Friday, 17 December 2010

Crossing the road

In UK/IE, we cross the road wherever we feel like it.

In California, it's very rare to cross the road at a place that isn't a junction or otherwise marked crosswalk.

It's even part of the law: here they have this thing called "jaywalking" which is actually *illegal*. Seriously.

In UK/IE, jaywalking isn't illegal itself. The thinking is that the roads are mostly there for people to walk on, and only incidentally for cars to drive on. (Needless to say, in the USA, the reverse is true!) It can be an offense to be, like, obstructing traffic or something, but crossing the road at arbitrary places isn't itself illegal. Especially if there's nothing coming.

Anyway, in UK/IE, roads are much narrower, so crossing the road is safer and more tantalising. In California, the roads are so darn wide, and there's so much more traffic, you just wouldn't dare.

*Plus*, in CA, people don't *expect* you to be crossing the road. If you cross the road before a juction, even though cars are mostly stopped, you're going to get *creamed*. People think nothing of driving past a row of parked cars. Pedestrians springing out just *doesn't* *happen*.

In UK/IE, it's totally normal to cross away from a junction, weaving between cars as necessary. I mean, it's dangerous, sure, but it's done. And when you're coming up to a junction you drive really slowly just in case. Especially if you're cycling and going between two rows of traffic.

Anyway. A little difference!

Thursday, 16 December 2010

You ain't there yet...

One big difference between UK/IE and California that took a while to get used to (and I'm not even sure I'm used to it yet) is the prevalence of roads with dividers and what it means...

Lots of roads here are very wide, and have lots of lanes. Four lanes in each direction isn't uncommon, three is commonplace. And there's usually a divider along the middle of the road.

One thing this means is that crossing the road on foot is a Big Deal. People just don't cross the road at arbitrary places: they go to junctions. (Here in California drivers really stop for people. They seem to be really serious about it. But anyway...) This is totally different to UK/IE where folk cross the road wherever they want - usually at junctions, but really wherever it suits. But that's because the roads are *so* much narrower.

Another implication of the wide roads with dividers is that if can see your destination on the other side of the road ... you ain't there yet! If there isn't a wee path in the central reservation to cross into the place your going to's car park (and *everywhere* has its own car park, except maybe in The City!) then you have to drive on to the next junction and do a U-turn.

Which leads me to another implication of these wide roads: U-turns are *totally* normal. Because of these central reservations, you pretty much *have* to do U-turns often. And the roads are wide enough to support it.

Many junctions have two lanes turning left. (We drive on the right in California...) You can usually do a U-turn in the leftmost one. But sometimes there's a sign saying you can't. That usually means if you try to, some other car will have right-of-way and you'll get creamed.

Anyway, U-turns are really rare in UK/IE. The roads aren't wide enough, so it wouldn't be practical, but in general it just doesn't happen. Instead, there are roundabouts, which are good enough. I quite like roundabouts - they're a great idea so long as everybody knows how they workd. (Hint: don't stop!)

A little difference!

Monday, 6 December 2010


In UK/Ireland, flour with baking soda mixed into it is called self-raising flour.

In California, it's called self-rising flour. (Note the missing 'a'.)

Truly a little difference!