This is an ever-evolving story of a girl writer and her two greatest loves, the movies and travel. As she hikes the trenches of Hollywood, you're brought along for the ride.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

L.A. Road Rules: Navigating The Roads Of An Urban Jungle

This week, someone actually set up a poker table in the slow lane of an L.A. Freeway.  Since traffic had come to an hours-long standstill, might as well play some Texas Hold 'Em, right?
#Only in L.A.

This week, a dear friend of mine is coming out to visit.  She's never been to L.A. and is understandably nervous about "the driving situation. "

It reminds me of when I first moved here. Before GPS or even Google Maps, I spent my first few months driving around L.A. with a "Streetwise L.A." laminated map of the freeway system attached to my steering wheel and a trusty Thomas Guide in the backseat.  The car (a bright blue Chevy Cavalier) is long gone, but the original laminated map (and Thomas Guide) I still have.

Driving in L.A. is not an American Graffiti joy ride for anyone. The web of freeways is hard to configure, everything is horrendously spread out, and public transportation is generally not a convenient or realistic option.

I've learned a lot since during those first few years in L.A.  Based on experience, I've come up with a list of L.A. Road Rules that may prove helpful-- especially if you just moved here OR you're just visiting, like my friend.

L.A. Road Rules

1. Pedestrians have the right-of-way.
Those little blinking orange lights on the street (or subtle beeping noises you hear) along major streets mean something. I came close to hitting a pedestrian along Sunset Blvd. because I didn't know this (and I barely saw him in time.)

2. Out-of-state plates make you a sucker.
Once, while waiting to turn right, an impatient driver swerved around me and yelled: "Go Back to Nebraska!" I was waiting for a pedestrian to cross the street--guess that makes me the dumb ass, out-of-stater.

3. When changing lanes, flipping on your turn signal is no guarantee. Waiting patiently and being polite will get you nowhere. In L.A., alert other drivers, see that you're safe to move, and start to force yourself into the other lane inch by inch-by-inch until the car behind you has no other choice but to let you in.

4. Buckle up. It's the law. And if you see an LAPD cruiser at a stoplight on the one day you're not wearing your seatbelt, no quick move will save you-- that will be the day the officer will pull you over and give you the "shame on you/you should know better" speech and a sizable ticket.

5. Beware of Red Light Districts. I'm not talking about prostitution, I'm talking about cameras hovering above major intersections to capture red light runners. You don't want to be that person getting a sketchy photo in the mail of your vehicle "beating the red" and a bill.
 The red light cameras have become less of an issue now that people have fought against their legitimacy and accuracy, but I'd still approach with caution.  People still run red lights ALL THE TIME.  ( See #6 below)

6. When there's a Green Alert... Pause. It's not a green light, it's a green alert. Give yourself 10-15 seconds before proceeding and be watchful. There are always two (sometimes three) oncoming cars that will run the red light when they most certainly should've stopped. I once had someone race through a solid red and slam into me. It wasn't pretty.  My car was totaled one week after I'd made my last payment on it.  More importantly, I could've died.  If you don't want an accident to change the course of your day (or life), heed this warning--especially in L.A.

7. Don't rely on GPS. Sure, it's convenient--but don't get lazy. You should have a reasonable idea of where you're going before you step behind the wheel. Just because the computerized voice tells you to turn left at the next intersection doesn't mean you have to (or necessarily should.) If all else fails, shut off the GPS, pull over and throw open your old Thomas Bros. Guide. I know it's the digital age and all, but a hard copy of an old Thomas Bros. Guide will never fail you.

8. There is no good time for the 405 Freeway. Period. It sucks. Luckily I don't drive on it often--nor should you--unless you must. In that case, I pity you with every fiber of my being.

9. No one knows how to drive in the rain. It's a well known fact. Give us some snow like the rest of the nation and the whole city would shut down. For days.

10. Be careful out there. It's California. You will eventually have an accident, even if you've always had a perfect driving record prior to being here (as I did.) That accident will come on a day when you least expect it and it will come on the most inconvenient day imaginable. There are drivers who are: high, wasted, uninsured or unlicensed, texting while driving, on their phones, doing crossword puzzles or reading. Look around you and honest to God, you'll see it. People are crazy. You are sharing the road with them. Be prepared for that.

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©2014 by Kendra Liedle
Image credit: Smaddy/
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