Summer and Out-of-Town Drivers

OntPlate

After a long hot summer with very few posts, I figure it’s time I got back to the keyboard. I’ll start with an observation that I made numerous times over the last few months.

This year with the Canadian dollar measuring up so poorly with the US greenback many Canadians opted to vacation north of the border; moving east and west instead of north and south. With Montreal’s busy festival season that runs from the Formula 1 Grand Prix in early June, through the Jazz Festival and Just For Laughs, I sensed an even greater number of tourists this year. Judging by accents and license plates, I suspect the statistics will show a pretty good year for tourism.

RightRedSpeaking of license plates, my non-scientific observation leads me to believe that cars with Ontario plates seem to carry the worst drivers. They stop anywhere anytime for absolutely no apparent reason, they seem to take little naps at red lights necessitating a polite toot on the horn, and they insist on turning right on red. There are two places in North America where you cannot legally turn right on red: Montreal and Manhattan. Even with several signs indicating that right on red is illegal, Ontario drivers still cause havoc by going through red lights.

A10-Granby

Yet another irksome driving habit. My wife and I went away for a weekend in Quebec’s Eastern Townships. On an average day, our destination would take about 90 minutes to reach. It took us the better part of three hours due to a major accident that closed the highway completely. As the photo above shows, no one was going anywhere fast. 

I understand that covering those ten feet is not going to really affect one’s arrival time, but it is psychologically essential to me that I feel I’m moving.

I’m not a good person in traffic. There comes a point when after inching forward only to stop again causes me to become enraged. My dear wife is quick to pick up on this, perhaps it’s me screaming MOOOVE that tips her off, so she soon slips on some Joe Cocker in an attempt to keep me from blowing a head pipe.

The car that we trailed for what felt like days (I must admit it was a local plate) was driven by a person who, when there was a gap between her car and the one in front, was in no hurry to move up. I understand that covering those ten feet is not going to really affect one’s arrival time, but it is psychologically essential to me that I feel I’m moving.

DRIVE THE CAR FOR CHRISSAKE!!!!

Nope. She’d coast along when she was good and ready. The rest of the weekend was very restful, once I got my blood pressure back to normal.

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

A Montreal Fender-Bender

On the Saturday before Christmas my wife and I went to a local shopping mall for some last-minute odds and ends, having finally completed our shopping. The temperature was hovering around the freezing mark which was providing us with that much detested freezing rain. Snow is one thing, rain another, but the two mixed at one time usually results in a skating rink effect.

Snow is one thing, rain another, but the two mixed at one time usually results in a skating rink effect.

While leaving the parking lot, driving ever so slowly as the surface had yet to see any salt or abrasive, I came to a stop at a stop sign. Approaching the same little intersection on my left was another shopper. With the slippery surface, I waited to make certain he stopped before I advanced. That was my mistake, as in his attempt to stop he slid into my right front wheel.

I got out of the car and looked for damage. I found several pieces of plastic that I could not place until he pointed out that they were from his car. He apologized and, once I had confirmed that he was using snow tires, I graciously accepted. He pulled over to the side and prepared a paper with his name and contact information.

Interestingly he was a Francophone, but would only address me in English, while I did my best to communicate with him in French. Call it a typical Montreal fender-bender.

My wife and I had a good look at the car’s body and could not see any damage. So I went over to him, took his coordinates, shook his hand and we wished each other a Merry Christmas. Interestingly he was a Francophone, but would only address me in English, while I did my best to communicate with him in French. Call it a typical Montreal fender-bender.

Alas, it was not the fender that was bent, but a tie-rod. We noticed that the car was pulling to the left and that the steering wheel was not ‘true’ i.e it was off-center when driving straight. The replacement and a wheel alignment cost us $180. Did I contact the other driver? Naw. Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and accept that shit happens.

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

The More Detours; the More Geniuses on the Roads

BEFORE                                                                                AFTER

On her first day back at school late last August, after meeting with her fellow teachers and going through umpteen administrative chore my wife was driving home when she was involved in one of those chain-reaction accidents. Fortunately the traffic was heavy and therefore not moving too fast. Nonetheless the car behind my wife was unable to stop in time and collided with our car. My wife was shaken, but fine. Others in the multi-car incident were transported to the hospital for treatment. It seems this whole thing was caused by some genius who had decided he or she was not going to wait in the line of slow-moving traffic, but would zip along in the faster lane and then cut in at the last possible moment. This time it caused much damage.

