Driving in England
The very first notable diversity is that people here drive on the wrong side of the road... or
as they put it with a pinch of British humour... “you drive on the right side of the
road; we drive on the correct side of the road”.
Driving on the left side of the road might seem to be strange to you and a thing reserved to
crazy people, but it is just as strange to as much as one third of the world’s population that drives on the left,
that you drive on the right side of the road. See the map below to understand how different is the world in this
Driving in the opposite side of the road that you are used to can be very
uncomfortable and dangerous. The danger is in the fact that nothing happens when
you are fully alert at the beginning of your experience; instead it all happens later on when you will be confident
and relaxed... and it all comes at once, often with devastating consequences. Many people choose not to drive at
all in the UK.
The very first time I drove a car with the driving seat on the right, I nearly crashed the left
side of the car against a wall after about 20 feet. When you are used to driving a vehicle with the driver’s seat
on the left, you unconsciously know that the space you occupy ends at about a foot on the left; you need to
re-teach your brain how much room you will take and where.
It’s more or less like learning to drive a bus: bigger and different. Because of this reason,
particular attention must be given when overtaking cyclists; give as much room to a bicycle as you
would give to a car. The one thing you must do on the road here is to respect all the rules and
limitations. They are there for a reason and you not being familiar with anything – including the practical aspect
of driving – it would be very dangerous and foolish not to do so. Enough said about driving.
The Roundabout is an English invention, with the very first one built in 1909. It is a great
idea for small and medium traffic junctions, but it becomes a poor solution at very busy junctions, as traffic
will build up considerably at busy times, especially when they are equipped with traffic lights all around.
The real strength of the roundabout is safety. They dramatically reduce accidents, injuries and deaths at road
junctions, due to the necessity to slow down to a virtual stop.
Like in everything, there are extremes. Some crazy people thought of turning the city of Milton
Keynes into a roundabout city. This is by far the city in the world with most roundabouts, having in excess of 1000
of them... and it’s a small city. The left tires of Milton Keynes buses have the thread that is two millimetres
shorter than the right tires... that’s how many roundabouts there are.
All roundabouts in Britain were happily enjoying the spinning traffic, till some psychopath came
along and thought once again: “why keep things simple when you can make them effortlessly more complicated?” Before
long the “Magic Roundabout” was born.
It’s more or less a nightmare, because when you get there you don’t really know what to do or
where to go. Once you get familiar with it you’ll be all right, but considering the extremely limited number of
them (two or three in the whole country) you can easily guess how many people panic every day on one of these
It’s basically a large roundabout with many smaller roundabouts all around. I still have to
understand the utility of such a thing, other than for amusement.
Near Side and Far Side...
There are times in which simple things, such as the left and the right can be very
complicated and confusing. Once a driving instructor told me that on the road “left” and “right” should be
banned as most people use the terms “near side” and “far side”... from the kerb that is.
Wonder who were those crazy people that invented left and right!
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