When one visits another country, there are so many new things to absorb that we often miss what is under our feet. What do you think of the highways here so far? And American drivers?
One of my relatives is living in Stuttgart and has travelled to France. He reported that French super highways are really great but are so expensive to drive on that the locals never use them. Could you confirm that impression?
I also suspect you think gas prices here are very low. We travelled to the U.K. last year and while gas (petrol) prices were twice what they were here, the cost of gas and car rental was the least of our expenses on the trip, as is nearly always the case.
Not everything is new to me in the US: I first went in this country around 1984. And I lived for six months in New York City in 1987. I am always happy to return to the States even if there are places that attract me more than others.
This time, I was on a trip that was part business, part leisure.
Unlike many Americans, I am lot interested in cars, driving, roads, etc. To me a motor vehicle may be a means, but it is definitely not an objective. I rented a car when in Las Vegas, and was very happy I did, as it allowed me to escape easily from the casinos on the strip. I did not drive much, maybe around 150 miles in a week.
Driving in the US, for a European, needs some attention, especially when getting back to it, to check for traffic lights. In Europe and Asia, traffic lights are on the side of the road where you have to stop. In the Americas, they are on the other side. The typical European driver in the US would go half way through a cross roads, then realize in a panic he is facing a red light, and stop right in the middle of the crossroads in front of the light.
Besides this, driving is the US is orderly (positive) and slow (negative). Generally signs are easy and clear, exempt for street names that are not always visible. City limits are often poorly marked. If I have a remark to make about highways in the US, it would be that there way too many highways, they are way too wide, and tar covers way too much earth. It is just the consequence of the car-centric oil-addict model.
Comparing with Europe. Most highways are free in the US, whereas they are toll roads as soon as you get out of cities in most European countries (UK and Germany are exceptions). Tourists may find French highways expensive, but 99% of drivers use them, either daily for commuting or on long distance trips. Also highways are much safer, and better maintained than regular roads. Obviously, they are much faster too.
Another comparison with Marseille rather than a generality about Europe. Here there is very little law enforcement, which means I can drive any way, at almost any speed, zigzag whenever I want, and park just anywhere without paying any attention to it. In the US, I feel I have to respect rules, or I will be caught instantly.
Yes, gas prices are low in the US, which just an incentive to use more oil, and feed even more the car-centric oil-addict model I talked about earlier. Here, gas prices are higher, essentially made up of taxes, which represent a sizable source of revenue for governments. High oil prices is to be seen as an incentive to use public transportation. I did not check gas prices during this trip, as I was sold a full tank of oil when renting the car, and had to return it empty. Of course, I did not drive enough to empty the tank, so the rental company made this extra benefit on me.
After Vegas, I was happy to be in New York city, with a lot less traffic in Manhattan than on the Strip in Vegas. I was so happy to be able to travel by the fantastic NY subway system, one of the best in the world!
Interesting observations, Marseil. I never heard anyone complain that our roads were too wide. But we do still a lot of land that is not paved over yet. And I'm sure Americans would disagree that our gas is cheap. I remember when a gallon was 40-50 cents back in the 1960s. Now it's close to four dollars a gallon. But we are moving to smaller and more fuel efficient cars now, you'll be please to hear. And I'm all for this not only to save money but reduce our dependence on foreign oil which is the root of international problems.
I'm sure I would find France interesting. I've never been anywhere outside the US. In fact, I have not seen most of what's here to see. Guess I should travel more before I'm so old all I can do is sit and rock in a chair at the rest-home.
I don't know how we got on this particular mailing list but we receive a brochure about every two weeks from some outfit that does river and canal cruises in Europe and Asia. No driving required. And from the looks of things, it's the sort of things older folks do.
As a matter of fact, my wife's aunt and uncle were on just such a tour last year. They went to St. Petersburg, Russia. But they travel a lot, much more than we do. But anyway, a lot of the trips sound very interesting, though the ones in Eastern and Central Europe sound the most interesting to me. But I can't get my wife interested in visiting Estonia. Lots of interesting crusader castles to see there.
It is disturbing to realize that toll roads are making a comeback in the United States. Originally, of course, many roads (not quite highways yet) were toll roads. Some of the newer highways and bridges built in the 20th century were also toll roads, usually referred to as turnpikes. Now we might call it privatizing the roads.
I haven't driven much in Europe, all of it confined to either trucks in Germany when I was in the army (stationed in Augsburg) or in the U.K. last year. That was an adventure. It was disappointing that there are hardly any "real" British cars around for ordinary people. Gone are the Triumphs, Austins, Rileys, Rovers, and MGs. We wound up with a Volkswagen van that not only had right-hand drive but a six-speed manual transmission which of course had to be shifted with my left hand. The first half-mile was rough but after than, I was fine. Actually the biggest problem was having so many gears.
The roads in Great Britain were perfectly fine, however, and completely indistinguishable from an American highway. Getting through the small towns was not so easy but not much more difficult than it is here. But even here there are cities with an old center (of town) that has narrow streets. I also had trouble with the roundabouts, but only fron a direction standpoint. Anyway, we survived.
It always looks weird to see a movie or TV show made in Britain where they drive on left-side of the road. You would think after all these years someone would have done a study and determined which is actually better- right-hand drive vs left-hand drive given the confusion, extra-cost and even safety risks of having to switch back and forth as you travel about the world. It would be interesting to know which is most common world-wide. To me right side makes more sense since you can better judge the position of an oncoming car if you see it from the center of the road. And the fact that you use your right hand for shifting gears (in a straight-drive) favors "right"-side drive- unless- ofcourse, you are left-handed!
Nope, there's no logical reason for one over the other. Shifting with the left hand for the increasingly rare manual gearbox is nothing, even with six speeds. You see the oncoming traffic from the side nearest the center of the roadway anyhow, no matter which side you're driving on.
I use to drive on the right in France, continental EUrope, US and a couple other places..... I've been driving on the left in the UK (both with my French car with the driving wheel on the left, and with local cars with the driving wheel on the right), Thailand, Japan, Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand, without any problem. The only risk is when you start early morning in a place with little traffic, and forget where you are. The old habit comes up, and you automatically drive on the right.... until another car comes up, when you realize, sooner or later, that you are on the wrong side. And promptly adjust!
Good old Wikipedia. I'm always amazed at the information you can find there.
I can understand how back when countries were pretty much isolated from each other that different languages, customs and standards would develop but you would think in this modern era of global trade, communications and travel this wouldn't happen- but it does!
When talk about upgrading television to a high definition digital system began back in the 1980s it was said that this was an opportunity to develop a single world-wide standard so equipment and programs could be easily exchanged between countries. So what happen? After years of bickering about which system was best we wound up with four different incompatible DTV standards!
It was then I realized that politics and chauvinism has more to do with developing standards than technical proficiency.
There are some people I understand perfectly and I still don't trust them. It isn't necessarily a case of not believing them, it's more of a case of not agreeing with them. There's more to getting along with people than understanding them.