Driving in New York, specifically Manhattan, is an experience all of its own. There are people everywhere. In the street – crossing the street. When doing research about getting around Manhattan when visiting you come up with the same advice over and over again – use public transportation. That’s great advice for a couple of reason. First, you’ll get to where you want to go faster. Second, less stress. And finally you don’t have to worry about a place to park. But where else will you get to experience this unique type of adventure?
An adventure it is if you’re not a usual driver in New York. Vehicles everywhere going in different directions faster than you can determine which lane you need to be in. No other driver is going to just let you change lanes or take a moment to figure out if you’re going the right way or if there is an available parking spot. Being an aggressive driver is required in order to get around in Manhattan. Being aggressive does not mean being stupid. The other drivers are watching out for you whether you realize it or not but there is a catch – you need to watch out for them too.
I decided to go against all of the advice and drive in Manhattan as a tourist. There was a car full of people and using our rental car, paying tolls, and paying for parking was slightly more economical than using public transportation. In addition, theoretically we could visit more sights in less time by relying on our own vehicle going from Lower Manhattan to Mid Manhattan. After driving for a short time it became obvious that using our own car was not going to make getting from one area to another faster.
The streets seem tighter, the parking areas are smaller, and staying focused on driving is a challenge as there are recognizable sights all around trying to take away from that focus that is required to keep from crashing into someone or something else. Every block is stressful and requires a lot of energy to get where you are going without incident. After 45 minutes of driving in Manhattan I had mixed feelings about the experience. On one hand it was exhausting. On the other hand, it was fun. Driving in New York is unlike driving anywhere else.
Prior to being in New York I’ve had the privilege to drive in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Miami, Chicago, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, and several less populated cities. In fact I drive in Minneapolis on a regular basis. Minneapolis may not be as intense as other cities but it does provide larger city experience. None of these cities compares to New York.
Streets packed full of cars that feel as though they are all honking at you and traveling at 60 miles per hour if they are going 20. After some time you begin to realize that all the honking may actually be in an effort to help instead of nagging and distracting making you feel like you have no idea how to drive. Many of the honking sounds were just an announcement that another car was going to be moving over a lane behind you or in front of you. The warning actually becomes helpful after figuring out what they mean.
If you need to move over a lane because there is a bus or truck stopped in your lane a block ahead or construction has closed down a lane or two in your direction you just have to use the blinker and go. Most of the time the cars around you will make room rather quickly. When we left Manhattan for the last time I was completely surprised we made it through without a single ding in the rental vehicle. I was very nervous every time we entered a parking garage because the ramps and spaces were all very tight. I thought I was going to hit the wall or pillar in each place. It feels like an accomplishment to have successfully driven in Manhattan on multiple occasions without crashing. Those that drive trucks and buses in downtown amaze me. Those individuals have earned my respect. They also make me question their sanity. What’s next? London, Paris?!