City driving is often considered a full-contact sport by Manhattan residents. Not surprisingly, navigating the congested streets of the Big Apple seems like an intimidating prospect for most visiting tourists and Manhattan rental car travelers. But is it really all that bad? At the end of the day, driving in Midtown Manhattan is safer than commuting on many of New York’s major highways. The following are a few simple tips to help you stay safe (and calm) when winding your way through Manhattan’s main streets.
Tip #1 – Relax
Forget everything you’ve heard about driving in the city. Worrying about something simply because you’ve heard rumors isn’t helping. Before you get behind the wheel of your Manhattan rental car, remember to take a deep breath and remind yourself that you’re a good driver. You’re not going to transform into a terrible driver the minute you turn onto Broadway. You already know how to drive, so stop worrying. There’s no need to be stressed out about driving in Manhattan.
Tip #2 – Watch Your Speed
There’s a reason why the speed limit throughout New York City is a meager 30 miles an hour. The city’s streets are overflowing with traffic – pedestrians, cyclists, street vendors, cars, taxis – there’s rarely a moment where the roadways of Manhattan aren’t bustling with action. Then there’s the issue of traffic lights. Practically every city block features a light, so really, what’s the use in going faster than 30? Slow down, take your time, and pay attention to the other vehicles around you. This will help you relax (remember Tip #1?) and ensure that you make it to your destination in one piece.
Tip #3 – Make Use of Your Manhattan Rental Car Mirrors
When you’re driving your Manhattan rental car, do yourself a favor and always assume there’s a vehicle in your blind spot. It’s just the standard here. Yes, there are lane markers painted on all of the avenues, crosstown streets, and highways, however they’re really just suggestions in the city rather than strict guidelines. Drivers (and cyclists) change lanes pretty fluidly, snapping up any empty space before it’s even been fully vacated. As such, start checking your mirrors constantly. You’re going to want to know what’s going on next to you before you try to navigate around traffic.
Tips #4 – Don’t Challenge Taxi Drivers
Taxi drivers are fearless. They will cross three lanes of traffic to land a potential fare. They have no problem swerving, accelerating violently, and stopping short in the middle of a busy street. The sooner you understand this and accept it, the safer your Manhattan rental car travels will be. And while they may seem like roadway terrors, cabbies are actually extremely aware of everything that’s going on around their vehicles. You should be too. Always assume that a taxi is about to stop, and always keep an eye out for the occasional idiot who decides to exit the cab into traffic.
Tip #5 – Beware of Bikers
New York City has installed miles of bike lanes in the past decade. As such, cyclists are now everywhere, a fact that not all Manhattan rental car travelers are willing to embrace. But, like them or not, they’re here and people are using them. When you park your Manhattan rental car, look before opening your door. When turning, double check to make sure that the intersection is clear. Respect cyclists just as you respect other Manhattan drivers.
Tip #6 – Turn with Caution
DO NOT TURN RIGHT ON A RED LIGHT IN NYC. All Manhattan rental car drivers are required to wait for the light to turn green before hanging a righty. Furthermore, pedestrians have the right of way at all intersections, so be prepared to wait (remember Tip #1? Yep, you’re going to need to relax again). Stay patient. You’ll get to your destinations… eventually.
Tip #7 – Avoid the Right Lane
Why? Because that’s where buses are most commonly found. Whether it’s kids exiting a school bus, or civilians hopping on and off public transit, nothing it more frustrating than getting stuck behind a bus in Manhattan. Stick to the left hand lane to avoid their constant starting and stopping. Also, stay out of bus-only lanes. Failure to could (and should) result in a traffic ticket.
Tip #8 – Parking is Always a Problem
You will never find a spot on the street that doesn’t require paying at a meter. Sorry – that’s just how things work here. What’s more, you’re lucky if you can ever find a pay spot that’s empty. When scouting for parking spots in your Manhattan rental car, be sure to review all of the posted signage. This includes street cleaning schedules, standing zones, and no-parking declarations. Blocks that require you to pay will have signs instructing you towards a Muni Meter. These machines take coins and credit cards. Remember to grab your receipt and display it in your window to avoid a ticket. Alternatively, there are tons of parking garages located throughout the five boroughs.
Tip #9 – There’s Always Traffic
Manhattan is always congested. The worst periods occur between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. and from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays. Saturday nights are madness. Manhattan rental car travelers will find the most congestion near the bridges and tunnels. If you need to drive during rush hour, expect to sit in traffic. If you’re stuck in traffic, take pains not to “block the box.” In other words, don’t pull your Manhattan rental car into the middle of the intersection when the light changes. You’ll be met with a barrage of angry horn honks. Speaking of horns…
Tip #10 – Honking is Illegal in NYC
Seriously. According to New York City law, Section 24-221(a) of the city code, it’s illegal to honk your horn in the city (unless in an emergency situation). Pounding your horn in frustration could net you a $350 ticket. So remember Tip #1.