Driving in NYC is not for the faint of heart. But it can be done. Lifelong New Yorker Judy Antell, our TravelingMom with Pets, provides essential survival skills that will help make your next trip to the Big Apple a success.
Planning that trip to New York City? If you are driving here, there are special considerations. One of the most important things is not really a tip, but the law. Never make a right turn on red. It’s illegal in New York City. It may be habit at home, but don’t do it here.
The following are more NYC driving tips that will save your sanity, and your car.
Number one NYC driving tip: don’t do it
We get it. You want to drive the family to the city. It’s expensive to fly, and you can drive here in less time than it takes to get to the airport, fly, etc. etc. Plus, you can bring your dog more easily if you are driving. So go ahead. Pack the kids in the car, stick Grandma in the back seat, and head on over. But once you get here, park the car and use the subways. Sure, they’re filthy and overcrowded. But for getting around most of Manhattan, they are your best choice.
Number two: watch for green lights
You didn’t listen, did you? OK, so now you’re driving around the city. Make sure you’re firing on all cylinders. Watch the lights so the second you get a green light, you hit the gas. Otherwise, the guy behind you is plowing into your bumper.
Number three: watch for pedestrian crossings
Be very very sure about that green light. Don’t look at the walk signal as your cue to proceed. Many intersections (particularly ones where there has been a fatal accident) have delayed green lights, with walk signals so pedestrians can safely cross.
Number four: watch for people on bicycles
And people on scooters, people crossing mid street with dogs, people texting while walking, bikers texting while riding. Really, you need to be on high alert at all times.
Number five: driving in NYC means parking in NYC
Parking here is a whole different animal. The last time you parallel parked may have been when you took your road test. You might want to refresh your skills at home before trying it on the mean streets. For an added challenge, some street parking is next to a bike lane, and you have to cross the bike traffic to park.
Number six: where to park
Even as a seasoned NYC driver, I occasionally make a rookie mistake. One example – parking too close to a traffic signal. Here’s the scenario: I saw a spot two cars from the corner. I was driving a Chevy Traverse, and needed room to swing out when I backed up. No one would give me an inch. At a red light, the guy behind me wouldn’t budge so I could park. At a green light, drivers came right up on my tail and honked and screamed. Have I mentioned that I was signaling to park and had my reverse lights on? It took four light cycles before I could safely park.
Pulling out of the spot? Equally, um, challenging. If you can, park mid block.
On the rare occasions that you find a parking lot in NYC, keep your guard up. Parking is a blood sport, much like spectacles in the Roman Colosseum. Even exiting a parking garage can be terrifying (see pedestrians, cyclists, etc, above).
Number seven: those safety features
To drive in NYC, you might think you need eyes in the back of your head. But a suite of safety features can make life easier. That blind spot detector? Vital when a car comes out of nowhere and rides your tail. Cross traffic alert? Equally important.
BUT: those cars that beep when you are trying to park and are too close to another car? Friend, EVERY time you park you will be too close to another car. It’s the nature of the beast. If you can, disable the audio.
Number eight: Protect those side view mirrors
Always, always, always fold in your side view mirrors when driving in NYC. [After you turn off the car!]
If you are parked on the street, you may think the curbside mirror is safe from damage. You may also be paying for a new side view mirror during your trip. Bikers, skateboarders and pedestrians claim that little space between your car and curb. Why not protect your mirror?
Number nine: Leave nothing in the car
In the 80’s, we used to take our car radio with us when we got out of the car. Now, people leave phone chargers and sunglasses in cars, all ripe for the taking. I once parked my brother’s car in a garage and his cup holder of change was taken.
The Chevy Traverse has a cool feature, a hidden storage area behind the infotainment screen. The hidden area even has a USB port. So you can keep your charger out of sight and not worry about it being stolen.
Note: Chevrolet loaned me the Traverse. Opinions and challenges expressed are my own.