Inspired by an e-mail from an American in Bangladesh, Dr. Gridlock recently asked you folks to share your transportation experiences from abroad, and what we might adopt here. What a rich collection of responses. Here are some:
From Mary LeCompte, Manassas:
Two years of driving on the rough roads of the Philippines was quite an experience. However, it has one habit that I liked. When two oncoming vehicles arrive at a narrow passage, the first to turn on their headlights claims right of way, and the other yields.
I still find myself reaching for the light switch whenever I cross one-lane bridges.
From David Jernigan, Lovettsville:
The main thing I liked about driving in Europe was that the left lane was used for passing only. The few drivers who ignored this rule were reminded of it quickly by bright headlights flashed from behind. Traffic moved smoothly. In the United States, I find I can make better time in the right lanes because everyone is crowded into the left lanes, trying to get ahead.
From Doug Taphouse, Fairfax:
A number of years ago I was driving through Tehran, Iran, and came across an astonishing sight: Two small motorcycles driving next to each other, each with a driver and a passenger, the passengers carefully (and desperately) clutching at an upright piano that was balanced precariously between them.
They were moving along at a pretty good clip through typically chaotic Iranian traffic. I would loved to have seen them try to negotiate a turn, but, unfortunately, we were going in the other direction.
From Fil Feit, Annandale:
When I was in Munich I noticed that the traffic lights would blink yellow before turning green. I asked a local why, and he said it was to allow drivers waiting at the light to shift into gear.
By the time the light turned green, everybody was ready and not a second of green was wasted.
From Jeanne C. Nash, Oakton:
While traveling in Canada I learned they have a law that all cars manufactured and sold in Canada must have the headlights wired to the ignition, so when the engine is running, the lights are on.
This would be much more effective than our law requiring the headlights to be on when the windshield wipers are used. They would be on all the time the car is in use, and you could get rid of that law. Doesn't this make sense?
From Peter Laine, Fairfax:
Things I liked from abroad:
(1) Mandatory ignition turnoff for vehicles stopped at city traffic signals, to ease pollution (Switzerland);
(2) Traffic lights that have the green blink slowly three times before changing to yellow (Austria).
From George A. Tralka, Vienna:
While in Curitiba, Brazil, last year, I noticed speed bumps everywhere, and they WORK. Curitiba is about the size of the D.C. area. The speed bumps slowed down buses, autos and trucks without any noticeable disruption of traffic.
We should have more of them here.
From Bruce K. Nivens, Clifton:
In downtown Seoul, Korea, lane markings are observed until a certain level of congestion occurs, and then drivers begin filling in the gaps. During rush hour it was normal to see four to five lanes of cars driving abreast on a road marked for three lanes. I saw cars so close that their mirrors were touching.
Don't get me wrong, though. Even with all this the Koreans were very competent drivers. The prevailing attitude on the road was "We're all in this together. I've got to get where I'm going, and so do you."
From Tom Mills, Springfield:
In Japan, drivers will switch to parking lights (versus just keeping their headlights on) at stop lights. I thought that was extremely considerate--all too often we can be blinded by the person on the opposite side of the light who has their bright lights on.
From Christopher Turk, McLean:
In the United Kingdom and Ireland, they have "roundabouts," or traffic circles. They were created to avoid having an intersection, and they have few traffic lights. They keep traffic flowing, with those wanting to enter yielding to those already in the circle.
Here we have Dupont Circle, Thomas Circle, etc., that have numerous traffic lights. They constrict, rather than promote, traffic flow. Have you ever tried driving around Dupont Circle? It takes forever with all the unsynchronized lights. Why bother with circles if we don't use them properly?
Dr. Gridlock's assistant, Jessica Medinger, contributed to this column.
Dr. Gridlock appears Monday in the Metro section and Wednesday in Prince William Extra. You can write to Dr. Gridlock, P.O. Box 3467, Fairfax, Va. 22038-3467, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. The doctor's fax number is 703-352-3908. Please include your full name, address and day and evening phone numbers.