A guide to Europe and beyond – Road Rules

I was a little curious to how the road rules work in Europe. Of course there’s the obvious ‘other side of the road driving’ and give way to your right etc, but otherwise funny how you think things should work kind of the same in every country, when clearly that doesn’t have to be the case.

Take walking for example. In NZ you expect a car should stop when you step out on a crossing and so expect the same everywhere. Of course we approach them all with care. I myself got a warning In NZ quite a few years ago for not waiting until the pedestrian was completely across and off the road which was a ridiculous rule and I think you can go now as long as they’re not on your half. Much more sensible.

In Amsterdam you had to be so careful with bike lanes and Tram lines as well as roads and no kerbs to keep you on track. You couldn’t be looking up at old buildings and letting your mind wander. Tanja was always keeping an eye on me as I ambled around like a child. In UK it seemed to be they would stop if you were on THEIR side of the pedestrian. In Istanbul it seemed you should approach all roadways with extreme care and expect NO ONE to stop. Crossing or not. While in Europe it seems they’ll stop ‘if they have to’, but are not too happy about it and it’s preferable if you could time your crossing with their coming and going, like you might if there was no pedestrian crossing in fact…and if you want a standup shouting match about it, then try and cross AGAINST the green walking light. They’ll quickly let you know what they think about that, in Italy at least!

Gilbert and I had many an argument about how to cross these. He told me I should have waited, should’ve kept walking, was too slow, too fast. I found the best way was to follow the old Italian lady I saw. Taking a calculated risk and after making quick eye contact with driver of oncoming car, she held her hand up indicating cars should wait for her and staring straight ahead of her, simply crossed. Perhaps it’s the grey hair, or the ‘I’m going to cross and you’ll bloody well wait for me look, but it works. I tried it!

Unbelievably all these cars are parked. Sometimes they’ll completely cover the crossing …

Then there’s parking. Many of these streets are so narrow you think they are one way and parking shouldn’t be permitted. Indeed in many places it’s signposted that it’s not. ‘No parking’ Quite clear. It seems however the sign actually means…no parking, unless you have to. If you have to, park as far off the road as you can, unless you can’t. In that case drive onto the footpath where you should try and block as little of the pathway as you can, unless there’s no other space…and try not to double park, unless someone else got there before you, then double parking is okay but try not to be both sides of the road, unless you need to be on that side of the road, then you can but don’t block access ways, unless there’s no where else, but best if you don’t park across pedestrian crossings…oh go on then.

I would say Ireland was the worst for this. Cars just seemed to stop wherever they wanted. And so we might head down a tiny narrow lane in our little (thank God) car and have to slip in and out of small gaps amongst the parked cars, while someone else is doing the same coming the other way. The lanes were sometimes so tiny you would be forgiven for thinking a car actually wouldn’t fit down there. But they do!

While this isn’t a ‘narrow lane’ in France, they are indeed double parked all the way down…not sure how the inside parked cars get out?

And still on the subject of parking…I was told by someone that in Europe when you park it’s expected you won’t use your handbrake when parking, especially in tight spots, it’s quite OK to just ‘bump’ the car in front of you or behind a little and then it will move a little bit…just enough to give you room mind. Nothing else. In fact this happened when I was with someone else who was driving. I was mortified that they had hit the car behind. There was no damage, I could see that she was unperturbed. It did indeed seem to be ‘no problem’.

And then there’s horns. In NZ its used for legitimate warning. In Istanbul there’s a lot of ‘warning’ going on. In fact one hand is for ‘warning’ while the other hand does everything else. In most of Europe it’s just in case you didn’t notice I am coming up the side of you. So in Amsterdam that’s likely to be a bicycle bell. On the way to Monaco it was a ten tonne truck coming up beside me while I was walking on the footpath. Jaysus! In Nice, France, it could also be a celebration. Like a wedding. All twenty cars that are behind the bridal car making their way to who knows where, all tooting. Even while the traffics at a standstill at lights, all tooting, even while the bride gets out for photos and everyone is waiting. All tooting. I know they were having a good time but seriously. ALL tooting? Maybe this happens in Auckland. It’s just that I’m a country girl?

As we finish our journey here in Malaysia we are experts. We cross where and when we please. We ignore all the signs and expect everyone else will too. We pass messages by eyeballing or signing. At least if we’re all clear on what’s going on, there’s less room for mistakes right?

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