By on February 24, 2007

intraffic22.jpgNew York City boasts the highest concentration of gargantuan rear wheel drive V8-powered cars in the country, 99% of which sit on Ford’s Panther platform. Still, in layout and public transit it may be the most European city in the U.S. But there’s nothing European about the way people drive in the city’s five boroughs. It’s like the Matrix – you can’t really be told what it is, you have to see it for yourself to understand. Let’s start with the rules.

Forget everything you know about driving. There are only three rules for driving in New York. First, don’t block the box. Second, no Lena horn. And third, don’t hit anyone or anything.

Almost every single New York City intersection is what military strategists call a “choke point.” A driver who blocks the box (i.e. intersection) literally throttles The Big Apple’s traffic flow. If even one more vehicle joins a box blocking joik inside the intersection, the entire system can grid lock and die. Even the most selfish NYC driver understands that such boorish behavior is temporal suicide.

To keep the arteries flowing, the City fathers never signed on to the Fed’s gas-saving “right turn on red” rule. To help raise revenues and maintain the box’ status as hallowed ground, these same civic-minded ladies and gentlemen approved an explosion of red light cameras. The cameras are dumber than [insert celebrity debutard], but they’re not as stupid as drivers who feel free to box clever.

While the soundtrack to any Manhattan-based movie wouldn’t be complete without a distant cacophony of honking car horns, most boroughs punish the practice with a $200+ fine. By law, anyone who sounds their horn can only do so if there’s a “safety” issue involved. As there’s always a safety issue involved, few people bother. The streets of the City are a lot quieter than you’d imagine.

As for avoiding crashes, well, that’s a universal. New York City drivers are as good as any at avoiding physical contact. And better than most at swearing when it does occur.

So them’s the rules. Otherwise, normal driving conventions– signaling, checking blind spots, maintaining lane discipline, etc.– are strictly optional. Drivers feel free to make u-turns across six lanes of traffic without warning. Taxis are happy to stop in the middle of a moving lane of traffic to let out a passenger. While there’s a citywide speed limit of 30, breaking 40mph is practically impossible. But hey, go for it. City drivers do.

When you're done, good luck parking. Unlike Los Angeles, where most retailers provide some kind of proximate car stashing option, Manhattan parking offers drivers a stark choice. They can pull in to a private garage and submit to usurious rates (how does $8.50 per half hour sound) and long waits for both drop-off and pickup. Or they can park on the street.

Once you’ve found the Holy Grail known as a legal parking space, you inherit a financial dependent known as a parking meter. Although “feeding the meter” (paying the City to remain past the legal limit) is illegal, at least it’s an accepted social excuse. Oh really? How fascinating! Hold on to that thought; I’ve got to feed the meter.

Of course, a lot of folks just double park. Or triple park. Sure, tickets are expensive. But the more people break the law, the harder it is for the parking attendants to enforce. This causes seriously gnarled traffic, as cars switch lanes without notice (or turn signals) lest they be stuck behind the double parked vehicle of someone picking up their dry cleaning.

To prevent drivers from monopolizing parking spaces, the City cleans the streets daily, in an alternating pattern. For an hour and a half, cars cannot be parked on the odd or even side of the street. The entire block’s worth of cars on the “wrong” side will double park along the permitted side, so that the street cleaning machine can get through and they can avoid a ticket.

The result is two columns of cars, parked inches from one another. Owners of legally parked cars in the inner column are trapped for an hour and a half– at least. It’s a daily practice, an accepted way of life and completely insane.

To ease congestion and improve parking, the City’s considered a congestion tax a la London, restricting access to heavily-trafficked midtown Manhattan during the day, and routing restrictions (limiting where turns can be made, for example). If enacted, none of these measures would provide the slightest deterrence.

New Yorkers who drive already do so in spite of a pedestrian-friendly city, a world class (in efficiency, not cleanliness) public transit system, and enough hire cars to keep Ford’s Crown Vic line humming for another three decades. And hey, they’re New Yorkers. YOU try telling them to leave their car at home. Get the picture?   

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66 Comments on “The Big Apple’s Rules of the Road...”


  • avatar
    mark06902

    Every time I go into the city (probably heading in tonight as well) I’m amazed by the number of near misses. Especially the near misses in the crosswalks. If you multiply out the number of pedestrians and vehicles frantically going every which way, its truly amazing that vehicular manslaughter is not committed on an hourly basis.

  • avatar
    bythehour

    I wish I read this BEFORE I started travelling to the Big Apple regularly for work.

    One thing that still throws me off when driving (or riding in the back of a yeller cab) – the onus is on the adjacent driver or pedestrian to avoid incoming traffic.

    I rarely see cars slow/brake for jaywalking pedestrians. I have seen cars SPEED UP for peds in the way!

