Sunday, April 7, 2013


Denise’s Handy Driving Tips

In rounding out my series on commuting, I thought it prudent to include some helpful tips that might be useful when driving around the Vancouver area.  I have seen it all and feel the need to impart my knowledge and experience...sadly, much of what you are about to read is my way of coping on the road, but hey, I seem to get from A to B ok.  I will add though, that if you adapt any of my suggestions, I will not take responsibility for any negative repercussions you may experience.  

1.  The red “X” in the Stanley Park causeway means GET OUT OF THAT LANE.

Everyone who lives in the Vancouver area is familiar with Stanley Park and the Lions Gate Bridge, and the roadway-connector of the two called the Stanley Park causeway.  Originally when the bridge was built, it was only two lanes; however, within a short period of time the population grew on the North Shore and the two lanes were constructed into three.  There is a green and red lighting system above the lanes through the causeway that tells you which direction the middle lane is going.  Most people can ascertain whether they should be in that lane based on whether there is red “x” over it or not...yes, most people.  Ok, I get the tourists--maybe some of them have never seen a set up like that before and many-a-time have I watched an almost head-on collision to only have the tourist swerve out of the on-coming lane just in the nick of time.  But when those are BC plates doing that, it just makes you wonder as to what part of the giant red X above the lane didn’t we see?  Or do you really think you can “out-run” the X and make it to the other end of the bridge?  

2.  That bus is bigger than you.

This is a scary one.  And the reason I say that is because there are some bus drivers out there that will NOT yield or give way and almost purposefully cause an accident to teach you a lesson.  I’ve watched people really take their chances with the buses and I just cringe every time.  I will admit that I’ve had a couple of run-ins with bus drivers only because they think they’re driving a sports car--watching those cables come down from the wires on the trolly buses when you’re right next to one is enough to snap you back to reality in a heartbeat.  But still I see people zipping by, cutting off, and slamming on breaks all near, around and in front of buses whereby the car is almost crushed like a tin can if not for a few lucky seconds on the driver’s side.  The bus is bigger, and the chips on some of the shoulders of the bus drivers are even bigger, so be careful! 

3.  Rain is not snow last time I checked.

Vancouver is famous for it’s rain.  I quite enjoy it actually--perhaps it’s because I’ve lived here all my life and it makes no matter to me.  What I find interesting is that people on the road just freak out when the water hits the ground.  I fully agree that you need to slow down a little and be aware the roads can be somewhat slick, especially after a dry spell.  But it’s not snow!  We don’t have to cut our speed in half, do we?  I think all cars come with windshield wipers, right?

4.  One way usually way.

I’ve been guilty of this, but only in downtown Seattle where there are one-way streets galore and I figured out pretty quickly what I had done (thanks Mom).  What I don’t get are people who can see that they are going down a one-way street, but keep going anyway!  They are being honked at, shouted at, gestured at, etc. but they still keep going anyway!  Yes, I understand that maybe you get all of the above typically, but if you hear that kind of noise going on around you, you may want to sit up and take notice.

5.  Putting a bunch of sh*t on your dash may impair your vision while driving.

This one I don’t get at all.  You can only have so many air fresheners in your car at one time.  How many things that bobble and move should one person own, AND have in their car at the same time?  If you’re driving, there’s no time to play with what’s the purpose?  To impede the potentially already impaired vision of the driver even further?   Eek.  Leave the toys at home people.

6.  If you can’t see cars in your rear view because of a giant blue cloud, you may want to take your car into the shop.

Hey, I’ve been there.  My neon blew enough burned oil out the tail pipe to single-handedly puncture a hole in the ozone, so I get that denial enters into the picture when it comes to your car.  But when the cars behind you are completely blinded in a thick blue fog thanks to your car’s toxic pollution output, let’s get it fixed already, no one needs to breathe in that crap.  

7.  If you can help it at all, don’t interact with the UPS drivers.

(See previous blog post for details on this one)

8.  Taking the HOV and pretending to talk to yourself is ok.

Sometimes I’ll use highway 99 to get home and when I do, there is no way I’m sitting in the tunnel traffic if I’m getting off at the exit right before.  So, the HOV lane is the perfect solution, but naturally, it’s a no-no if you’re the only one in the car, which is why I’ll pretend to talk to someone in the backseat if I get the evil eye from other drivers.  I have yet to come across any police, but the way I see it, I win either way (see tip # 10).

9.  Playing “lost tourist” is a necessity at times.

This is some people’s regular driving persona, and, sometimes there really are lost tourists out there.  I like to be a "lost tourist" to sneak into the Lion’s Gate bridge lane from the Stanley Park lane to avoid scads of traffic during rush hour in the morning.  It works well when you pretend to look up at the signs with a confused grimace on your face, throw your hands up into the air in disbelief, and then innocently catch the eye of a driver in the next lane to gain their sympathy to let you in front of them.  If possible, try to have a map handy for extra sympathy.  Of course, you could really push it and ignore the red “X” but then you run the risk of injury (see tip # 1). 

10.  It’s important to wave at the firemen and smile at the policemen, NOT.

When I was in New York, it was common place for women to interact with the firemen and policemen, and not just with a gentle wave or a little smile either--we’re talking full on shouting, etc. but then that’s just how things are in NYC anyway (which is why I fit in perfectly there).  When I brought that concept back to Vancouver, it didn’t work so well.  Sorry to my firemen friends for this, but I have to say that the firemen here, unlike NYC, DON’T reciprocate (or at least not often) with the waving back concept, nor do they look receptive to it in the first place.  Smiling at a policeman here is just plain stupid unless you want to be pulled over (so I do it all as often as possible).  It all comes from a place of respect for me, but perhaps the perception at their end is the opposite.  Regardless, between the uniform and my regard for what each do for a living, I will never stop waving and smiling, ever.

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