(image courtesy of http://www.photo.net/photo/pcd0158/traffic-jam-washington-dc-3)
Inspired by the Pope's recent request that we all drive a little more carefully, I wanted to jot down some handy tips/tidbits about cruising the mean streets of DC.
1) Pedestrian crossing signals equipped with countdowns are handy devices that inform drivers how many seconds they have before the light turns red.
2) If you are behind a vehicle with Diplomat plates, DO WHATEVER YOU CAN TO GET AWAY FROM IT. Same goes for minivans in general. If you find yourself behind a minivan WITH Diplomat plates, all you can really do is pray.
3) Construction sites tie up traffic, even if there's no actual construction happening. I guess people expect that the construction workers are laying in wait behind the orange-and-white barrels, ready to begin jackhammering at a moment's notice.
4) Speed limit signs are an ironic statement.
5) Any kind of weather can and will be blamed for poor driving ability: rain guarantees you'll drive at 20 miles an hour below the speed limit, snow guarantees you'll drive at 40 miles an hour below the posted speed limit, and sunshine guarantees you'll come to a dead stop at any curve on the beltway.
6) The presence of police officers mean that people will drive at least 15 miles an hour below the speed limit, instead of their normal 20 miles an hour over it.
7) You will suddenly find yourself on the Rock Creek Parkway without having the foggiest idea how you got there. It's like Brigadoon. People who intentionally and functionally drive on the Rock Creek Parkway should be elected to public office.
8) The first time you are driving to Georgetown, you'll either end up at the Iwo Jima Memorial or the Pentagon parking lot, or possibly both.
9) If you live in Maryland, you know that drivers from Virginia are nuts. If you live in Virginia, you know that Maryland drivers are nuts. Both states believe that DC drivers are nuts.
10) Parking Enforcement officers are the worst parkers in the world. They double-park, park in front of hydrants, park in front of loading and unloading zones, and they park in front of bus stops. Plus, I'm convinced they slap you with a ticket 30 seconds after you park in a zoned area instead of the 2 hours you are allowed.
11) Do not kid yourself that you can park in Adams Morgan. They import cars on weekends so that they can laugh at the expression on your face as you are rejected from each and every pay parking lot within a 2 mile radius of Columbia and 18th Streets.
12) The only way to successfully navigate DuPont Circle is to pretend that you can't see other cars, pedestrians, or traffic lights.
13) Pedestrians would have better luck crossing main roads on a tightrope than in a crosswalk.
14) Many cyclists pretend that they can't see cars, pedestrians, or traffic lights. But don't be fooled -- there are traffic rules they are supposed to follow too.