    Similarly, changing lanes is laughable. The question is not whether the driver can merge safely; it’s whether the adjacent car can stop in time!

    I love New York!

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    Yep, yielding to pedestrians is a joke in Manhattan. Especially on the bigger streets – 5th Ave, anywhere around Lincoln Center or the 72nd street intersection of Amsterdam and B’way, the entirety of 125th street.

    I think Times Square is actually pretty well controlled for pedestrians now because there are so so many police frequently directing traffic. What do you guys think are some good/bad areas for pedestrians and cars?

  • avatar
    chanman

    Sonuva… And I thought Rome and Shanghai were bad.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    To me the most important thing of note about NYC is the usage of mass transit by most commuters. There’s no way our premier city could work otherwise.

  • avatar
    DrBiggly

    As someone who has driven in most of the major East Coast areas and midwest, NYC was a different experience. Stoplights ruled all, while lane anarchy was how things got done. It took not very long of studying how folks reacted to situations to realize that things were different here. Conform to their patterns and you cause no harm. I believe that the largest mistake that folks make when travelling to other areas of the country is believing that the rules of the road are the same. While on paper this may be somewhat true, in practice it is far from it as this article plainly points out. If only more drivers would actually pay attention to what is around them and adapt, perhaps some of the ridiculous ‘well the drivers from ____ are the *worst* ‘ statements would fade out.

  • avatar
    dolo54

    I drive in nyc every day. I love it, it’s extremely entertaining. There’s only one place I won’t drive, midtown, any time before 11pm, any day of the week. You will spend a half and hour per block. Seriously walking is faster. I also have to switch my car to the other side of the street 4 times a week. It’s actually not as bad as it sounds. But you do have to know that if you’re going to need your car in the 2 hours everybody’s double parked you will want to park on the side that gets cleaned that day.

  • avatar
    Some Jerk

    I moved from the west coast to queens, and I get frustrated whenever get behind the wheel back home. Even with ‘right on red’, other cities seem to me now to be full of people for whom time does not equal money. Merge like a zipper, people, not passive agressively…

  • avatar
    dhoffma

    some other things to remember when you get here:

    1. In Mid-town, always remember that pedestrians do NOT pay any attention to traffic lights, intersections or curbs. Whe I started worked on Fifth Avenue, I was told that traffic lights are merely suggestions
    2. Tourists, especially from LA actually create hazardous conditions by blocking intersections waiting for green lights and looking at the Empire State Building.
    3. Often the bicycles, pedicabs and horses come from any direction they wish with sometimes deadly results
    4. The rules differ in each of the boroughs, so don’t even think of jaywalking in Brooklyn or Queens

  • avatar
    pk

    Gentlemen, most of you sound a bit like inflexible p*****s.

    What’s good for the Midwest and suburbs, might not be good for NYC. Road rules were made to keep accidents from happening, for traffic to flow efficiently, and sometimes for giving a little money to the city.

    “Be alert,” “nose first goes first,” “don’t stop the flow,” and the good old Italian rule, “ignore whatever is behind yor shoulder, unless it’s a bicycle, a Ferrari (Italy) or an emergency vehicle (NYC),” keep traffic flowing perfectly and driver’s minds young.

    Driving in NYC demands a reasonable level of skill, flexibility, and responsibility, something not often required and therefore mostly absent in the general public in other parts of the country.

    So, don’t complain, adapt. It’s just another challenge to be mastered, like a snowy mountain road or a track. As long as you are quick and careful.

  • avatar
    allen5h

    I grew up in the LES of manhattan, in a carless household. (I purchased my first car without a license and without knowing how to drive when I was 20. Stick shift.) Mass transit in NYC is so convenient and so well laid out that all of its positives outweigh its negatives in this city. The hallowed stairs that lead to the underground tracks of the IND (Independent) “F” was our best friend, just around the corner from our tenament railroad apt on E. Broadway. On the corner of E. Broadway and Pike was the number nine! number nine! number nine! bus stop. This bus would drop us off within two blocks of our church on sundays.

    I had two uncles who also lived in the LES, with cars. I didn’t realize it then, but life must have been a big PITA for them with their cars. My cousins from the LES pretty much grew up subway illiterate, but my cousins in Brooklyn (no cars) grew up ok.

    I remember how I felt about my uncle’s mid 60′s Galaxy 500 4 dr; it was the coolest car on Earth.

    Great, fun place to grow up in, but wouldn’t want to live there.

    (I know, I know, but I was living in Houston, TX when I purchased my first car. Useless mass transit, so I had to do something.)

  • avatar
    rtz

    NYC’s finest on a little bike ride through the city…

  • avatar
    charleywhiskey

    Driving in Paris is similar, but without the burden of those three rules.