The photo above shows the before and after – the lighting makes the colour look different in the after, but I can assure you it is the same cappuccino as they like to call it at Kia. When I say after I mean after a week in the body shop and over $6000 worth of repairs and replacements. Thank God the insurance company has footed the entire bill, even the deductible, as my wife was not at fault.

My first car, a 1973 Toyota Corona,  cost me $500 in 1978. I once had to nip into a service station, not just a gas emporium like we have today, but a place where they fixed cars as well as pumped gas, to see why billows of thick black smoke were emanating from under the hood of my car. Once the air cleared the mechanic pointed out the problem: a broken hose. He replaced it and charged my the princely sum of $5. Now that may well have been all the money I had, but I was back on my way in about 15 minutes.

How times have changed.

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

 

 

Crosswalks and Speed Bumps; Not Interchangeable

The other day I watched out my apartment window as a woman with three children, all of whom appeared to be under six years old, crossed the street. This alone was not unusual as there is a school just down the street. She made a point of walking to the crosswalk and telling her kids about how to be a smart pedestrian and to cross at the crosswalk. Not that I could hear her, but it seemed to me that was what she was doing.

Off the sidewalk they stepped, all holding hands, and headed across the crosswalk only to have a rude driver sound his horn and shout at the woman. You see she evidently thought she was crossing on a crosswalk but was, in fact, crossing on a speed bump. Well intentioned but dangerously ill-informed.

Speed bump, not a crosswalk.

Traditionally in Montreal crosswalks are usually ignored by drivers with the few exceptions of new crosswalks that are well indicated with signs and flashing lights. One province over, in Ontario, they have instilled in drivers and pedestrians the importance of crosswalks. As is the case in Alberta pedestrians are told to approach the crosswalk, point across the street, check for cars and cross. A driver seeing a pointing pedestrian by a crosswalk must yield the right of way to them, anticipating their desire to cross the street. To try this method in Montreal would lead to a tragedy I fear (although it can be chucklesome to watch out-of-towners trying it only to be honked at).

To try this method in Montreal would lead to a tragedy I fear (although it can be chucklesome to watch out-of-towners trying it only to be honked at). 

In my neighbourhood many of the secondary residential side streets have speed bumps. Not those rubber things sometimes used at stop signs to make sure drivers stop, but mid-block asphalt ridges that are supposed to force drivers to pass over slowly or risk damage to their car. Although these bumps are painted yellow, they are about as far from a crosswalk as can be.

They don’t always have the desired effect however, as is evidenced by the occasional loud scraping sound as a car goes over too fast. Certainly this is no place to cross the street, let alone instruct children to do so.

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

Roundabouts: Cute in Song, Annoying in Practice

Behind the shelter in the middle of the roundabout
A pretty nurse is selling poppies from a tray
Penny Lane by Lennon/McCartney

The United Kingdom has been using traffic roundabouts in place of traffic lights for decades. The idea is that by merging with other cars in a circular manner and “getting off” at your street the flow of traffic is uninterrupted. Traffic lights require cars to stop at red lights while the roundabout does not. All fine and dandy.

If you live in a place that has used these things for ages, you get the concept and understand the rules. For instance if you are entering at the 5:00 o’clock point and want to exit not at the 1:00 o’clock point, but over at 11:00 o’clock, you cannot simply coast along in the outside lane. The outside lane is for entering and exiting only. If you get caught passing an exit while in the outside lane you are liable to a fine.

All of this makes some sense in terms of road safety. If you are familiar with the roundabout in question it poses no problem. But if you are new to the area you have to merge, move over to the inner lane, read the sign postings, merge back to the outer lane in time to exit. Sound safe to you? It takes a special kind of courage, pluck even, to use these things correctly.

What’s worse is that here in Montreal we do not have roundabouts, except for one at the airport. But it is an odd beast in that it also has traffic lights affiliated with it.

Give me traffic lights please.

I’ll be the roundabout
The words will make you out ‘n’ out
I spend the day your way
Call it morning driving through the sound and
In and out the valley
– Roundabout  by Yes Jon Anderson & Steve James Howe
DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

 

Common decency just ain’t all that common anymore

I am slowly coming to the realisation that as I age I may well  be less suitable for community living. Perhaps the time has come to find a nice cave – one with all the amenities I am used to of course – and start living as a hermit. Why am I contemplating this you may well ask, the answer in a word: people.

I can become enraged when an ATM refuses to do what it is supposed to,  but have infinite patience with a teller who cannot find my file.

