25 November 2010
Observations from a week spent driving on autoroutes, toll autoroutes and autobahns
Patrick Crozier

Lane discipline is much better even on French non-toll roads

There are an awful lot of lorries on the continent.  Seriously, much more than in the UK.

And they all seem to come from Slovenia.

Yes, that is an exaggeration.  But only just.

They are much hillier.  Michael tells me that this is because they are so old.  One of them even split as it went round a mountain.  One carriageway one side, one the other.

Most are only two lanes.

Autobahns and toll autoroutes are in good condition.  Ordinary toll-less autoroutes less so.

I much prefer driving on the toll autoroutes.  It was the only place I could set the cruise control.

Which is really nice.

Contrary to popular belief you can’t drive at any speed you like on the autobahn.  Sometimes you can but as often as not there are limits and these vary frequently.

Sat nav is both a god-send and a menace.

Driving as fast as you like is great until the car starts to vibrate in an alarming way.

I think one of the reasons lane discipline is so much better is because there are usually only two lanes.  These become a normal lane and an overtaking lane.  The flaw in this argument is Australia (isn’t it always?) There, according to Michael, they also have mostly two-lane highways and poor lane discipline.

Driving in a right-hand drive vehicle in a right-hand side of the road country is not nearly as difficult as you might think.  And it makes parking a whole lot easier.

Some Germans don’t half bomb along in the outside lane. 130-140 mph easily.  This is quite scary when they are coming up behind you.

Surfaces are not quite as good as in Britain.  Not even in Germany.  But some German surfaces are really quiet.  I think it may be some kind of experiment.

Slip roads and off ramps tend to be much tighter than in the UK.

Oh, by the way, whenever and wherever I hit an on-ramp, I floor it.  It’s the only way to get yourself up to the right speed.  I think that’s the right thing to do.

Autobahns are really busy.  So are France’s non-toll autoroutes.

Roadworks are everywhere on the autobahns.  And lanes alarmingly narrow.

The French have (how shall we put this?) a much more “relaxed” attitude to roadworks.  A sign, a few cones and that’s it.

Feedback

  1. There are an awful lot of lorries on the continent.  Seriously, much more than in the UK.

    Depends where you are in the UK. You wouldn’t say that if you had just driven the A14 from Felixtowe to Birmingham. And where we were driving on the continent matters too. We were driving to Stuttgart and Munich - the heart of Germany’s modern industrial economy.

    Posted by Michael Jennings on  25 November 2010 at 04:34 am

  2. Felixstowe

    Posted by Michael Jennings on  25 November 2010 at 04:35 am

  3. Why is sat nav a menace?

    Posted by Brian Micklethwait on  25 November 2010 at 06:50 am

  4. Sat nav is a menace because it encourages you to stop looking at the signs and then stops working when you most need it.  It also has a tendancy to undermine your (or rather, my) concentration.

    Posted by Patrick Crozier on  25 November 2010 at 07:50 am

  5. Sat nav is also a menace when its database lacks information about certain qualities of the road. For example, in Cornwall, my Tomtom treats all national-speed-limit roads as equal, even though most of them are single track roads with twists and turns and high hedges. The sat nav thinks you can drive at 60 along them and plans routes accordingly. So all routes end up being as short as possible but very slow.

    “Oh, by the way, whenever and wherever I hit an on-ramp, I floor it.  It’s the only way to get yourself up to the right speed.  I think that’s the right thing to do.”

    Agreed. There are times when you get stuck behind a slow person on an on-ramp, which really interferes with your merging. The solution is to predict this, and slow down even more to build up a gap, and *then* floor it.

    Posted by Rob Fisher on  25 November 2010 at 07:17 pm

  6. So-called “trumpet” junctions (at least, that’s what they’re named, in the UK) are rife in Germany, and there are conspiracy theories as to why they were made as Autobahn junctions, “to make folk buy decent cars”.

    So, on exiting a trumpet junction onto an Autobahn, feel free to nail the throttle; after all, that’s what you’re supposed to do. Put it this way; “I would, even though it might startle some of the natives” grin.

    Posted by Dave Walker on  26 November 2010 at 01:53 am

  7. It was a pleasure to meet up with you in Munich.

    > Slip roads and off ramps tend to be much tighter than in the UK.

    Oh yes. It’s something that nearly catches many unwary foreigners out: you’re happily trundling along at a modest 100mph or so, not thinking about the fact that that’s actually rather fast, until you suddenly find yourself trying to negotiate a 90 degree right hander.

    Posted by Alan Little on  27 November 2010 at 05:15 am

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