  • avatar

    I’ve bicycled from Seattle to boston, in Boston, and in Paris, but I don’t think you could pay me enough to drag with those guys in NYC. That was an interesting vicarious thrill.

  • avatar
    NoneMoreBlack

    A congestion tax will, in fact, create (/add to) a disincentive to drive, and reduce traffic, regardless of how New Yorkers feel about it.

  • avatar
    blue adidas

    Owning a car here is more trouble than it’s worth sometimes. I keep my car garaged and usually only take it out on weekends. Within the city, I take cabs and the subway. Think about this… you pay for the car, you pay to insure the car (think $3000 per year) then you pay to garage the car ($450/month) and then you pay to replace the rims at least once per year because of potholes. I do wish that street parking cost more and that non-resident parking was increased so that it would deter people from northern NJ from visiting in their Hummers.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    NoneMoreBlack
    I think the disincentive to drive in Manhattan is already so high that a congestion tax isn’t going to be what tips the scales. A study last year by the borough of Queens found that 90% of people who drive into Manhattan have alternative forms of transportation, yet choose not to do it in spite of costs on the table now.

    As it is, the most popular entry points into NYC (George Washington Bridge, Lincoln Tunnel, Holland Tunnel, Queens-Midtown Tunnel) cost money in both directions, up to $12 a day already. Add to that parking, which fits into 4 categories – meter, reserved garage space, per diem garage space, and free side street parking. The costs of metered and garage parking are already astronomical (garages in midtown manhattan, which would be the area most affected by a congestion tax, charge upwards for $400/month). Areas that offer free street parking are outside the zone that would be taxed.

    Congestion taxes not only won’t do much for deterring driving to and from Manhattan, but they’re politically dead in the water.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    The funny thing about transportation in NYC, is that the folks who have it the worst off are those that don’t live there.

    The four arteries you mentioned are literal crawls for hours on end during the mornings and evenings. I’ve seen some pretty bad snarls in Atlanta (home of the longest commuting time in the US). But at least with all the long distances involved you we least have the illusion of progress and movement in Atlanta.

    In New York, driving is sometimes measured in inches and the wait can be hours. It’s worse in other areas of the world (Rio, Mexico City, Bombay) but NYC is probably the most challenging place to be in a rush hour commute in the USA.

  • avatar
    ejacobs

    I’ll never forget riding in a cab one day in Manhattan with Santa Claus’s bastard cousin behind the wheel. He was going well over 30 miles per hour in the Crown Vic when the hood flew up, blinding us all. He cursed under his breath and calmly pulled over to get out and close it. I looked into the back seat at my friends with an absolute dead-pan face and wide eyes, which was matched by theirs. Then I looked straight ahead again and we continued on our way.

  • avatar
    Seth

    You know if you replaced NYC in the above article and comments with Toronto, it would still be dead on. I am sick of commuting for hour and half to cover 30 miles. Only solution is to find something close to home or in downtown (I hate subway but still beats the traffic snarls).

  • avatar
    Andy D

    It has been 30 years since I last drove in Manhattan. When did the no horn rule happen? It sure wasnt in effect in 1977. If you werent half way through an intersection the micro second after the light turned green,you were honked at by the vehicle behind you. In Bawston, such behavior rates a finger gesture.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    The no horn rule is something that’s not enforced very consistently. There have been times where I was stopped at an intersection due to a traffic officer directing traffic and I had some irate cabbie leaning on his horn behind me, and he received no ticket, not even an angry glare from the traffic officer.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    I LOVE driving in New York. I used to take my old bosses 9284S up and down the island for him to keep the battery from dying (he never drove it).

    Just go. That’s the trick.

    However, there are pitfalls.

    Once, with my father and my sister in a rental car, a column of cars with sirens blaring came up behind us. My father, who is from Montreal, did the worst thing he could have done. He found the only parking spot for 8-blocks and pulled over to let the cars pass. Wrong answer.

    A delivery van squirted between the ambulance and the squad car and removed our Oldsmobile’s rear view and part of the door.

    Pops called the rental company. We HAD to file a police report there, in the city. Let’s just put it this way, the sign says, “Welcome to the 14th Precinct, the busiest police precinct in the world.” for a reason.

    Also, a good friend of mine was mowed down by an asshole taxi driver and cracked her head pretty good. She’s fine now, but… we didn’t like that.

  • avatar

    I’ve only driven in NYC once. That was enough.

    –chuck

  • avatar
    210delray

    I really don’t mind driving in NYC most of the time; it’s easier than on some busy freeways.

    But there was the time it took 2 hours to go 17 miles!

  • avatar
    GeeDashOff

    At least the lights are well timed.

    Driving in NYC isn’t too bad. Driving in Boston sucks.