I am, much like the cartoon character Underdog, mild-mannered by nature. In fact it would be fair to say that I don’t do anger well, unless it is aimed at an inanimate object. Anger consumes me, eats me up, encroaches on my every thought. I have a small finite amount of patience and can become enraged when an ATM refuses to do what it is supposed to,  but have almost infinite patience with a teller who cannot find my file.

However, recently I have found myself, on two occasions, being faced with the possibility of losing it. On Palm Sunday it was a lovely warm sunny day in Montreal. My wife and I decided to drop by a downtown pub we frequent for a bite of brunch. As I drove up the street looking for an elusive Montreal parking spot I noticed a free one immediately across the street from our destination. When I say the spot was free, I mean there was no car there. Mind you there was a man standing right smack in the middle of it while talking on his phone.

Sarasota, Florida

We approached the man, my wife opened her window as he was on that side, and politely asked him to move aside so we could park. He ignored her. She tried again and he told her he was keeping the spot for his wife. Oh no Sunshine, that’s not how it works. Humans do not ‘hold’ parking spaces for cars. No car, no parking spot. Overhearing him talking allegedly with his wife on the phone in Spanish, my wife was able to discern that her arrival was anything but imminent.

My wife then spoke to the man in Spanish, explained that it is not acceptable to tie up a parking spot in this manner. The guy claimed that once his wife arrived they would have a car to put in the spot. I pointed out that I had both a car and a wife already in position which to my way of thinking gave me priority. Perhaps he was from a parallel universe in which the human-holds-parking-spot method is the norm, but not here.

By now his arrogance was annoying me big time, a not so slow fry, so I decide to just back into the parking spot, thereby forcing him to the sidewalk or running him over – the latter option was becoming increasingly more appealing as the incident progressed. Finally he moved and we parked, but not before some choice words were slung in both directions. And it had started out as such a lovely day.

Fast forward to last evening. While my wife waited in the car while I ran to the supermarket to pick up three items. It was about 5:30 and the store was jam-packed with shoppers. I beetled about, got my items and headed for the express, 8 items or less check-out.  There are two such check-outs, but for some reason, at the busiest time of the say, one was closed.

Now I have this theory that no retail outlet should ever have closed cashes when there are lines at open ones.

Now I have this theory that no retail outlet should ever have closed cashes when there are lines at open ones. It defies logic and is just plain bat customer relations; paying your inflated prices is bad enough, waiting in line to do so is over the top.

While waiting at cash two, and having determined that there was no one ahead of me with more than the limit of eight items – yep, I’ll rat you out quick as look at you – a voice was heard to say “cash one is open”. At last. I make a bee-line from the line at cash two to the newly opened cash one only to have this asshole elbow in front of me and knock my items to the floor! Did he offer to help? No. Did he apologize? Only after I pointed out his ignorance. At which point he accused me of trying to jump the line. Evidently he seemed to have come from yet another parallel universe where one’s position in line at one cash dictates their priority at a newly opened second cash.

Sorry, it just doesn’t work that way.

Newly opened check-outs are virgin territory. It makes no matter if you were 846th in one line, once that new cash opens it’s every man woman and child for himself. But it is a race, not a wrestling match. Knocking a person’s groceries from their grip isn’t cricket.

Until we can live in harmony I wonder if it may be time for Underdog to head for the hills?

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

 

Welcome to Montreal, Please Don’t Turn Right on Red

RightRed

Recently I saw an item on the number of European countries that have elected governments with far right positions. In the US, the current battles for party presidential candidates show a strong move further to the right for the Republicans as Donald Trump talks walls and immigration. All these turns to the right, even if I disagree with them, I can deal with, but there is one that gets under my skin: the right turn on red light!

This upcoming weekend is the first long weekend of the Canadian summer. Known as Victoria Day across the country, and la fête de Dollard in Quebec, it is the unofficial start of summer. Traditionally the time to plant summer gardens. For those who don’t garden, the weekend offers a chance to relax and perhaps take a trip.

Soon the influx of Ontario guests will be in full swing here in Montreal. It is only Thursday and already I have encountered two drivers evidently intent on killing pedestrians. With that in mind let me issue my annual warning: THERE IS NO RIGHT TURN ON A RED LIGHT IN MONTREAL!

As an island, Montreal has limited access points (the scarier way to consider this is that it therefore also has limited exit points) all of which have signs posted clearly indicating that the law on the island is different. No Right on Red!

