Driving Around the City Makes me Cringe

Driving around the city makes me cringe.  While aggressive and rude drivers often make me crazy, today I am focused on the actual road. I am talking about construction, blocked lanes, potholes and turn signals. If I live in a city I know I have to face some of this, especially in the summer, but the streets around my neighbourhood are a mess and I can’t take it anymore.

Toronto is a vibrant city that is growing exponentially by the day. To accommodate that growth, I know that new houses, office towers and condos must be built. The dense and congested midtown and downtown core are experiencing unprecedented development, and I think that for the most part that is good for the city. The roads also need to be maintained and the hydro needs to be upgraded. I get it. It has to be done. However, there has to be a better way.

I am about to provide a number of examples where construction, development or upgrades are happening in my neighbourhood that could be done better, more efficiently or at least with better communication with the local community.

There is a massive condo tower under construction at the intersection of two major streets near my house. Construction is moving along, but it’s happening at a painful slow speed. In order to maximize the small tract of land on which this building is being built, the developer obviously got a permit from the city to build the new building as close to the existing sidewalk as possible. As a result, the construction crew got permission to include the sidewalk in its enclosed area and to push out the pedestrian zone into a lane of traffic.

That means a major street in the city of Toronto was brought down to one lane during the construction of this massive building. The street has been down to one lane for a long time, with no end in sight. Traffic is backed up for blocks all day every day along this stretch of road. I figure the developer had to pay a large fee to the city to get permission to close a lane of traffic, with no regard to the congestion, stress and frustration it causes thousands of people driving daily. How is this allowed? I just got word another developer is looking to apply for a permit to build three condo towers in the area next. There is no way my neighbours and I will allow this. But that is for another day.

On the subject of closing a lane of traffic on major roads. I understand that it must happen sometimes, in particular when city crews need to fix a pothole, some electrical nearby or other issues that affect city roads. Naturally this causes traffic jams and I understand those lanes must close sometimes. But – if it’s a major street and if the lane closure is at an intersection, could the city block left-hand turns during construction? When there is one lane of traffic and one person wants to turn left then every car behind is stuck. It makes the traffic worse. Driving in the city today I sat in a terrible traffic jam downtown today because of this problem.

Now that I mention left-hand turns, let’s stick with that topic. Why can’t there be more left turn advance signals at major intersections across Toronto? I would be happy to wait an extra 10 seconds at most lights to give cars the opportunity to turn left and clear the road. There are many intersections in the city where the advance arrow exists but only goes on at certain times of the day. Why not all day?

Back to construction. When our current mayor (who I like and I will publicly state I voted for in the last election) was first elected a few years ago he spoke out in support of better coordination and communication between city departments with respect to road construction. If a long-term construction project must take place, be it hydro upgrades, paving, bridge repair or dozens of other projects, how hard could it be to have a working group with a giant map who monitors where the project is happening?

I am boxed in by construction in my neighbourhood right now, between the endless lane closure from the condo on the major street to my west, a massive bridge upgrade on the major street to my east, hydro and electrical upgrades to the side streets to my south and what I think is an electrical and power upgrade to some facility to my southeast.  That is just a small section of the city – I won’t start with all the other projects happening during summer 2017.

I know my rant is falling on deaf ears with the City of Toronto, but I have a feeling that most of you who have read to the end of this blog post agree with me. You are probably nodding your head right now and saying yes yes yes – even if you live in a different city! My rant may not make a difference, but I do feel better just writing about it.

Honk if you’re Angry Part Two

driving aggression rage


Sometimes I am an angry driver and I believe that it’s not always my fault. A couple of weeks ago I examined a number of reasons why so many city drivers are aggressive and full of rage as soon as they jump behind the wheel of their car. Today I am going to look at a few more, and these, for the most part are the cause of much of my stress as a driver in the city.

Illegally parked or stopped cars on main roads

This is an issue that angers not only me but also his Worship John Tory, the Mayor of Toronto. Traffic is slowed or sometimes comes to a standstill if just one vehicle is stopped on the side of a major city street, in particular at rush hour. It means all cars in that lane need to push their way into the other lane. Often when I am faced with this situation, when the car ahead of me suddenly puts the four-way flashers on and stops in a no-stopping zone, I need to change lanes and hope that the car in the lane next to mine is polite enough to let me in. Usually the person is not so kind.

Large delivery vehicles blocking a side street

Delivering parcels or furniture to homes on small cramped city streets is a challenging job. I don’t doubt that driving around the city in a large vehicle and trying to find somewhere to park that vehicle can be tremendously stressful. However, I am also quite sure that these delivery drivers do not need to turn polite easygoing car drivers into crazy people as we attempt to squeeze past the giant trucks on side streets. If there is parking on only one side of a one-way street, for example, why does the delivery truck have to park on the other side and block the road? My passenger side mirror was once lopped off by one of these said trucks, who easily could have parked on the other side of the street where there were a ton of empty spots. Don’t block the road!

Right of way on a narrow two-way street

Most downtown two-way streets are designed with space for two cars across. That means that cars can drive down the street in both directions, with space for each to drive. If cars are parked (legally parked cars I mean!) on one side of the street it means there is now only space for one car to drive down the street. If the cars are parked on the opposite side of the street than the side I am driving on I believe that I have the right of way. The cars driving in my opposite direction are supposed to wait while I drive by then they are supposed to go around the parked cars once I am out of the way. So why is it that many cars not only don’t wait but I can sense their aggression as they accelerate when they see me and intentionally don’t let me pass – or make me jump onto the curb so I don’t hit them? Wait your turn!

