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 Candace L. Jones, Waldorf:
One of the most frustrating driver habits on the Beltway is drivers who travel in the left lane going slower than the current traffic flow, and forcing the traffic to pass on the right.
Drivers on the freeways of Germany and other parts of Europe use the left lane only to pass other cars. Even then the driver moves into the right lane as quickly as possible. I can tell you that if the slower car does not move out of the left lane immediately, it is in danger of being run over.
From Debbi Lawson, Clinton:
I don't know about you, but I have always wondered about the people who act as flagmen on a two-lane road where one lane is closed to construction. They take turns allowing traffic to go by using their "stop" and "slow" signs. They must be bored (and paid).
In Germany, they have two portable traffic lights that they set up at each end of such construction. They are timed so that traffic in each direction is given its turn.
Maybe if our flagmen were freed up to work on repairs, the projects wouldn't take so long.
From Bob Gerard, Bethesda:
In Australia, nobody pulls into an intersection controlled by a traffic light unless they can drive completely through that intersection. In rush hour, drivers sit and wait until they know they can drive through the intersection before ever driving into it, thus ensuring that when the light changes, nobody is sitting in the middle of the intersection, blocking drivers who now have the green light.
You ignore this rule at your peril, for the Australians, bless 'em, are very direct about letting you know you've done wrong.
From Mark Krikorian, District of Columbia:
I was a student in what was then Soviet Armenia in the mid-1980s. I loved every minute, but it wasn't somewhere you'd want to drive--lanes were optional, the traffic police were crooked, and you had to keep your windshield wipers locked in the trunk so they wouldn't be stolen.
But there was one practice we should adopt. On the side of the busy road between Yerevan, the capital, and Etchmiadzin, the home base of the Church, there was a raised platform featuring the result of the latest crash.
The cars, mangled almost beyond recognition, would change frequently, since there were lots of accidents. The theory appeared to be that the sight of the wrecks would persuade at least a few people to slow down.
From Robert B. Zuehlke, Vienna:
An interesting feature of Bangkok, Thailand, traffic jams is the motorcycles weaving their way among stopped cars. You grit your teeth just waiting to hear the scrape of handle bars along your paint, but that rarely happens. When a major light changes, scores of cycles race forward like a mad, motocross race, spitting clouds of black smoke for the cars to enter.
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 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 Merton L. Bland, Arlington:
In answer to your question about what other countries have that we should: In Malaysia, it is against the law to drive while using a cell phone.
From Douglas Puffert, Munich, Germany:
What is noteworthy here is the attention that automobile drivers pay to bicycles and pedestrians before turning or cutting across a bike path or crosswalk. Even when a pedestrian is several steps from a curb, or a cyclist several yards from the crossing, drivers will wait.
This is a result of the extensive driver education here, as well of strict laws. It makes cycling and walking here much less stressful than in metropolitan Washington, D.C.
By the way, as from Arlington, it is possible here to follow established bike trails to Vienna. The difference: In Virginia it takes about an hour; here it takes a few days, and one crosses an international border. One can, however, enjoy fine scenery along the Isar and Danube rivers.
Dr. Gridlock's assistant, Jessica Medinger, contributed to this column.
Dr. Gridlock appears Monday in the Metro section and Thursday in Southern Maryland 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.