Driving - compete or cooperate?

The Vancouver Sun published an op-ed last Saturday I recently wrote about driving behaviour, based on my recent experiences in traffic in the Middle East:


I'd like to hear your comments and thoughts about my observations...

Random comments and thoughts and like that.

That was a thought provoking article, well done.

I've spent most of my professional life in driving related endeavours including riding my bike an average of fifty miles a day when I had a rural paper route in the late 60's in Cumbria UK, thinking back. I received my Class 3 in BC back in 1983 (added Class 4 shortly afterwards, and Class 1 about 20 years ago; and have also had my Driving Instructor license for more than 30 years now).

So the first thought that comes to mind, is that - generally speaking - we tend not to notice the other road users out there who are patient, courteous, and cognizant of the need to share the space we're all using to go about our business. And this applies to pedestrians, cyclists, car drivers, bus drivers, and truck drivers. We frequently don't notice the 'good' drivers because ... well, they're good drivers!

And you know, as popular as it is to knock Vancouver drivers, it seems to me that we pretty much invented zipper merging - it's been happening on the approaches to the car strangled spanner (a.k.a. the Lions Gate Bridge, with a nod to Denny Boyd for the phrase) for decades and the only folks who don't seem to 'get it' are the tourists. Even the boors in their BMWs and Audis manage to figure it out, though they may be too stupid or lazy to actually use signals most of the time.

As for regulations - something we have a ton of, compared to the Egyptians - it's a whole different culture apparently. They seem to compete with India to set the lowest possible standard of competence. And both countries have horifically high crash rates - particularly with buses and trucks - causing terrible injury and death to the road users who are the victims; frequently, these are pedestrians. Or cyclists. Or donkey-cart drivers.

Incidentally, I just found this interesting pedestrian related item on Wikipedia so I thought I'd throw it in.

Last September, I was in England visiting my siblings, and enjoyed driving there once again, as well as in Ireland which was a first for me, although I've driven in several other countries. I was struck (not literally) by the way that their roads and behaviours have developed over not just decades, but centuries (millenia, even!) into the current era. So just on a 30 mile drive through the countryside, it will occur numerous times where drivers need to pull to the side (might be amongst the hedgerows, might be in the middle of a village) to allow the oncoming driver(s) to proceed - and every time, every driver given this courtesy will acknowledge it with a lift of the hand - and will give the same courtesy to others when it's the necessary thing to do; heck, sometimes they'll back up 100 yards or whatever into a wider stretch, just to help each other out. And in those rural areas, it all works very well, really.

In BC, it's an offence to reverse into, through, or out of, an intersection or crosswalk. In the UK, reversing from a main road into a minor road (while remaining within a foot of the road edge) is a mandatory skills maneuver on the driving test.

As I said, random thoughts.

BC was the first jurisdiction in North America to introduce classification of license. This was before ICBC had even been invented, by the way. The practical application of this was that if you wanted to drive a dump truck - or a taxi, or a bus, or a semi, or a motorcycle - you had to demonstrate your ability to do so in that type of vehicle, including the knowledge necessary to add an airbrake endorsement on your license if necessary. And that's why, to this day, the crashes and carnage on our roads caused by commercial drivers is minimal when compared to many other places around the world.

One of the most significant changes to the Class 7 Road Test in BC that ICBC did bring in, was the requirement that every applicant demonstrate Communication as a fundamental necessary skill. Which is quite different from awarding demerit points for failing to signal, or doing so too late.

When I was in Dublin last year, I noticed that although they had painted cycle lanes all over the place, along with other modern updates to road systems, it didn't seem to have worked so well. The pedestrians are the worst offenders, as they all seem to cheerfully ignore walk/don't walk signals and set off to cross the street as soon as the motor vehicles have gone by. Typically, this will be several seconds before the cyclists arrive, using the same traffic light system. It's clearly exasperating for the cyclists, and really doesn't work effectively. In fact, I recently provided Class 4 driver training to a fellow from Dublin who is a paramedic and an avid cyclist, and when I mentioned this to him he advised that the injury/death rate for cyclists there is very high compared to other places. I'll not try to derive any conclusions from this, it's a complex issue. But it does suggest that all of the unlicensed bipeds should follow the rules - or at least show proper respect for the others using the roadways.


Very observant of you

I agree with you. Most drivers here DO have a "me first" attitude, which co-exists with their beliefs that driving is a right, (not a priveledge, and a HUGE responsibility) and that they are gifted with better than average driving skills. How do you show someone that their logic is flawed, their beliefs are incorrect, and their abilities are not what they presume?

I spent quite a few months in Kampala, Uganda, and the traffic in Uganda is like your picture, times 10. I have no idea what the accident and death rate is there, (pretty high by my observation and experience) but it is remarkable how much traffic is moved by such little real estate, and it all happens without anger and frustration.

And your demographic on truck drivers....is almost polar opposite to the one in North America, where vehicles over 14,500 KG cause a small percentage of accidents.


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