Norwegian traffic

I think it’s safe to say that my blog is not among the most popular, but I have a few hits on every post I publish. It’s impossible to say which ones will the most popular, though. Sometimes I work really hard on a post. I spend a lot of time doing the research, construct some valid arguments, transfer my thoughts to written language, and hopefully I do this well enough to engage the reader. Sometimes I find that it’s the silly posts people like. Maybe silly isn’t the correct word, because I do enjoy writing them, but compared to big topics like politics and autism, they don’t seem to have the same appeal. Nevertheless they clearly do

Bicycle police and the dangers of bike riding was one of those. Three years after I published it I still get 15-20 hits a month, and the last couple of weeks this post alone has increased my traffic. That has puzzled me all this time because I wasn’t especially pleased with this attempt to be funny. Every time I checked my stats I was thinking “Oh no, not again!” I had actually decided to delete the darn thing, but I’m not sure now that this one post seems to be what people read. Someone googled “Norwegian bicycle police” yesterday and my post was apparantly one of the options.

I didn’t know we had a Norwegian bicycle police, but perhaps they do in the bigger cities. It made me think of traffic here, which can be quite challenging to outsiders. It is to me. I was overwhelmed when I lived in Little Rock. That looked very complicated, but I have a feeling that even small town Norway might be confusing to outsiders. Where do I start?

How about roundabouts?

This is a normal roundabout, but the next one is diferent. Very confusing.
This is a normal roundabout, but the next one is different. Confusing.

These are especially tricky in Haugesund, even though they are small. We only had traffic lights 30 years ago, but then the Public Roads Administration decided roundabouts would do a much better job at managing the traffic flow, so they built roundabouts. The general rule is that you drive in the right lane if you want to go straight ahead or turn right, and left lane to go left. Norwegians didn’t quite understand this, and by the time they were getting somwehere without having to deal with insurance companies or the Police, the Public Roads Administration felt it was time for a change again. I spent six years in other parts of the country and this change happened while I was gone. Some of the roundabouts are the same way they used to be, but in some you have to be in the left lane if you want to go straight ahead. In the right lane you can only turn right. After a year in Haugesund I get it right most of the time, but I still have to take some detours because it’s too late to change lane.

Another thing that surprised me is the time, or rather the absence of it. This is a small town and people shouldn’t be stressed like this is New York or something. There is no patience at all. I was at a strip mall on a busy day recently. There was a lot of traffic because this area also has the biggest mall in the area, as well as a bunch of strip malls and other big stores. The car behind me was irritated (actually I am pretty sure the car was alright, but the driver was very hotheaded) because I had to wait before I could leave the parking lot and enter the slow moving line of cars passing. So he decided to use the entrance lane as exit, and of course that didn’t lessen the chaos. For some reason it doesn’t seem to occur to other drivers that I yield for a reason, so they leave the slow moving line of cars. There couldn’t possibly be an obstacle in the road, such as road construction or a pedestrian crossing the street. An older man was recently almost run over because I stopped at the pedestrian crossing, but the car behind me didn’t.

It can be frustrating with changing speed limits. They change a lot, and many feel that they are too low. The speed limit on the highway is usually 100 km/h, but we don’t have any in this part of the county. The highest speed here is 80 and there’s nothing that provokes motorists more than someone actually trying to respect the law. If they can’t pass me because of too much traffic in the opposite direction, they blow the horn, flash the headlights and act like they are having a heart attack. I usually slow down and help them pass, but often catch up with them later. When you don’t have highways driving fast isn’t necessarily an advantage.

My town isn’t a bad place to ride a bicycle. The most dangerous roads have a bicycle path next to the road, but that isn’t good enough to some people. If a bike rider is wearing a fancy uniform from one of the professional teams in Giro d’Italia, which is my favourite race because it’s a harder and more spectacular race than Tour de France, you can be sure that they insist on riding in the middle of the road. People on bicycles tend to be very unpredictable. If they don’t feel like yielding, they don’t. I have had many near misses because a bike that was on the pavement suddenly decided to cross the street. The same thing seems to be more and more common among pedestrians too. I have noticed that many just keep walking when it’s time to cross the street. They don’t look up or even slow down. Either they are relying on everyone else to stop because they have the right of way in a pedestrian crossing, or they are too focused on their mobile. Maybe they wouldn’t mind going to ER in an ambulance because they had he way of right? This is nuts because Norwegians have a big problem with time. Getting where they are going five seconds later is not an option, and I wouldn’t count on a car to stop.

But I like riding my bike. It’s the world’s most impressive machine. Most machines, including our own bodies produce a lot of energy it doesn’t take advantage of. The machine gets too hot and needs to cool down. I believe all the power is used for propulsion on a bike. If only the one sitting on it had been that efficient.

3 thoughts on “Norwegian traffic

  1. John,

    This post made me chuckle. You might not believe it, but there is a small city here with round abouts. I like the small, one-lane ones, but the city has gotten quite carried away with them and they are popping up everywhere around town now. They are putting them on more heavily traveled, four lane streets, where I find them to be quite dangerous. Not every round about is the same. Like you said, some of them the right lane only turns right and on others, the right lane both turns right and goes “straight.” It can be hard to remember which round abouts go which way.

    Also, on the four lane streets, the traffic usually is traveling at unsafe speeds when entering the round about, so if you are trying to enter the round about from one of the cross streets (2 lane) that intersect a high speed four lane street, it is scary. You sit there in your car, waiting for that moment to enter the scary circle, and then you have to really hit the gas and enter the circle very quickly, or be hit by the fast traveling four lane vehicles. Now, imagine a teenager learning to drive on these things!

    Like you, I have mis-calculated, or got in the wrong lane, and ended up going round and round the circle like the family in National Lampoon’s European Vacation. I can only imagine the confusion for drivers who are passing through our city and unfamiliar with round abouts (since this ISN’T Europe!). THey do seem to keep the traffic flowing better, but I still think they can be very unsafe.

    1. In a way I do like the roundabouts when I’m on the mainroad. The problem is when I am trying to enter from a side road (in between the roundabouts). There was a shortcut from that place we just moved out of. The problem was that when there is a lot of traffic, and because the traffic flows easily through the roundabouts, I need someone polite enough to slow down and let me enter. That almost never happened. Our apartment was only 100 m from the main road (E 134), but I usually took the long detour because I knew I’d be waiting forever.

  2. Yeah! That’s exactly what I was talking about! They won’t slow down and let you in, which is not just impolite, but dangerous. Here, if you wait too long, then the folks behind you are blaring the horn, which makes it even harder to concentrate on finding the right opening. Here, you just have to jump in, gas it really fast, and get to the other lane. To me, it feels like running a gauntlet.

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