  • avatar
    pb35

    I grew up in the metropolitan area too. I got out of there about 18 mos. ago after 7 years in the city. We decided to bring our car in from the suburbs after 9/11 just in case we needed to make a quick exit. Luckily, I never needed it for those purposes but it was invaluable for our escape during the blackout. I had to pay “only” $240/mo for parking in the Village as my lot was subsidized by my employer. Then there was the $25 “tip” for the garage guys so I could park/lock/cover it. Only in NY!

    I agree with all of the posts so far. I found that the biggest challenge was avoiding potholes. Hit one of those and we are talking some $$ for new tires/rims/aluminum suspension components.

    One time I brought our car to the dealer for service and they gave me a totally clapped-out G35 with dents and this wild pinstriping for a loaner. I drove it down 2nd ave like a yellow cab; other drivers can totally sense if you don’t care about your sheetmetal. It was fun but I would never do that with my own car.

    “Just go!”

  • avatar

    I don’t particularly like driving on NYC city streets, but I love the West Side Highway, the Henry Hudson, and the FDR.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    But there was the time it took 2 hours to go 17 miles!

    It always takes two hours to go anywhere in the city.

  • avatar
    dmw

    Having recently left NYC for the DC area, I am certain that its safer driving in NY. People in NY pay attention to what they are doing and take every moment in motion seriously. They have to because indecision or distraction can cause instant disaster. Down here, most people drive like they are in the empty parking lot where they learned to drive in driver’s ed — oblivious to what’s around them. Thus, when you see the latte plus cellphone situation ahead of you, youre following an unguided missle. Stay clear.

  • avatar

    I drive in Manhattan every day for the last 16 years, I’m so used to it that I find it amusing to read about it just to realize how weird must it sound to other people.
    One thing is missing in this article, the potholes and the general condition of the roads, it looks more like one big patch of asphalt, it takes practice to learn how to avoid some of the big ones if you follow the same rout every day, some can easily break suspension of a normal car, it might be a good reason why many drive SUV’s.
    It’s a common thing to see a yellow cab stuck with one front wheel off its ball joint, it’s like driving a Crown Vic on dirt road 24 hours a day.
    And one more thing, you never make a turn into a street b-4 looking for clearance, if you see a garbage truck in the block, just continue to the next one, otherwise you might add up to15 min to your trip waiting for it to move.
    I LOVE NYC !

  • avatar
    210delray

    dror, you have a very good point about the condition of the streets — they are pretty bad. It’s probably true that an off-road vehicle makes more sense in NYC than just about anywhere else in the US (unless you live on a mountain top or somewhere well off the beaten path) — just don’t get one that’s too big.

    The cars really take a beating — the bumpers are typically all scuffed up, and the wheels have curb rash from the tight parallel parking.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    You don’t need an off-road vehicle, just don’t buy low-profile tires. I had an Impreza that I drove fearlessly through the city, attacking potholes that would have SUV drivers making wide swerves just to avoid. This was on 55-series tires, and I’ve never had a problem, not even a bent control arm.

    The bumpers are inevitable. Most people will buy rubber bumper strips to help protect the paint. For curb rash, a good set of steelies will do.

  • avatar
    Terry Parkhurst

    Whenever I meet someone who tells me that they lived in New York City for any appreciable period of time, I have the same respect for them I do for someone who tells me he was a Vietnam combat veteran. This article certainly tells some of why that is true. Of course, there’s the crime and the notion that someone may push you in front of a speeding subway train for your wallet; but that’s another story.

    I had dinner in January with a lady named Marg Meyers who works for Volvo Group North America (medium duty trucks, powertrains and heavy equipment). She lives in New Jersey now and commutes to New York. That’s a big of a nightmare at times, but less so than something else she told me.

    “I was walking in a crosswalk one time, with the light, and all of a sudden, a car hits me,” she recalled. “It was just like a movie. I was up on the hood of the car and then off it. ”

    Amazingly, she lived but “was sore for weeks.” It was one reason she decided to leave the Big Apple.

    People tell me that New York is a vibrant, exciting place. To my mind, it is just a shithole. The sad thing is I live in a city whose mayor says he wants to make it “a vibrant, world class city.” (Seattle, where the battle over whether to tear down a highway viaduct which is a major highway through the city and replace it with a four lane tunnel; or just tear it down and do nothing, has achieved monumental proportions. Apparently, no one ever heard Groucho Marx when he said to Chico, in the movie “Duck Soup” to “try crossing the road with a chicken and you’ll know why a duck.”)

    Oh, oh, might be time to move. Maybe Montana might work.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    You know if you replaced NYC in the above article and comments with Toronto, it would still be dead on. I am sick of commuting for hour and half to cover 30 miles. Only solution is to find something close to home or in downtown (I hate subway but still beats the traffic snarls).

