Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Connecticut walkbiker meets Israeli roads

My brother Jay immigrated to Israel a few years ago and has been living a car-free life in Jerusalem ever since. He bikes to work, the shuk, and everywhere else. Unfortunately, much like in the state he left, a lot of the employment opportunities in Israel are located in sprawling office and industrial parks in the outskirts of the major cities. So to access these places, Jay became 16 again and signed up for Israeli driver's ed. He seems to have developed an avuncular but challenging relationship with his instructor, whose years of teaching driving have given him a buddha-like resignation about life on the road.

In any event, his comments give you some idea of what the roads are like over there (and make me think they could use some red light cameras. . .)
The top seven things that you never want to hear from your driving instructor

1. Jay: "Forget it!!! I am never going to learn how to drive with a stick shift"
Driving Teacher: "That is your opinion, not a fact. Now Leesten to me. You must leesten to me and you are not leestening. Why won't you leesten...."

2. Driving Teacher: "What eez that man doing? "What eez hee doing? Maybe we should pull over and ask? No wait, that might not be good. You know, you Americans don't care about anyone. Someone could kill himself and even then you would not pull over!"

3. Driving Teacher: "You can be more assertive on the road. You did not need to let that driver pass you. You know what they say, when in Rome, one must be like the Romans. No wait, you do not want to drive like the Romans. You know what they say, how does one cross the road in Rome....

Jay: "Amos, I have to be honest with you, I don't trust any of these drivers.

Driving Teacher: "That is okay. What needs only to trust in Hashem (G-d) and that too is your personal choice"

4. Yossi, Ma Nish Ma (how are you)? You see that taxi driver who cut you off? He was my student once....

(somehow my driving teacher knew every motorist on the road who always seemed to be doing everything that I was being taught not to do)

5. Driving Teacher: "Very good. If you had not stopped at the traffic light when it had turned yellow, who knows what would have happened to you....no I don't even want to think about that..."

(in Israel, when the traffic light turns yellow, you must stop if you value your life and your car)

6. Driving Teacher: "Very good. You know in Israel, one must not seek to exercise his 'rights' on the road but what must do what is right..."

(There is a saying in Israel, it sounds better in Hebrew but it basically goes like this, "It is better to lose a moment (by stopping at the red light) than to lose your life in a moment")

7. Driving Teacher (another one): "He is a pachdan (cowardly) driver, but he is ready for the exam."

(The "pachdan" driver passed on his first attempt)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Red light camera update

The red light camera bill is moving forward in the General Assembly. In its current incarnation, the bill will allow the city of New Haven to create a pilot program to install cameras at up to a dozen intersections. (Click here to read the joint favorable report, which includes summaries of the testimony of proponents and opponents of the legislation.) There has been some media coverage of the bill, including a positive editorial by the Hartford Courant.