On Culture: Driving in L.A. and N.Y.C
I am fascinated by cultural differences in urban behavior within the U.S. as well as internationally. Watching people drive in New York City is a dead give away as to where they hang their hat even before seeing their license plates.
I once sat next to a friend from California who was, paralyzed, while trying to make a left turn in New York City.F inally, in desperation, I had to resort to some tough back-seat-driving talk to get him to move. He didn’t understand that New York drivers learn to push their way through.
The other day, a friend told me a story about his observations of driving in L.A. and N.Y. He was on the turnpike in L.A. when an ambulance switched on its siren a half mile back. In an orderly fashion, cars turned into the far lanes and stopped, leaving the center lane clear for the ambulance and any other emergency vehicle that might come along. The people didn’t start driving again until after all emergency vehicles had passed.
A week later, my friend was driving on the FDR when he heard the sound of a siren. As the ambulance moved south, the cars moved right or left to make way but they didn’t stop or slow down. As soon as the ambulance passed, drivers moved their vehicles back into the middle lane and stepped on the gas, following in the path of the ambulance to get where they were going in record time.
In New York City, jaywalking is considered natural and normal behavior. Jaywalkers jaywalk in front of police cars, knowing that cops understand informal rules and don’t view the practice as an affront to their authority.
I don’t know if people jaywalk in L.A.
I do know that jaywalking is considered immoral and illegal in urban Germany. Jaywalking is seen as bad partly because it sets a poor example for the children.
Seattle appears to have relatively strict rules in regards to jaywalking. According to a recent article in the New York Times, a Seattle police officer stopped a young black woman for jaywalking then beat her when she presented resistance. The incident was apparently videotaped.
In this case, jaywalking was not the impetus of the apparent beating but rather the challenge to police authority.