Friday, May 19, 2006

Informational Post: Driving

Some good and not so good things about driving in France:

Good: Roundabouts - Although these will never come into common use in the US in our lifetime, they are ingenious. You hardly ever have to stop your car, saves time and brakes.

Good: Small cars - I mean really small. We've realized that we could, at this stage in the kids' lives, do with a smaller car. They've gotten over attacking each other in the very small back seat of our Peugeot Junior and we don't need to transport all that much on a daily basis anymore. Groceries and stuff for a day trip fit in our small car very nicely and the cars here are very sporty and stylish. Thinking about driving our VW van back home makes me feel like a bus driver.

Good: The péage - You pay to drive fast. 70 mph when it's raining 80mph when it's not. It's not cheap, a trip from here to Bordeaux is 3 Euros, but it's worth it if you're in a hurry. Trucks are obligated to take this roadway and pay to do it. Makes sense if you think about all the damage that trucks do to the road. The péage also has amazing road stops - good coffee, tasty food and nice park like settings to eat at or take a break. There is usually a person at the toll stops to take your money or you can toss your change into a net to pass through. The best thing ever though about the péage is that slow people stay in the right lane with the left lane only for passing. If you were to sit and coast in the left lane it's only a matter of seconds before someone would be up on your tail flashing their brights. A slow person in the fast lane is an accident waiting to happen.

Good: Considerate drivers. People thank you for letting them merge, pull over to let you pass on a narrow street, wave thanks and smile. People follow the rules of the road, with the exception that most everyone drives over the speed limit, which makes for a pleasant driving experience. If you want to drive the speed limit, people will just pass you, no problem.

Bad: Crosswalks - They instill a false sense of security. Pedestrians do not have the right of way and folks will run you over. If you are polite, or Bay Area enough to give the pedestrian the right of way, you will get a nice "Merci" mouthed along with a wave of thanks. If you are trying to cross, on the other hand, better make sure the car has stopped before you start crossing.

Scary: Priority on the right. Any person entering the roadway from the right (where there is not a sign with a yellow square tipped on its end) has the right of way and can just pull out into your lane. When we see that sign with a black line through it, indicating we don't have priority we get a little jumpy.

1 comment:

unclejason said...

You have echoed all the things we like about driving in Europe. Drivers are much more sophisticated and knowledgeable. Crosswalks sound as bad as Rome. If you don't make eye contact, you can bluff your way across, but if you do make eye contact, drivers take that as permission to zip in front of you. By contrast, we found drivers in Spain to be ultra courteous. xoxo