    Seth:

    I lived just north of Santa Rosa, CA for a little over a year. I had a 7 mile commute from my home to work, approximately 5 miles on the 101 freeway. If I was lucky and the traffic was good I could make it in 1/2 an hour. The 101 is a two lane freeway in a metro area with a population of 200,000 and easily an equal number of people visiting the Sonoma wine region, which meant weekends weren’t much better and in some places were even worse (think out-of-towner whose slightly wasted from tasting wine all day). I will say that the drivers there knew how to merge and were generally more courteous and understanding than the a–h—s in the small city where I live now. However, there are places in SanFrancisco where I would never want to drive again. I had a guy behind me leaning on his horn because I was waiting for a group of people to clear the area in front of the entrance to a parking garage. Red lights also seem to be only a suggestion in SF. The only safe way to enter an intersection on a green light is to watch both ways and floor it so you spend as little time in the intersection as possible; therby, reducing the chances of getting hit by the cross traffic that doesn’t stop for a red light.

  • avatar
    fishiftstick

    When I moved to Manhattan, I kept my car for two weeks then gave it up as hopeless and happily used public transit. When I moved back to Toronto, I went back to the car.

    The difference is the subway. Forget buses; they are way too slow, and however slow traffic gets, buses will always be slower than cars. Also, standing for 10-15 minutes at a bus stop in Toronto in January is no picnic, let me tell you.

    In Manhattan you are never more than a five-ten minute walk from a station. In Toronto, I need two bus rides, about 30-45 minutes, to get to a subway station.

    People use public transit when it’s convenient. That means subways, and subways require high density, like Manhattan.

    If the enviroweenies are right, and cars are not sustainable, then neither are the low population densities prevalent outside city cores. But you can’t zone single family detached homes with maximum 30% lot coverage and then expect people to use public transit.

  • avatar
    partsisparts

    Great article! You hit the nail on the head. As a native NY’er it all seems so normal to me. But the thing I would like to point out is the only cars that seem to survive life as a service car on NY streets these days are the panthers. You see an occasional Japanese car but they are usually falling apart from the pounding. It almost seems like the bolts are comming loose! Ford should use this in their advertisements.
    ” Our cars are the ones that survive!” type of thing. And the fact that most of the cabs and limos have 200,000 plus miles on them should be the real testimonial that maybe the American brands are as good, or even better than the forgein competition.

  • avatar

    quasimondo: !

    I agree about the tires.
    I drive a Mazda 3 hatch with 205-17-50 tires, so far no problems, but I did think about it b-4 I bought the car.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    partsisparts:
    And not just highway 200,000 miles. The most punishing conditions – low speed and stop and go traffic on poor surfaces.

  • avatar
    confused1096

    Driving in New York is a trip. It is the one place I’ve driven where traffic will NOT even think about moving for an 18-wheeler coming into thier lane.

    I had a guy in a little Corolla flipping me the bird yelling “Hit Me!”…to an 80,000 pound truck. Only in NYC.

  • avatar
    allen5h

    The drivers in Chicago are about as civilized as you are gonna get in a big American city. All bets are off in the west side, though. In the crime infested west side, running red lights is what you do if you value your life. Business people with rental cars who get lost in the west side (very easy, getting lost in the west side) sometimes do not come out alive.

  • avatar
    pk

    Rusty old Tercel, Alfa Spider made great tools to combat the yellowcabs up and down the avenues. Just remember to always go a little faster than the rest. Fun.

  • avatar
    Sanman111

    The last time I was home I drove through midtown in the morning. While driving, I was cut-off by a car that then made a right turn on red from the left lane. The kicker being that I was driving a Honda Civic and he was driving a Bentley GT Coupe. Now that only happens in NYC. Of course, being the life long NYer that I am, I would have loved to have hit the pr*ck instead of stopping time, except the civic was a friend’s car. If I had my car, he would have gotten hit.

  • avatar
    fellswoop

    In the many times I’ve driven & rode in NYC traffic(1), I’ve found it easier than in Boston: better signage & lane demarcation, larger capacity streets laid out more logically, and a higer percentage of committed & seasoned urban drivers.

    Because mass transit in to and around Boston isn’t anywhere near as comprehensive as in NYC area, traffic issues stem from hordes of less-adept non-urban drivers clogging poorly maintained and demarcated roads that were largely laid out before anyone thought about the concept of mass transit, unlike NYC’s early 19th century grid system.

    Anyone with compare & contrast on these two?

    (1) Driving IN NYC is different than getting there though…at least on a motorcycle. The road infrastructure approaching NYC from the north has in my experience been pretty challenging.

    Riding a motorcycle into/out of Manhattan has provided me the type of indelible memories that can only be had by those who have seen their concept of the precariousness of life brought into the clear focus of near death.

