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Journeys : June July 2009
Life on the move The driving style in these parts is aggressive, fast and lawless. Drivers tailgate and blast the horn at drivers who slow down, observe the speed limit, pause to read a sign or look both ways before turning. Road rules are advisory only and using indicators is optional. Hazard lights are the most frequentlyused signal. It’s commonplace to see parked cars, hazard lights flashing, blocking a lane of traffic (sometimes on the wrong side of the road) while drivers nip into nearby shops. Pedestrian crossings, loading zones, and in a pinch, pavements, are all parking spaces. Precedence works differently there. Right of way isn’t given – it is renegotiated at every intersection and pedestrian crossing. The trick for pedestrians is to catch the driver’s eye and step purposefully onto the road. This is perfectly safe – no car will actually run anyone down and the motorcyclists will weave delicately and deftly around. Pedestrians don’t often use their designated crossings, but when they do, only tourists stop for them. Indeed, any driver wanting to feel loved has only to drive around giving way to pedestrians and other vehicles. Jaws drop in stunned amazement to be followed by smiles and friendly waves. They drive fast and it is terrifying. Countless times, drivers of all ages and both sexes, come hurtling around mountain bends on the wrong side of the road, screaming to a halt just in front of us. Drivers’ confidence in their reflexes and ability to stop in time is total. Brakes are used hard, fast and often. Drivers park in impossibly small gaps and have excellent judgement regarding space, speed and distance. Undeniably, these French drivers are skilled. On the Calanques massif, Provence, France narrowest mountain roads, deference is best. Stop, let the oncoming vehicle take control and manoeuvre past. Such humble good sense is warmly acknowledged. The natives truly appreciate tourists who know their limitations! There are exceptions to this general lawlessness. Autoroutes have a speed limit of 70 km/h for heavy vehicles and they keep to it, thereby creating a convenient slow lane. A quirk of motoring in the French hills is the status granted to cyclists. They are a protected species, never endangered and never tooted, even those who make absolutely no effort to move aside and let cars pass. An unforgettable sight is the portly, lycraclad middle-aged cyclist, pedalling slowly, mobile phone to his ear, with a line of cars crawling patiently behind him. Remarkably, there is enormous toleration in the midst of all this skilled banditry. We see not one example of road-rage. Everyone behaves the same way because the traffic has its own logic, dictated by the lack of space. Towns pre-date the motor car by centuries, roads carry a volume of traffic never originally imagined, off-street parking is scarce and everything – driving, manoeuvring and parking – happens in limited space. It affects everyone who drives there for any length of time. In fact, it’s a bit creepy the way the Australian driver soon becomes ... well, French. On our return to Australia, we are amused to see our local newspaper packed with articles and letters complaining about traffic flow, car numbers, parking spaces and street access. They have no idea! Pickles Auctions For real peace of mind, purchase an RACT roadworthy inspected vehicle. Government & Fleet vehicle auction Fixed Price Sales Saturday 9am to 2pm and Monday 8am to 4.30pm 56 Sunderland Street, Derwent ParK 7009 Ph: (03) 6108 8444 June / July 09 35 See your local paper every Saturday for over 80 vehicles. Or for a detailed listing and photographs of vehicles visit our website. www.pickles.com.au
April May 2009
August September 2009