In North America there are two jurisdictions where you cannot make a right turn on a red light; the island of Montreal and New York City. This is not rocket science. If you turn right on a red light in Montreal you risk  a) getting a ticket – local cops love to nail out-of-towners for this, b) having your car kicked and pounded by irate pedestrians à la Ratso Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy or, c) both.

I'm walkin' here!

I’m walkin’ here!

By all means come and visit, but if you must drive please bear in mind that red lights mean stop. Stay stopped until the light turns green. Stay put. Relax. We local pedestrians tend to ignore the concept of crossing against red lights. When we attempt to cross on a red, we get well pissed when some tourist tries to run us over by also going through the red light.

While I’m on the topic let me point out that in an effort to allow for safe pedestrian crossing many intersections have a green straight arrow light for a few seconds before the full green. If you are turning right you cannot go through that arrow (what part of straight don’t you understand is often hooted at transgressors), even if there are no pedestrians crossing. And even if the fools behind you honk. Wait for the full green please.

To avoid all these potentially expensive and dangerous incidents let me suggest you use public transit in downtown Montreal. It is not a car friendly place.

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

No Stopping vs. No Parking; Seems Simple To Me

No_Parking

Oh dear, here we go again. Why is it so difficult for some to understand the difference between ‘parking’ and ‘stopping’ a car? Last evening, during the height of the holiday shopping season with retailers pleading for trade, my significantly better half and I stopped by a local mall. We pulled into a drop off point, she got out and was going to run to the grocery store in said mall, while I waited at the wheel for her return. We were ‘stopped’, not ‘parked’.

Put simply, I can stop without parking, but cannot park without stopping.

Before she could even get in the door a mall security guard appeared bellowing that this was a no parking zone. I politely informed him that I was fully aware of that, and therefore would stay in the car, stopping it rather than parking it. I was ‘stopped’ in a no ‘parking’ zone. No problem; should the need arise for my car to moved, I would gladly do so. I’m in the car therefore I am ‘stopped’, not ‘parked’. Clearly this fellow had no grasp of the concept and ultimately cost the grocery store a client, as we moved along to the next mall just down the road, which was much more accommodating.

Let me elaborate. A bus zone is a ‘no stopping’ zone. It is against the law for me to stop my car and wait in it while my passenger dashes into a store to buy milk. A ‘no parking’ zone is one in which as long as I am in my car and ready to move it if the need arises, I am breaking no laws.

A ‘no parking’ zone is one in which as long as I am in my car and ready to move it if the need arises, I am breaking no laws.

On several occasions I have had discussions with ticket agents who suggested I must put money in the parking meter even though I was sitting at the wheel of the car. My usual response is to inform them that when/if I park the car (i.e. get out of it), I will feed the meter. This tends to put an end to the debate. Never accept a ‘parking’ ticket while you are in the car in a position to move it.

Put simply, I can stop without parking, but cannot park without stopping. 

I wonder how many clients will take their business elsewhere before the mall catches on and either educates its staff, or dismisses this one guard?

DCS_Grad_2 DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DC on Twitter @DCMontreal and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

Keep Your Eyes On The Road; Surf The Internet At Home

There can be no question about the rapid advance of technology. And nowhere is it more evident than in automobiles. Wonderful safety features are now available including blind spot monitoring, rear view cameras, lane departure warning systems, and even a car that will stop itself should it sense an imminent collision.

Once upon a time the way to keep from departing the lane you were driving in was to keep your eyes on the road.

I am sure that these and other inventions have saved countless lives. But when you think of it, they are only doing what drivers used to do. Once upon a time the way to keep from departing the lane you were driving in was to keep your eyes on the road.

The best means of avoiding backing into someone or something was to use your mirrors and eyes.

The need to always be checking your blind spot was drilled into drivers heads in Drivers’ Education courses for years.

As for stopping the car when something, a stalled car for instance, is about to be rammed into, wouldn’t that just require the driver to be alert?

Perhaps you have noticed a theme here. All of these new devices help motorists do what they always used to do until … until they started spending more and more time looking at various screens inside the car instead of keeping their eyes on the road.

But many cars now come with display screens that rival a laptop or a 777 cockpit, but without the co-pilot.

It is easy to blame the whole thing on drivers using smart phones. And they are no doubt part of the problem. But many cars now come with display screens that rival a laptop or a 777 cockpit, but without the co-pilot. I seem to recall when there was a law that stipulated those who wanted televisions in their cars could only place them in the back seat, lest they distract the driver. Now dashboards in some models have high-definition screens that illustrate GPS information and, worse,  the Internet.

