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.
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:
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.

Happy motoring.

posted by Mr. Lion | 12/05/04 @ 16:48 | comments (5)