Turning left when the sign says no left turn

I would consider myself to be a law-abiding driver. I stay within a few kilometres of the speed limit, I stop at stop signs and I follow turning signals. When I see a sign at traffic light that states “no left turn between 4-6 pm” and it’s 4:09 pm, I don’t turn left at that light. It’s very simple. I will give a pass to the odd driver who doesn’t notice the sign, signals, waits then realizes and does not turn. I will be angry, however, with the driver who sees the sign, signals, hears the honking horns and sees the line-up behind and turns anyway. These rules are there to help keep traffic flowing even if it is an inconvenience to most of us. Just please follow the signs.

Blocking side streets when sitting in traffic

This one is a bit more complicated but can turn me into an angry driver. Sometimes you are in traffic on a busy street and you can see for blocks ahead that you are going to inch your way forward. Every time you move is exciting and you jump at each opportunity to gain even a foot or two of the road. You approach a side street off to your right and you know that traffic is so slow that you can’t clear this minor intersection. You move ahead those few feet anyway and block the road.

Now I am driving along in the opposite direction and need to turn into said side street. You just can’t bear to wait to move forward those next few inches, so you block me from making my turn. Why can’t you keep the access to the side street clear? Does it slow you down that much to let me through? Now you are still stuck in traffic and I am an angry driver.

Please keep sending me your thoughts, comments and suggestions for what turns you into an angry driver or ways we can all make the roads a less stressful place to drive. And as I had mentioned, coming up soon I will also look at the relationship between cyclists, pedestrians and drivers on our busy roads. Please post your comments here or Tweet me @AliciaRichler.

Honk if you’re Angry

driving aggression rage


I remember a cartoon many years ago, or maybe it was a story or video, about a gentle, sweet, kind person who smiles at strangers when she walks down the street or he helps an elderly woman cross the road. He (or she) is the kind of person we all strive to be. But when she (or he) opens the car door and gets behind the wheel aggression and rage take over. Sweet Sadie or Gentle George become Angry Annie or Raging Robert.


This isn’t the cartoon or video I remember but it’s funny! 

Maybe living in a congested city has forced so many people to keep their guard up and become aggressive when they get behind the wheel of a car. I have noticed that when I leave the city and drive even one or two hours into the countryside people are friendly and considerate. So maybe it’s a symptom of busy city life, but here, at Kinetic Motions, I am going to try to start a revolution and suggest some ways we calm Angry Annie and Raging Robert down.

Stop Signs

These are large, red, hexagonal signs that are very clear in their message – STOP! When you approach one of these signs your vehicle needs to come to a halt. And if you arrive at a four-way stop sign, and my car arrives there first, be courteous and let me go ahead. Remember that we all learned in kindergarten to take turns?

big red hexagonal stop sign
This is a sign with four letters that clearly tells the driver what to do

Tail Gate

If I can see the colour of your eyes in my rear-view mirror it means you are driving too close to my car. If my car needs to stop suddenly, for whatever reason, I need to know that your car is sufficiently behind mine to give you the time, say two or three seconds, to stop, and not hit my car. This, in my mind, pertains to highways, busy roads and even side streets. I recognize the distance between cars should be greater on fast-moving highways, but I still believe that no matter what roadway we are on you need to keep your distance.


Everyone seems to be in a rush as soon as they get behind the wheel of their car. The baby needed a diaper change right before you had to leave, you forgot your cell phone in the house and had to go back to retrieve it or your neighbour, who you do normally love chatting with, had a question for you as you unlocked your car door.

Now you are late. And there is traffic. You try to drive just a bit faster on some roads to make it to work, an appointment or a lunch date on time. You cut off cars, you tailgate others and naturally you jump stop signs. SLOW DOWN! It may be annoying for you that the City of Toronto lowered the speed limit on many residential streets from 40 to 30 km/h and that many thoroughfares also now have lower speed limits, but I support the slower speeds. We are safer if we just drive a little slower.

Grid lock

If traffic is moving very slowly, you are inching along the road and approaching a traffic light, please stop BEFORE you cross the intersection if your car can’t make it through. If you get stuck in the middle of the intersection when the light goes red it means the cars in the other direction can’t move, and traffic just gets worse. You may actually create a traffic jam when you grid lock. I understand the feeling of accomplishment when you just make it through a light in heavy traffic, that little adrenaline rush when you moved those extra few inches, but if you think you may get stuck in the middle of the intersection, next time, please, just wait.

Cut off Pedestrians

I have a one-year-old and live in a neighourhood with a high walk score. We are surrounded by both parks and retail and restaurants. I walk everywhere with the baby in the stroller and always have to keep my eyes peeled on the road, ready for a car to turn in front of me or jump a stop sign. Pedestrians have the right of way at intersections (assuming the person is crossing at a green light of course), but many drivers don’t notice or don’t care. The baby and I were almost rammed last week by a woman driving a large SUV, turning left, with her cell phone in her ear. She looked up and apologized when I started to yell. This one is simple: wake up and give pedestrians the right of way.

Honk If You’re Angry

Why do you need to honk your horn if I’m not going fast enough (in your opinion), if I actually stopped at the stop sign ahead of you or if I take my time to turn right at a red light? If I am ahead of your car, waiting to turn and I can see there are cars coming and you can’t because you are behind me, don’t honk me! When the intersection is clear of cars I will go and I won’t be rushed. If the lead car in a long line of cars waiting to turn left at a traffic light is just sitting there doddling when the signal turns green okay give a light honk. But you don’t have to lean down hard on the horn nor do you have to honk that car before the light even turns green.

I am sure there are many other ways to calm down Angry Annie or Raging Robert and I welcome your suggestions so that I can create an ongoing series of posts on this topic. Coming soon will also be my thoughts on the relationship between cyclists, pedestrians and drivers on our busy roads and ways for everyone to be more courteous. Please post comments and suggestions here, or Tweet me @AliciaRichler.