Posted by: mdmusingsie | February 17, 2013

Driving Dublin

I’ve avoided driving in Dublin, preferring to find my way by bus or foot power on the times I’ve visited.  However, a new job has brought me to one of the northwest suburbs of the capital, reminding me why I don’t like driving in large cities.  

Driving in Ireland can be challenging pretty much anywhere on any given day – many roads are narrow with barely enough room for two cars to pass and signage optional or at least scarce.  I always feel like everyone but me knows exactly where they’re going.

I haven’t quite figured out which is worse – driving relatively slowly through a town, looking for signs for your route while dodging pedestrians who don’t believe in crosswalks, ignore don’t walk signs, and aren’t afraid to play chicken with an oncoming vehicle; or driving 100+ km/hr (~60+ mph) down a motorway, only to find that the fork in the road you need is on the left and you’re in the right lane.  They can put up a sign on the M6 to tell you 19 km (~12 miles) in advance that there is a toll booth, but they can’t put a sign more than 20 yards ahead to tell you the road splits three ways so you can prepare which lane to be in. Thankfully traffic wasn’t too busy on an early Saturday evening last week as I braked suddenly, trying to merge into the proper fork.  The folks behind me weren’t too thrilled with my sudden maneuver, but everyone escaped the incident unscathed.

Now, don’t all you techno-freaks out there write in and tell me I should get a GPS. I’ve tried GPS’s in rental cars before, and they aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be. On the third trip to the same city, using a GPS from the same rental car company, the gadget couldn’t find the hotel which was a mere 5 miles from the airport.  Good thing I’d been there twice before and already knew the way.  Besides, as far as I know they don’t make one with a sexy male voice instead of a female voice,  Depending on the voice (I have a few suggestions), that might be entertaining enough to tempt me.

Speaking of tolls, if you’re ever on the M50 between Junction 6 and 7, there is, what I call, a mystery toll.  Oh, sure, there are signs that say it’s a toll road, and you keep expecting that barrier where you stop to throw your coins in the bucket, but it never comes.  Did the toll expire and they just haven’t taken down the signs?  Can I ignore the large billboards telling me that I must pay my toll by 8 pm tomorrow or face a penalty?  How can I pay my toll if there’s no toll booth?

Unless you’re a resident of the area, you have to go online and pay the toll or find some pay point office.  I’ll bet rental car companies are plagued with unpaid tolls from tourists, confused by the signs, who, by the time they reach their final destination, which could be hours away, have either totally forgotten the toll or can’t remember the web site to contact and are nowhere near a pay point office.  By the way, if you don’t pay by 8 pm the following day, penalties start to accrue.

Whose bright idea was this?  Sure, maybe it works for residents who can buy an electronic tag and have their account paid by direct debit, but in a city this large, on a road not that far from the largest airport in the country – the entry point for thousands of tourists every year, was it really that brilliant of an idea?

With the move complete, the rental car will be going back soon and I can return to finding my way by foot or bus, blissfully ignorant of traffic and tolls, at least for a little while longer.

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