    Dodging ridiculous road debris (mattresses, chairs, stuff flying off the back of pickuptrucks) and giant potholes approaching at 70-per but obscured by agressively driven SUVs and trucks… If I had to do it on a regular basis, I’d want a paris-dakar worthy dual-sport, not a sportbike.

  • avatar
    fellswoop

    *deleted*. Sompin’ weird with posting, sorry.

  • avatar
    V65Magnafan

    When I drive my family to NYC, neither my son nor my wife will drive there.

    Actually the I learned to drive in NYC, when I was 18, in my dad’s Oldsmobile. My first drive was over the Whitestone Bridge, in a blizzard, and into the Bronx-side merge, which, at that time, had lanes from Queens, The Bronx, and Westchester, about ten lanes, merging into three.

    Dad chickened out–we switched seats in the middle of the merge and drove back to Queens.

    Now, here is the key–the mantra–all you need to know about driving in NYC:

    Here it is:

    No one wants to have an accident.

    The Panther six inches off your left door handle, the Mafia linen truck on your rear bumper, the the idiot from Connecticut (sorry) on the cell phone to his mistress, not one of these people wants to have an accident.

    They may drive as if they want to kill you, but remember, in NYC, time is money. No one has time to stop, So, everyone avoids an accident at all costs.

    Look, it’s like a ballet. Or the Ice Capades, or The Blue Angels. They do not contact one another. Most of the time.

    I survived driving in NYC for years–cars, delivery vans. So, that’s the only thing you need to know–other drivers will avoid hitting you–even though the view from your seat is suicidal and homicidal, it’s very, very safe.

    No one wants to have an accident in NYC. But, I have to tell you: New Yorkers do not know how to drive on limited access highways or country roads.

    Take away street lighting and New Yorkers go blind. Let a New Yorker see a tanker truck coming at him on a country road at a combined speed of 100 mph, and the New Yorker goes catatonic.

    Put a New Yorker on a highway, and he cannot drive fast. They have no concept of passing lanes. They would go absolutely nutz on Toronto’s 427, or Queen Elizabeth Way, or the 401, where at least five lanes of traffic go bumper to bumper at seventy to eighty miles per hour. And, in Toronto, passing on the right is legal.

    (Passing on the right is illegal in NY, but if you don’t, you ain’t gonna get anywhere.)

    Outside NYC, New Yorkers are hopeless, but they are absolutely Olympic Quality on their home turf.

  • avatar
    confused1096

    I can only compare and contrast NYC and Boston from the perspective of a trucker. I thought Boston was much more aggravating.
    Boston tended to have more roads that were extremely difficult to manuever a 70 ft. long truck through. Once I went to a warehouse where the only way to get to it was to go through the trolley tunnel then back out onto the road, the overpasses on the roads were all 12ft. high. I had to hurry. For some reason those guys think they have the right of way on thier tracks!:)

  • avatar
    skor

    A few comments:

    1) Yes, the Panther is bulletproof. The CV, and it’s upscale TC twin, are the only cars that can survive in NYC for any length of time. Those two are at the top of the NYC automotive food chain. American car companies can produce a good car if they are properly motivated, they just don’t seem to be interested anymore.

    2) Most of the congestion in NYC IS NOT caused by people from Jersey. A recent NY DOT study shows that the majority of cars on the road in Manhattan are driven by city residents. It’s people from the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens who are clogging up the roads the same way Rosie O’Donnell clogs up a toilet.

    3) I’ve seen quite a few problems cause by tourists from outside the Metro area with a chip on their shoulder. “Yeah, I’m tough enough to hang with anybody.” No, you’re not. Please go back to whatever inbred red state you blew in from.

    4) The kids in the bike video that rtz posted are nuts, but the winner of the insane-o award goes to the kid riding the fixie.

  • avatar
    nino

    In NYC, you need a car that accelerates well and that stops on a dime. You also have to make decisive moves. Any half-assed action on your part, and you’ll be eaten up alive. Experience and knowing where you’re going are BIG pluses.

    The parking garages aren’t as bad as RF made them out to be. If you pull into one, you’re going to pay $8.50 even if you turn around and go out. But they are also capped by law as to how much they can charge for the day. A four hour parking stay is from $20.00 to $25.00, enough to have dinner and see a show.

    Unless you really have to, driving into the city is really a poor choice. From Long Island, the trains run all the time every 20 minutes.

  • avatar
    nino

    Outside NYC, New Yorkers are hopeless, but they are absolutely Olympic Quality on their home turf.

    While I’m technically not from NYC, I can get my boogie on with the best, on their turf or not.

