Auck Ward

A Honeymove Blog

Tag: traffic

What Do These Three Wide Red Traffic Lines in Balmoral Mean?

On my walk home this past Tuesday, an Auckland Transport employee asked me if I could answer a few questions about a newish project. He asked me what do I think new red lines like these mean:

balmoralresidentialstreet2

Now, I don’t drive in Auckland. Yet. But I have driven, not in New Zealand, but in DC and in New York, so I should be able to earn my Girl Scout badge in defensive driving, with some demerits for cursing under and over my breath. Maybe I’m better at driving defensively.

Red usually means stop or slow down. In an afterthought, yellow or white may be interpreted as slow down as well. Three wide lines make the point that something is coming. So my guess was: Slow down before you get on this really busy road in and out of the city.

The nice AT guy told me the lines are intended for drivers turning off from the main artery into a residential zone, to get them to slow down.

AT is calling these lines the “threshold treatment,” signaling to drivers that they’re no longer in the fast-paced commercial zone they just zoomed down. It’s part of a wider effort to institute a “Residential Quiet Zone” in the neighborhood, aimed to prevent drivers from speeding through side streets.

The meaning of those red lines wasn’t intuitive to me, but I’m just a person and a migrant. He asked if there is something that could be done to improve how the lines are supposed to get the message across to drivers. I suggested using a different color or painting a word down. But I also added the caveat that I just moved here, I don’t drive yet and I certainly do not have a degree in engineering.

The guy was gracious for the input anyway. I went off on my day, wondering how the hell I’m going to get acquainted with New Zealand driving laws. Driving school, that’s how. I think I will need my head reprogrammed in order to drive on the left and interpret the rules.

Would you have thought “slow down driver” if you saw red lines like these? Tell me in the comments.

Zen and the Art of Walking into Hanoi Motorbike Traffic

HANOITRAFFIC from warwick meade on Vimeo.

Don’t worry, it happens to everyone when they first get to Hanoi.–”Vietnam,” Lonely Planet, page 9.

What the authors meant by “it” is that you get lost in the many streets and alleys of Hanoi’s Old Quarter.

I remember reading this sentence a few times in the past, using the sentiment to console myself when faced with the reality of crossing the street in Vietnam, facing a steady stream of motorbikes.

Motorbikes are the primary form of transportation in Vietnam. The Wall Street Journal, citing Vietnam’s Ministry of Transport, puts the number of motorbikes in Vietnam at 37 million. That’s roughly one for every three people in Vietnam.

There are so many motorbikes in Vietnam that there was a news report of proposals to ban motorcycles in cities. There are cars, vans and buses also sharing the road, but not nearly as many and they’re just big boulders trying to get through narrow streets.

Motorized traffic doesn’t stop often in Hanoi, or elsewhere in Vietnam really. There are traffic lights and drivers obey them, but there seem to be fewer in Vietnam than in an American city. Which makes crossing the street in Hanoi terrifying at first. I kept thinking of George Constanza’s Frogger experience from Seinfeld.

In order to make it across the street, I hid behind Kiwi and acted like his shadow, so wherever he crossed, I just followed. It was kind of romantic in a way: I need to be near you [please make sure I get across safely].

After a couple of days, the shock of crossing the street wears down and the act itself becomes fun. You become part of the flow. A friend recommended to look motorcycle drivers in the eye, so that they will see you and move around you. That does work, and I’m thankful for that advice. I would also recommend downing one beer (just one) to take the edge off. That way, you can move across an intersection or street in a Zen-like, give-zero-cares manner.

If anything, crossing the street in Hanoi is basically an exercise in Newton’s first law of motion. Things will stay in motion until something acts upon it: Motorcycle traffic will continue at the same rate and pace until a pedestrian appears, then drivers change speed and direction accordingly.

Science can be comforting sometimes.

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