Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Cars and driving

A bit more about cars and driving.


I have learned a bit about cars since I have been in Europe.

The first thing is tire pressure.  As most of you know, Poland, like the rest of the world other than the US, is on the metric system.  They don’t use pounds or inches and they don’t use pounds per square inch for tire pressure like in the US.  I had never given that much thought until a couple of months ago when we needed air in one of the tires on the Swift.  We went to StatOil, a gas station/convenience store nearby.  We usually buy our fuel there.  They have an air station with free air.  So, we went to get air and the gauge on the pump was not in any increments I had ever before seen.  It was then that I learned that tire pressure in Europe is NOT measured in pounds per square inch (PSI) like I have always known in the US.  That actually makes sense since they do not use pounds in the metric system and they do not use inches in the metric system.  So...........

for air pressure in tires, they use “atmospheres.”  Yes............atmospheres.  I looked at the recommended tire pressure for a normal load in the Swift and learned it is 2.3 atmospheres.  And, that tire gauge at StatOil registers in atmospheres.  S0, I inflated the tire to 2.3 atmospheres.  (while wondering what I had gotten myself into).

And, then, there is fuel economy.  You all (except Elaine and Mike in the UK) know that we measure fuel economy in miles per gallon (mpg).  All cars tout their MPG and dealers brag about it constantly.  But, here in Europe, they don’t use miles, they use kilometers.  And, they don’t use gallons, they use liters (or “litres” depending upon where you are from).  Consequently, they do not show fuel economy in “miles per gallon.”

The first time Alicja and I talked about it, she was researching the SCross we bought and she mentioned it is rated good for “burning.”  Burning meaning gas mileage or fuel economy.  So..............how do they measure “burning?”  Not miles per gallon, obviously.  Because they don't use miles and they don't use gallons.  They measure it in liters per 100 kilometers.  Our new S Cross is advertised to burn about 6 liters per 100 kilometers.

I guess that is good.

And, more about driving..........

As I mentioned earlier, there are very few stop signs.  The only ones I have seen are at railroad crossings.  Otherwise, there are a few yield signs and there are traffic circles, or “roundabouts.”  Mostly there are signs that indicate you are on a primary road which has the right of way or you are on a secondary road which must yield entering a primary road.  Yield signs are not prevalent, either.  Traffic circles are everywhere.  In the US, as most of you know, they were eliminated many years ago because they were too dangerous.  Here, they are EVERYWHERE.  And, they are dangerous.  It seems most drivers consider them a challenge, not a means to change direction.  Scary is a mild word for them.  Most drivers seem to just blast into them and dare you to impede their rightful progress.

And, then, there are speed limits.

The speed limit outside of city limits is generally 90 kilometers per hour (kmh).  On some 4-lane divided highways, it is higher.  Within the city limits, it is usually 50 kmh.  There are no signs saying this.  But, at the city limits of a city or town is an outline of a city skyline.  That means the speed limit drops to 50.  A similar sign when leaving shows when the speed limit increases again.  Other than that, there are very few speed limit signs.
But, of course, there are many situations where there is a sign indicating a speed limit for some reason.  So, it is important to pay attention.

In addition, it is important to know that the pedestrian in a crosswalk has the right of way.  As do bicyclists.

Another consideration, here in Poland, there are the detour signs which look like Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Case in point:  This is a detour sign in Malbork showing how to get to the castle while there is road construction.

Lastly, the road infrastructure here is many years behind the US.  Many of the roads date from World War II and/or the communist times when roads were not so important.  Poland is years behind the western world in this area.  Many of the roads are narrow and not smoothly paved.  In fact, I have been down some that, quite honestly, we would call cow paths back home.  Of course, they are building roads that are up to modern standards, but the roadway system is nowhere near what I am accustomed to in the US.  Even shitty roads in Oklahoma are nice in comparison.

Bottom line:   drive defensively; drive attentively; drive a bit scared.

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