Driving Oddities in Vancouver

If you are from other parts of the world, or even other parts of Canada, you will find Vancouverites a strange bunch of drivers.

When I first came to Vancouver I had inherited a set of aggressive driving tendencies from elsewhere in urban Canada.

Therefore it came as a shock when trying to pressure Vancouver drivers to hurry up; it actually confused them and they slowed down.  There seems to be a certain disinterest in driving.  Clouds?  Imaginary friends?  I could not tell what was distracting Vancouver drivers.  With the advent of cell phones, the distraction became directly observable.  If you see a Vancouver driver with a cell phone, assume they have no idea you are there; you could approach them in a car the size of the Enterprise – at warp speed and Red Alert – and they’d not know you were there.

For maximum comedy, watch how people do 4-way stops in Vancouver.  Just to be sure, I looked up the official rules for British Columbia.  Basically, assuming the intersection is safe to proceed into:

  • The first vehicle at the intersection that comes to a complete stop goes first.
  • If two or more vehicles arrive at the same time, the one on the right goes first.
  • If two vehicles are facing each other, and have arrived at roughly the same time, the one turning a left turn must let the one going straight go through.

In Vancouver, drivers don’t know if they have come to a complete stop, nor do they know if the other cars have come to a stop.  No one seems to know right from left.  Some try to sluff through: a kind of hesitating stop that seems to say: “Hey. I don’t really want to stop; will you let me go?”  There’s also seems to be a size rule.  If I’m driving a really expensive Range Rover and am on my cell phone, I might as well go because the other pipsqueak cars would not possibly want to challenge me.

What totally makes me mental in Vancouver are left hand turns at advance greens.  In Toronto – at least the last time I drove there – it felt like you could put 27 cars through on a good advance green.  However, in Vancouver, the first person at the left green arrow seems to be, at first, shocked that they are first in line.  Then it seems that they’ve forgotten where the steering wheel and gas pedal are.  They proceed slowly into the intersection after what seems like enough time to finish a text message on the cell phone.

By the standards of the rest of the world, pedestrians in Vancouver are insane.  When driving in Vancouver assume that pedestrians have right of way at any intersection not controlled by traffic lights.  Further assume they will exercise this right at anytime without looking.  Most aren’t insane enough to try this on busy thoroughfares, but on the side streets, be sure of it.  One variation on the pedestrian rule is bin divers (they collect returnable bottles).  These folks will cross the road at any place at any time, assuming their shopping carts full of stuff will protect them.

But where Vancouver driving really confuses me is how good they are at merging.  The Lion’s Gate Bridge routinely – when coming from West Vancouver or North Vancouver – merges 4 or 5 lanes into one.  It’s slow, but everyone seems to follow a basic rule.  Let one in; Go.  Let one in; Go.  It is so predictable way that it’s amazing.

If you go over the Lion’s Gate, sneak a look at the view, even if you are driving.

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