signified as any road without stoplights every block, there is one simple rule to observe: Drive fast. Simple, you'd think, but the fact that it takes one nearly an hour to drive five miles from midtown to the GWB is all the illustration one needs to disprove the assumption that this concept is, indeed, simple. When driving on a highway in The City, you should strive to observe the following DON'T's.
- DON'T pay any attention to any posted speed limits. Pay attention to traffic flow. If everyone else is doing 90 in a 50 zone, you may as well.
- DON'T leave enough space between the front of your car and the rear of the next car ahead of you to land a 747. If you do this, people will cut in front of you, thus causing you to apply your brakes, which ultimately slows traffic down. When multiplied many times, this slows traffic down a lot, which is bad. In The City, the "two second rule" is not observed. Here, we observe the two millisecond rule.
- DON'T change lanes frequently in slowly moving traffic. The one or two positions in the herd you may gain are not worth the few hundred people who now want to kill you for clogging up traffic flow.
- DON'T come to a stop, or even apply your brakes when merging on to a highway. The people barreling towards you in the oncoming lanes will either slow down to let you in, or change lanes to get out of your slow-ass way. This is the way things work in The City. If you stop at a merge sign, especially when there is a large acceleration lane directly in front if you, you will have succeeded in making the few hundred people directly behind you want to disembowel you with a spork.
- DON'T "Panic Brake"-- the act of applying your brakes for no other reason than someone in front of you has done so. Watch other cars and decide for yourself whether braking is necessary. Do not follow the herd, you slushbox driving @!#$!@^$%.
Now, for surface streets in town, there are slightly different rules. The "Drive Fast" general rule for Highways still applies, but there are other very important rules which also must be observed. Namely, the "Don't Effing Hit Me" rule, and the "No, you can't make a freaking left hand turn there, you moron" rule. As such, be sure to observe the following:
- DON'T attempt to make a left turn unless there is a specific lane and turn signal for doing so. The reasoning is simple: You can't, but if you try, you'll hold up traffic while you figure this concept out. The correct procedure for making a left hand turn in The City is to continue to the next block, make a right, another, and another still whereby you will loop back onto the street you originally wanted to turn on to.
- DON'T let Out-of-State drivers or Jersey drivers cut into your lane. Chances are, unlike New York drivers, they will do so when it is as annoying as humanly possible, and the greatest possibility for holding up traffic exists. If someone can't merge into the right lane at some point before a given exit, screw 'em.
- DON'T stop at a crosswalk while attempting to turn and assume people will stop walking in front of you. The correct procedure is to wait until the "don't walk" sign begins to flash, at which point pedestrians are fair game and can be run over. In most cases, pedestrians will move out of the way.
- DON'T presume that you can make it through an intersection simply because a traffic light is green. When it doubt, stop and wait for the next light, lest you get caught in the middle of an intersection and block up traffic. Chances are, you won't get a ticket, unless you're unfortunate enough to block an intersection on park ave in the 30's, where the donut sharks like to hide and wait for
suckersmotorists coming in from the airports.
- DON'T slow down, stop, or even casually glance at a cop car, ambulance, or fire engine attempting to get to an emergency. Just get the hell out of the way. Nobody likes a gawker's block, least of all New Yorkers.
So, let's review these simple rules for driving in New York: Drive Fast, Don't Effing Hit Me, and Get the Hell out of My Way.
posted by Mr. Lion | 12/05/04 @ 16:48 | comments (5)