"The road is not just for you! The road is for everyone! " Whether you are a cyclist, motorist or pedestrian, you will use these words at least once this season.
And you are right.
If the road belonged to just one person and that person never met another cyclist, motorist or pedestrian, he could do whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. But as soon as the possibility of crossing, or interacting with another person exists, road etiquette applies.
Besides your provincial road rules, here are five guidelines for road harmony.
1. Signal Your Presence and Intentions.
• Pedestrians: As you learned in kindergarten, stop, look and listen before crossing. When necessary, make eye contact.
• Cyclists: Use the hand signals; left, right or slowing down, your bell and be visible after dark.
• Motorists: Flashing lights, your mirrors and your horn are not optional, they are to be used.
2. Stay on the Right and Pass on the Left.
• Pedestrians: Stay alert and don't text while walking.
• Cyclists: Never pass on the right, even in traffic jams.
• Motorists: Clear one metre, or the distance prescribed by your provincial law, to pass a cyclist.
This rule also applies to going up and down stairs.
3. Listen and Don't Contribute to Noise Pollution.
• All: Avoid insults and unnecessary honking or bell ringing.
• Cyclists: Make sure you can hear traffic and other road sharers. Wearing headphones or earbuds can be illegal in your province and is definitely not safe, foremost for you.
• Cyclists and Motorists: Your favourite tunes blaring on your radio only makes you feel good, it is a nuisance to others.
4. Follow Your Path.
Pedestrians: During rush hour, don't walk more than two wide. Make a queue.
Motorists: Be careful not to splash pedestrians and look before opening your car doors.
Cyclists: Sidewalks are exclusively for pedestrians.
5. Smile and Mind Your Road Manners.
All: Be the King of the Road and let someone go in front of you by giving them the "go ahead finger." If someone lets you pass, give them the customary "Thank you and have a great day" wave.
Share and be safe, the road is for everyone.
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"Regardless of how you approach driving, you still have to get to where you need to be, " says Neil Shah, director of The Stress Management Society and author of The 10-Step Stress Solution. He recommends using your time behind the wheel to practice some breathing techniques (deep breathing is noted for its calming effect on us). "Sit comfortably, listen to some quiet, calming music and focus on your breathing. Take a deep breath into your belly for five counts; hold it in for five and then release. Repeat to reach a state of relaxation."
"Although driving can be a stressor itself at times, if approached the right way, the car can be a great place to relax," explains Shah. "It provides time to unwind and relax without you having to take time out of your busy schedule." If your daily drive takes you through some green space, enjoy it (studies have found that the more green space that surrounds a person, the less stressed they're likely to be).
The car can also be a great place to enjoy a book, advises Shah. "Not an actual book, but listening to an e-book or podcast can take your mind off your stressors and allow you to focus on something different and interesting. This can help re-energise the mind, bringing a positive vibe to what could have been a stressful journey."
Racing car driver, former Stig and author of How To Drive: The Ultimate Guide, from the Man Who Was the Stig, Ben Collins, loves the feeling behind the wheel as an escape from technology and distractions. "That doesn’t mean driving at a million miles per hour or screeching through corners on two wheels. It just means having the mental space to enjoy being focused on what you’re doing and switching off the worldly distractions that generally burn your eyes and ears throughout the day."
Driving is a great opportunity to clear your mind, whether you're going on an epic road trip or negotiating the daily car pool. "When stressed, in order to decide whether you need to fight or flight the stressor, the medulla oblongata, also known as the primitive brain, is used," explains Shah. "This part of the brain doesn’t play a part in problem solving, lateral thinking or creative thought processes; these processes are called higher brain functions." These higher brain functions shut down during times of stress; driving a route you know won't use those higher brain functions and can help clear your mind.
Music is known for its relaxing properties - whether people are listening to music or making it - and has been linked to better moods while driving. Just don't listen to Marconi Union's Weightless, which can apparently slow your heart rate, reduce blood pressure and decrease cortisol levels, (and has been found by scientists to be the most relaxing tune), at the wheel.
From our morning commutes to the time we get home in the evening, most of us are always surrounded by people and craving a bit of solitude, which is essential for mindfulness, relaxation and introspection. "To really enjoy driving there’s a part of you that just wants to be left alone to enjoy the majesty of the rolling carpet. If you turn the phone off so that your boss can’t ruin a fine view and pick a cool song, then driving transports you to another universe," says Collins.
While driving is a great opportunity for much-needed solitude, it can also be a chance to bond with friends or your partner on your own, which can have it's own de-stressing benefits. Not only can chatting to your friends help you relieve anxiety by having a good rant (and getting another perspective on issues you've been rehashing in your own head over and over), grabbing a friend and going on a drive - whether it's to a new city or your favourite local park - is an opportunity to do things you love, with someone you love.
Sometimes, the best part about driving is feeling the power and connection between you and the vehicle you're controlling. Whether you're in a convertible letting the wind tear through your hair or appreciate the ease of an automatic car, there's nothing to take your mind off life's stresses and help you enjoy the moment like a jaunt in the car. Ben Collins recalls filming Skyfall and falling in love with the feel of the Aston Martin DB5 he drove. "The DB5’s leather sofa-cum-driving seat ironed out bumps in the road but steering the beast required both hands and a healthy concern for your trajectory. Changing course required military-grade forward planning to compensate for the body roll and lazy cornering, which challenged and enchanted with equal measure.The radio was broken, nevertheless a soundtrack filled my head as I swirled across the stunning Scottish countryside: 'We have all the time in the world.'"
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