  • avatar
    nino

    As far as a congestion tax goes, I remember when commercial deliveries were banned during the 8-to-5 work hours (I believe it was during the 1979 gas crisis). If you had commercial plates, you were turned back at any of the entrance points into the city. I thought it worked pretty well as I started doing my deliveries in the evening and had a much better time of it.

    I think if thought through, it can work.

  • avatar
    HEATHROI

    In NYC, you need a car that accelerates well and that stops on a dime.

    any suggestions, nino?

  • avatar
    nino

    In NYC, you need a car that accelerates well and that stops on a dime.

    any suggestions, nino?

    I used to love taking my Focus SVT into Manhattan.

    Someone mentioned a Subaru WRX and I drove in with a friend who had one and it was great.

    Another car that’s a bit underrated but proved suprisingly agile in that enviroment, was a 2004 Honda Accord Coupe with the 6 cylinder, 6 speed manual combination.

    Of course, you have to be prepared that you might get hit and you can’t be timid about driving them, but these were some nice cars for the cut-and-thrust of city driving.

  • avatar

    Driving in the City is equal parts skill, science and artistic license…

    I used to deliver press car to the various NY-based mags and writers…while it is a bit of a relief to be driving someone else’s car the fact remains that you are driving someone else’s car….that dynamic still amuses me.

    I always seemed to be the guy that got the call to do the late afternoon runs into Manhattan (usually on a Friday), maybe it was my familairity with the City or lack of intimidation by it…I have friends that pale at the thought of taking a bus from the Port Authority or riding the subway.

    Mass transportation is the best way in or out, but when it came to driving you best keep your options open and remain flexible. Jersey crossing were constantly changing…and by the time the local AM news coverage relayed the update it was to late…you were stuck. Maybe satellite radio helped since then.

    Once inside the Apple instincts take over. Cabbies like dogs can smell fear….and those who hesitate are lost…close calls are plentiful and you barely have time to recover from one hair-raising, heart-pounding manuever before you need to set up for the next. Traffic is a big ol’ chess game and you need to be thinking three moves ahead…kinda like a running back..when you see a whole – hit it!

    Small and nimble is the way to go! Best rides back in the day I prefered the Mazda RX-7, Toyota Supra (circa 1990), MR-2, Mitsu Eclipse/Eagle Talon/Plymouth Laser, Nissan 300ZX, ….today, I would agree with the Nino’s suggestions above…WRX, SVT…maybe throw in a Dodge SRT-4.

    I miss driving in NYC and when I get back I try to make a NYC run just to keep my reflexes tuned….I took an LA-based coworker to Yankee Stadium in a rental car…he still talks about the trip!

    I have a good story about a Maybach 62 and the Republican National Convention a few years ago….no fun driving that yacht….as I said, nothing beats being nimble in the Big Apple.

    I enjoyed the posts!!!

  • avatar
    rashakor

    I love it. Great write up.

    Another pretty amusing city to drive is the dreaded Mexico City. Mexican innately have the ability to keep the traffic flowing no matter what… And that sum up the only rule to drive in the DF…

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    Like anything else it’s just something you have to get used to. It’s like being cut off by Lambo or Bentley on 495. Interesting read editorial and posts. Just reaffirms my desire to never again work or drive to a city. Give me a twisty country back road anytime and enough space where I can’t even see my neighbor’s house.

  • avatar
    dolo54

    driving in nyc is like going into battle. taxi drivers are your sworn enemies. here is a list of my favorite “dirty tricks” which let me actually get where I’m going:
    - If you need to make a left at the light and there are 30 cars waiting in the left turn lane, just go around them in the right lane then get in front of the first one in the middle of the intersection.

    - The speed limit on the fdr is really just a suggestion. Actually more of an inside joke.

    - If you need to exit at brooklyn bridge on the fdr, do not actually get in the exit lane if there is a line of traffic in it. Wait for the exit to come up and merge into that lane then. Otherwise you will be passed by 100 other drivers doing the same thing.

    - If you are on one side of a multi-lane avenue and need to turn on the opposite side at the light, stay in your lane, put your hazards on at the intersection, wait for the light to start to change and make your turn before opposing traffic starts.

    - Do not ever let a taxi merge in front of you. They will invariably stop to let on/off a passenger as soon as they do.

    - Tailgating rules do not apply. If you don’t tailgate everyone will merge in front of you. Make sure your brakes are in good condition and pay attention. If there is any space in front of you, accelerate into it.

    - On most avenues, the lights are timed, if you go over 30, you will be braking at every intersection like a jackass. For some reason cabbies who drive every day can never seem to figure this out.

    - 30 is just a suggestion, there are certain avenues that you can easily go much faster. You better be able to stop for pedestrians however.

