My two bits – the joys of driving in la

When I first went to Los Angeles for a winter golf holiday a few years ago, my nephew wanted to know if driving there was as frantic and hectic as it is reputed to be. Well, it is definitely different. But in many ways, it is easier than driving in Yorkton. It is predictable.

Fast, relentless, crowded, discouragingly slow at times, but predictable.

You see, they all drive by the same rules. Okay, not rules, because they break most rules. But traffic moves in sync. Keep your eyes open and be aware of who and what is around you, and you will see it almost has a symphonic harmony, with only an occasional discordant note.

Having just again come home from there, I am further convinced that the basics for driving in Los Angeles are relatively simple. And not the same as driving in other large cities. Los Angeles has a cadence of its own.

Firstly, if you want to change lanes on the freeway or a street, don’t be Canadian. Don’t signal and politely wait for someone to let you in. They won’t. Signal and move into the lane – the car you will be cutting off understands and will make room for you. If you insist on waiting for others to give you room, you will be in your lane forever. Really.

Remember the rule to leave three spaces between vehicles when driving at high speed? Ha! Do that and two cars will move into the empty space in a heartbeat. Close up, maintain the speed of the mob, and let another vehicle in if you see signal lights blinking beside you.

If you need to change lanes, remember there is always room in front of a truck. Always. Trucks leave space because they need room to slow down and stop. If you really need a piece of that space, take it. I am pretty sure truck drivers expect that.

In city traffic, don’t step on the gas when your light turns green. Without fail, three cars will go through their red light. Not one, not four. Three. Or two if the third car is a visitor to LA. It happens every time, at every intersection.

Beware of small pickup trucks with racks that hold ladders and rakes and brooms on the freeways. Get in another lane, or be ready to be left behind by the other traffic. Apparently gardeners and fix-it people have their own speed. And it’s usually 15 mph slower than the flow.

Freeways as much as 16 lanes wide are quite the thing to behold. And you’ll have lots of time to behold them as you mosey along at 20 mph during rush hour. Rush hour is from 5.30 to 10 a. m., and 2.30 to 7 pm. Every day of the week. Plan your leisure travel accordingly, or it will be a lot more leisurely than you want.

There are still gas stations at almost every major intersection, all self serve, most 10 cents a gallon cheaper when you pay cash. Some don’t take credit cards. There can be a huge difference in gas prices between stations, 30 or 40 cents a gallon difference a block apart, as much as a buck a gallon between various areas of the city. When is the last time we saw that at home? But of course there is no collusion when it comes to gas prices in Canada.

Lastly — and this is something I would love to see here — emergency vehicles of all kinds have priority. Hear a siren or see flashing lights? Pull over. Right now. Stop wherever you are. Not doing that will cost you an automatic $490. No excuses.

All sounds a bit chaotic, I know. But it works.

Comments? Go to www. mytwobits. ca, where this and previous columns are also available.

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