Tuesday, 19 March 2013

How to Drive in Winnipeg: A Novice's Guide

This guide is designed for those of you who are new drivers in Winnipeg, or new to Winnipeg.   Luckily for you, Winnipeg's urban planners have been working for years to ensure that the only way to get around most of the city is by car.  Thus, your driving skills will come in handy in no time!

By following some or all of the steps listed below, you too can learn to drive like a Winnipegger.  Whether you've just turned sixteen, or have moved here from a different city, province, or even country, I'll tell you how to own the road in the heart of the continent!

NOTE:  with the exception of the first step and the final step, all of the items listed are in no particular order.

1.  There are two classes of driver in this fine city:  a) those who own cars; b) those who own minivans, trucks, or SUVs.  If you all into the latter category (b), all of the following pointers are optional.  Your vehicle is likely big enough that few obstacles pose a significant threat to your safety - or ability.  Please proceed to the final step.

2.  When changing lanes, simply change lanes.  There's no need to signal, check your blind spot, or look for an opening.  If you feel like it, do it!

3.  Although we get to enjoy winter four to sixth months of the year, don't expect to expect snow.  In other words, if it should happen that there is a significant accumulation of snow, you should be surprised, like your fellow Winnipeggers.  So, those of you with some previous winter (those from the UK or the southern half of the US can ignore this) driving experience can toss that knowledge out the window with confidence!  Pretend you've never experienced snow before!

4.  Treat all road conditions the same, as along as you treat the roads as if they are dry and clear.  This is true whether it's raining or it's snowing.  Remember, always pretend that the roads are dry and clear!

5.  Sometimes, there are many lines going in the same direction.  Although in other jurisdictions the inside lane (left lane in Canada) would be considered the passing lane, this is not the case here.  So, feel free to drive the same speed as the person in the lane next to you.

6.  Although in other jurisdictions speed limits are considered by the layperson as the speed which you should strive for, this isn't the case in Winnipeg, especially if the speed is above 50km/h, with the exception of rush hour.  Here, if the posted speed is above 50, make sure you don't exceed 50, regardless of how high that limit might be.  Even if it says 70 or 80, don't feel you have to drive that fast within city limits.  Chances are, no one knows what the speed limit is anyway.

7.  If you are in a parking lot, back lane, or something comparable and you want to join a main road, don't wait for a big and clear opening to pull out, particularly if you're turning right.  Rather, wait until you have a small opening and then pull out, being careful to drive as slowly as possible (regardless of conditions).  If you do decide to speed up to match the flow of the traffic, take your time.

8.  If you see a pedestrian, do what the British do and accelerate.  You're sure to win a lot of friends if you manage to mow down a pedestrian (the enemy of the Winnipeg driver!).  The same applies to cyclists.

9.  You need only devote 5% of your attention to the road.  Anything more than that is a felony.  This doesn't mean you ought to be on the phone (most of us don't do this); simply, that you need not pay attention to the world around you.

10.  Make sure to leave between two and five feet between your vehicle and the one in front of you, regardless of the conditions.  If you leave any more, you're unlikely to be able to nudge the bumper in front of you - so that you know where you are on the road - in the event of a sudden stop.  This is particularly true if you drive a large vehicle.

11.  You ought to adopt one of two road personas:  a) the overly cautious driver who will only pull out into oncoming traffic if there are no other vehicles in sight; b) the true Winnipeg driver, for whom stop signs are optional, signals are unnecessary, and an awareness of the traffic around them is a terribly unnecessary.

12.  Stop signs are usually optional, regardless of whether there is oncoming traffic or not, especially if you have a large vehicle.

13.  Red lights are merely a suggestion that you should stop, not a requirement, at least when the traffic light first changes to red.

14.  No Right Turn signs do not apply to you.

15.  Advanced Green for right turns are optional.

16.  Beware of roundabouts.  They are a product of some sort of socialist European invasion and should be avoided at all costs.  The fact that they are like four-way stops but backwards, should tell you as much.

17.  Don't pay attention to where you need to go.  If you need to turn right at some point and you're in the right lane, don't feel the need to get into that right lane until the last possible moment.

18.  Expect the roads to change direction, name, and so forth without warning, and drive accordingly.  For example, even though Waverley continues to the right if you're heading in a southerly direction (south of Bishop Grandin), and has done for some months, expect it to change without warning, and so be sure to act surprised, and drive as such, as a result (in other words - stick to the left lane - then veer right suddenly in front of other drivers).

19.  If you're behind another driver at a stop sign, set of traffic lanes, or ramp onto another lane, be sure to honk at them if they don't pull out immediately, especially if they're waiting for a safe opportunity to do so.

20.  If you've reached this stage - and you can master as many of these as you wish - then congratulations!  You are now a true Winnipeg driver!

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