  • avatar
    speedy4500

    Hate to burst your New Yorkers’ ego, but most larger cities are insane to drive in during the day. I’ve [literally] traded paint in Cleveland, Philadelphia, Detroit, NYC of course, and my favorite, Chicago. None of them are particularly easy or relaxing locales through which to pilot a vehicle, and all of them have different “interpretations” of traffic laws.

    Having attended college in Chicago, most of my experience is there. At one point I had a job in one of the western suburbs. During rush hour, the drive from the near south side to Elmhurst (about 17 miles) was considered successful if completed in fewer than 90 minutes. If you managed to hit the road before 6:00 AM, you could do it in about an hour.

    But the real thrill was riding a pedal bicycle around downtown like in that video posted earlier. I never really had any reason in particular to be riding downtown, but I found it such a thrill that I did it anyway. In retrospect, a helmet may have been a good decision, but the 2 CTA buses, a taxi, and a Mitsu Eclipse that hit me on separate occasions were going slow enough that damage was limited. But racing taxis up and down Michigan Ave or just racing from point-to-point with friends was a huge rush and I look back fondly on those experiences. A lot of the knowledge I gained from those days I apply during my city driving: 1) NEVER second guess yourself (aka Trust your instincts!), 2) DO NOT be intimidated by anyone else, 3) CONCENTRATE on the task at hand – getting from A to B safely and in the shortest amount of time possible, and ~4) If you see a “decent” parking spot – TAKE IT! If you drive around some more looking for a better one only to realize that you should have parked at the one earlier, it will be gone when you come around the second time.

  • avatar
    FreeMan

    My grandparents live in mid-town Manhattan (84th & Central Park W), so I’ve had lots of experience in the city visiting.

    My favorite driving memory was a trip from IL to NYC to visit. We pulled out of the tunnel (Lincoln, I think), and proceded to go 1/2 a block. In 2 hours. Needless to say, Dad was a bit miffed.

    I’ve driven there twice myself. There are still finger prints in the armrest from the first trip where my wife was hanging on for dear life. She screamed at me any time anything moved anywhere near close to us. I had to pull over (double parked, of course) and explain to her that this is NYC. That’s how it’s done.

    The second trip was much more calm. She wasn’t as uptight, and really, the traffic seemed much calmer, too. Maybe it’s because it was right before Christmas, and everyone was in a charitable mood. Maybe it’s because she was busy pointing things out to the kids in back…

    I love NYC. Just don’t want to ever, ever, ever live there!

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    Sure driving in Manhattan is an adventure, but try driving in Rome, Athens, or Bombay….then get back with me.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    doctorv8
    You’re right, and you can probably add a few cities to that list – Jakarta in particular – but for most Americans, this is the closest they’ll come to such situations.

    Also, I think the ubiquitous Panther cars does make NYC distinct from many other cities.

  • avatar
    AlanW

    I agree with dolo54 on most points, but i give the sworn enemies award to Town Car drivers. These idiots driving Black Lincoln Town cars drive slow when they’re in front of you, but attempt to draft when they’re behind you.

    Having said that, the one rule to driving in NYC is to make THEM look out for YOU. I learned that from a friend when i first started driving.

  • avatar
    noley

    Driving in the Apple is not too terrible for someone who used to commute into Boston every day. Give me NYC any day.

    I go in there with my NH plates on, so others think I’m a wimp, but I don’t give ground easily. Never a problem.

  • avatar
    Rob B

    I live in NY. I’ve driven in NYC and DC on many occasions. The traffic in any major city in Italy is much worse (especially in Naples) than in NY or DC!

  • avatar
    moto

    Is there any particular reason why NYC doesn’t force the cab companies to drive more compact vehicles — preferably electric or hybrid? Cabs in the UK are a foot smaller in width and length compared to the US equivalent, but far more spacious inside.

    Hell, most days in NYC, a tandem bicycle would take a passenger where he wants to go faster than the thousands of 200+ hp sedans that you see idling in traffic every day. What a waste.

    Sorry, i have to side with draconian measures on this one. If you can afford a $400/month parking rate, you sure as hell can pay for an inner-city car pass. As long as those revenues go directly toward transportation improvements, bike lockers, mass transit, etc, then justice is served.

  • avatar
    civic

    I favor the congestion charge to keep myself from driving to Manhattan. Otherwise, from Brooklyn with 2 people or more, it’s just cheaper (subway=$8 or more round trip) and almost always faster (subway=1.5 hours or more round trip) to drive to Manhattan. Parking on the street takes probably 10-15 minutes on average, unless you’re too close to Times Square or in the LES.

    Of course, the cost-benefit calculation doesn’t include the negative environmental externalities or the increased risk of accidental death, but an adequate congestion charge would solve the problem. And, the state should only be able to use the additional revenue to make public transit (subways but also buses) more efficient.


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