Traffic, Driving and Crossing the road, London
If you drive a car into central London (see map) or hire a car, then you are liable to pay Uncle Ken's congestion charge (even if buffon Boris runs the place these days). It operates Monday-Friday in the day and costs TEN QUID a day. (7AM - 6PM)
There are several ways of paying it - so look at the listed website.
Some car hire companies like Easycar collect the charge on your behalf - but you must declare to them the days you use it, or you will face some pretty large fines ; and remember that they have your credit card details.
We drive on the opposite of the road in Canada and I was thankful for the signs at my feet that told me which direction to look for cars. I was always looking the wrong way for the cars. All to often someone grabbed me before stepping out into the traffic because I was looking the wrong way.
If you don't have a great walking stride, prepare yourself for the big walk if you fly United from the USA to London and taking the London Connect to Paddington Station. You get out on gate 49, the last gate in Healthrow and you walk, I say to terminal station 3 where you catch your train, it is a good two miles. Returning is the same, you are the last gate and you go on the walk for what seems for miles. It is one way the Brits are sticking it to the American counterparts. Or course they could use gate 10,15 0r even 20, but no, it is the last gate 49 where we are the only ones leaving at a gate in the terminal 1....all other gates were empty. I took these pictures on my long walk to the gate, at each corridor I rested and took my time walking. You will see how long the walks are and how empty the hall was until I got to gate 49.
Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, the catchy title of the 1992 bestseller by John Gray, succinctly expresses an ancient dilemma. What--if anything--do men's and women's brains do differently?
The general statement that men and women respond and behave differently under the same circumstances is true; For example, from the crib, male babies tend to be more aggressive and females more passive. As adults, in spatial operations, men have the edge in such skills as negotiating a maze, reading a map, and quickly discriminating between right and left. Men also perform better than women when asked to visualize an object and imagine rotating it. On the other hand, women tend to perform better than men when asked to look at objects of different shapes, sizes, and colors, and then to group them in some order.
This still doesn't explian why a woman turns the map all around when a man is asking for the road to travel, while I like the map at one point so I can better visualize our position. Help!
Since Londoners drive on the left side of the road, it's important to make sure you look the right way when crossing the street. Often times you will see directions painted on the street at crossings to remind you to look the right way.
Central London has a Congestion Tax for driving private vehicles. The tax is £8 per day. Neither car rental companies, nor hotels, nor car parks warn you of the tax which must be prepaid or very heavy fines are levied. Should you return to the US unaware of tax or penalty, the fines double every 2 weeks. The City notifies the rental car company who in turn charge you £17.63 per offense to send your data. The city takes another 4-6 weeks to notify you in writing of damages at which time you owe £100. Our total cost for 2 tickets entering and exiting on separate days was over $500.00! No appeal rights are granted on grounds of being uninformed.
You are most likely to encounter 2 kinds of pedestrian crossings in Britain.
1) Zebra. This has black and white stripes across the road (hence the name) and flashing Belisha Beacons. You MUST put your foot onto the crossing to claim right of way. If you merely stand near the crossing drivers are entitled to assume you're just hanging around rather than intending to cross the road.
Drivers are required by law to stop if your foot is on the crossing.
2) Pelican. These are used on busier roads where there might be a large number of pedestrians. In these situations a Zebra Crossing would often jam the traffic. Pelicans are controlled by lights, giving pedestrians and road users an equal chance.
See the Highway Code link for further details of Britain's road rules.
There has been quite a bit of talk this year (2010) about introducing a scheme that has been kicked around for a few years. The idea is to introduce a 'slow lane' for those ambling along Oxford street window shopping (ie tourists) and a 'fast lane' for those who actually want to get anywhere.
With over 100,000 people passing the busiest point every day, minor accidents are very common - perhaps mainly due to those in a hurry trying to avoid the laggards by using the rad rather than the pavement and ending up having an arguement with a No 38 bus.
The company that runs the street for the traders thinks it will work, but most seem to think it is doomed to failure.
If the scheme gets the go-head then don't get in the wrong lane - or some jobsworth in a silly uniform is bound to have an good old british moan at you.
Perhaps I could train them in how to be miserable gits - good I would love that job contract !
Personally if you're going to be staying in the city itself, i really would think twice about hiring a car for your stay. Public transport although expensive and a pain, is the fastest way to get around london, even with congestion charging it takes a long long time to drive a mile in the city and then you have to find parking! The parking in london is fairly ridiculously priced and it would actually be cheaper to use a black cab (taxi) to take you around if you can't stand public transport.
To put this all into perspective, it sometimes takes me around 3 hours to drive a few miles, and parking can be around 30p per 5 minutes
If you want to get around London I would recommend the tube or thameslink train, it is a nightmare getting into London by car, also beware the tube strikes, everything and everyone is thrown into chaos and it's very hard to travel even short distances.
Also the government have introduced a congestion charge, which may cut the amount of traffic, but it costs five pounds every time you enter the zone, (You have to pay in advance , by way of a car sticker)
If you're used to cross the streets walking through the white stripes while watching the green lighted dummy...FORGET IT IN LONDON!. One very important thing you must learn here is the way to cross the streets safely. The most obvious problem is that you are not used to watch cars driving through the left lane so your head moves wrong in the firsts attempts to walk across. FIRST ERROR. And soon you discover you're not able to find the friendly white stripes but some white letters with an arrow that tells you to watch your right or your left. That's fine but...where's now the green dummy? Nowhere! -well, perhaps sometimes but it's not necessarily so- so you don't know if you're supposed to cross or not. In these cases the best is to wait for the traffic to stop at the lines which means the traffic lights are red for them.
I feel this is one of the main important matters to make better in London if you compare with other big cities around the world because it's a question of safety. While solution arrives the best is to be cautious and patient and get used to cross these streets.
Crossing the streets might be different to what you are used to.
UK traffic is driving at the left side of the road, so first LOOK RIGHT when crossing. Already invading Romans where killed by London traffic.
The different situation for a one way street is clearly marked.
In contrast to U.S. and continental European traffic, which moves on the right side of the road, UK traffic moves on the left. This causes foreigners to instinctually look the wrong direction before crossing the street. Do to this fact many street intersections are painted with a "look right", "look left" and "look both-ways". Be safe and enjoy!
I think everybody knows that you drive on the "wrong side" off the road but it´s easy to forget as we have our natural rutines to look left first before you cross the street. So the English people were so kind to write on the crossings "look right". To remind you. It was really confusing at first but you make a habbit of it.
London traffic is chaotic as in any big city in the world, hemm, well, but it is not as bad as some places I have been, like China. Few years ago they introduced a tax pay for vehicles entering the city which improve the traffic situation as well as the quality of the air.