I don’t even like to change radio stations while driving; I can’t imagine myself being comfortable with a computer screen in front of me. More importantly I hope the driver behind me has his eyes on me, and is not surfing Internet porn.

DCS_Grad_2 DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DC on Twitter @DCMontreal and on Facebook, and add him on

Would Amending the Highway Code Save Cyclists?

 

Drivers are from Mars, cyclists are from Venus

Perhaps Drivers Are from Mars, Cyclists Are from Venus should be our approach to the seemingly never-ending conflicts between these two groups as they duke it out on city streets. Sadly these confrontations often result in more than just the wagging of fingers of accusation. They can be tragic.

This time we were lucky: A few toots of the car horn and a couple of angry epithets hurled by the cyclist and everyone was on their way again. What struck me was that I believe both thought they were doing the right thing. How could that be?

In an attempt to create a safe urban cycling experience, many cities have adopted bike boxes at busy intersections. These areas in front of the car stop line at the red light give cyclists a head start so they can gain momentum. An advanced green light ensures they get away from vehicles and get up to speed without cars nipping at their heels. Is it time for a similar alteration to the stop sign law?

Recently, as a pedestrian observer, it became clear to me that drivers and cyclists are on totally different wavelengths. The setting: a three-way stop sign at a T intersection. The driver arrived at his stop sign, came to a full and complete stop, looked to his left, saw nothing, looked to his right and noticed a cyclist slowing down while approaching his stop sign. The driver, incorrectly assuming the cyclist was coming to a stop, entered the intersection to turn left, only to encounter the cyclist already halfway through.

The cyclist had in fact not come to a full stop, but merely slowed down, thus giving the driver — and this pedestrian — the impression he was going to stop, as it was the driver’s turn to go. However he then accelerated once again and proceeded into the intersection, evidently thinking the driver had deferred to him. This time we were lucky: A few toots of the car horn and a couple of angry epithets hurled by the cyclist and everyone was on their way again. What struck me was that I believe both thought they were doing the right thing. How could that be?

It is my hunch that cyclists, regardless of the law, are not going to desist from coasting through stop signs. So in the interest of public safety, let’s make certain that all motorists — and pedestrians for that matter — are well aware of this.

Drivers understand that they are required to come to a full stop at a stop sign — even if many don’t — check for cars, make eye contact with any other drivers, cyclists or pedestrians so everyone knows where they stand, then continue on their way when it is their turn. Cyclists apparently have a different concept of what takes place at stop signs: they seem to believe they are required to slow down as they near the intersection, make eye contact with any stopped drivers, but then continue through the intersection in an attempt to maintain their momentum, much like at a yield sign.

To motorists, the eye contact indicates: “I see you slowing down, you’re going to stop, so it’s my turn to go.” For cyclists, eye contact means: “I see you and I know you see me; now you’re supposed to let me pass through the intersection so I don’t lose my momentum.” Venus and Mars writ large! This is a recipe for absolute disaster; two groups of road users with virtually opposite understandings of what should happen at a stop sign.

Is there a realistic solution to this potentially deadly problem? I believe so. Placing police officers at all intersections to enforce the law might work, but I did note we need a realistic solution. It is my hunch that cyclists, regardless of the law, are not going to desist from coasting through stop signs. So in the interest of public safety, let’s make certain that all motorists — and pedestrians for that matter — are well aware of this.

Clearly informing all that cyclists are required to cautiously slow down at stop signs, then proceed without stopping when safe. I know, it’s a crazy concept, but let’s face it, cyclists are going to do this anyway.

In keeping with the adoption of bike boxes, I suggest we alter the Highway Code to make this “bicycle stop sign slide” legal, then most importantly educate the public through ad campaigns and road signs. Clearly informing all that cyclists are required to cautiously slow down at stop signs, then proceed without stopping when safe. I know, it’s a crazy concept, but let’s face it, cyclists are going to do this anyway. By alerting drivers to that fact, and having them expect the cyclist to pass through, these potentially fatal altercations can be reduced, if not eliminated.

It only takes an extra second at the stop sign for a driver to let a bike pass, and everyone comes out alive. In fact, many drivers already do this. Think of it like the right of way accorded to public transit buses as they pull into traffic. But everyone has to understand what is expected, be on the same page, sing from the same hymnal, whatever. These different takes on stop signs can be deadly. To cite another bestseller, we could call it the “I’m OK, You’re OK” approach to stop signs.

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+