Driving in New York

It’s a cliche that driving in New York City requires patience. After more than seven years of having a car here, I’ve learned that what’s more important is actually having a stern conviction to your core principals of the road. For instance, if you believe that you should always go north on 1st Avenue instead of 3rd Avenue to get to the Queensborough / 59th Street Bridge because past experience has proven a high probability of congestion around 42nd and 57th Streets, then always stick to that strategy. Here are other codes for cruising the grid:

When going crosstown east to west in the morning, use 34th Street. When going west to east, use 23rd Street. When going crosstown on either, always know which avenues are going uptown and downtown and avoid turn lanes ahead of time. For instance, traffic on 7th Avenue is one-way downtown. Therefore, when going east on 23rd, always be in the left lane when approaching 7th Avenue to avoid all the cars waiting for pedestrians as they try to turn right onto 7th. If driving to Flushing, Queens from Brooklyn or Manhattan, always take the Brooklyn / Queens Expressway (BQE) to the Grand Central Parkway (GCP) and avoid the Long Island Expressway (LIE). Never go uptown on 8th Avenue or downtown on 9th Avenue if you’re passing Port Authority (41st Street). These are just a few of my basic tenets.

There is an internal logic to the city that can’t be tricked and the principals of the road can usually be banked on, except during the late spring to summer when street fairs close off blocks upon blocks to motorized traffic causing ripple-effect jams far away. The next time you’re on the outer roadway of the Queensborough bridge, beating the congested traffic on the inner roadway, glance to your right and you’ll see why you can only trick the system with the wisdom.


4 Comments on “Driving in New York”

  1. c.k. says:

    “Not to find one’s way around a city does not mean much.But to lose one’s way in a city, as one loses one’s way to a forest, requires some schooling.Street names must speak to the urban wanderer like the snapping of dry twigs, and little streets in the heart of the city must reflect the times of day, for him, as clearly as a mountain valley.This art I acquired rather late in life, it fulfilled a dream, of which the first traces were labyrinths on the blotting papers in my school notebooks.” W.Benjamin
    great piece Herb, it makes me miss both you and NYC

  2. Antonia A Perez says:

    Herb–one of my tenets is never drive in Manhattan if at all possible, unless picking up or dropping off something too big for the subway or its after 11 pm. Another one is–forget about the existence of 2nd Avenue above 59th Street until they finish building the subway. Last one-drive a beat up old car and everyone will stay out of your way.

    • Herb Tam says:

      Antonia, you’re right..sometimes NOT driving is the best driving decision. Great tip about 2nd Ave. Also, sometimes light snow storms are the best times to drive because people are told to stay off the roads…

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