Ah yes, it's the infamous Melbourne hook turn. Add these to tramways, roundabouts, and tramways through roundabouts, and you have yourself a real exciting time driving around Melbourne.
The hook turn. As described in the diagram below, one must go left before turning right. Keep in mind that those are tram tracks going both directions right down the middle of the intersection. Trams always have the right of way, of course.
I understand that the maneuver looks like a hook, hence the name 'hook turn'. But who thought it a good idea to first go left before turning right in front of several lanes of traffic and trams, which are hopefully stopped?! I guess it goes along with the 'keep left' mantra we are still telling ourselves as we drive, but it feels wildly counterintuitive.
The other thing that adds to my driving anxiety is that, since any tram can travel in both directions, it's hard to tell the difference between the 'front' vs. the 'back' of the tram unless it's moving. Often, at first glance, my heart skips a beat because I think, "Oh $%!#, that tram is coming right at me!! Wait, it's going the same direction as me. Whew."
Honestly, can you tell which direction these trams are traveling? Yeah, I didn't think so!
A bit more about trams. They seem to be a cross between a bus and a train. Rob refers to them as "a bus on tracks." I suppose they have a higher capacity than buses but are much more pathway restrictive. Melbourne appears to have all options; trains, trams, buses, designated bicycle pathways, and many roads. The hard part is knowing how to share the route(s) with everybody. We are slowly but surely getting it figured out.
Melbourne train and tram networks:
Not all, but most tram stops are right in the middle of as many as four lanes of traffic. I kid you, not. There are many road rules and safety concerns around folks getting on and off trams in Melbourne, as you'd expect. I liken it to approaching a US school bus; drivers should stop for those getting on or off. But is the tram stopped for passengers or just stopped for traffic?
Below are just a few examples of traffic signals in Melbourne. I suppose, over time, one becomes familiar with these signals and able to decipher them quickly. But come on! There is a significant amount of changing information displayed in a 1 square meter area.
Now, what do you get when you add trams and signals to a roundabout?.. A whole bunch of gray hairs!! Yes. Combine roundabouts with tramways and then sprinkle in a few traffic lights and bicycle lanes. You then have yourself the perfect recipe for a very heated argument with your spouse, who is kindly trying to help from the car's passenger seat.
We happen to live close to the craziest roundabout in all of Australia. It is reviled as the 'roundabout of death.' The sprawling Haymarket Roundabout at the northern end of Elizabeth Street, at the edge of the CBD, has four entry points, three tram stops and carries 25,000 vehicles a day.
I'm grateful that I was able to adapt to Australian driving in Brisbane before coming to Melbourne. I can only imagine how much more difficult it would have been to go directly from the States to Melbourne driving. Initially, we still had Queensland plates on our car, which allowed us some grace and understanding around other Melbournian drivers. Now, however, our car has been officially transferred to Victoria.
New drivers in Australia must first display an 'L' then 'P' plate as a learner and provisional driver, respectively.
What I need is an 'I' plate for an international driver. Perhaps something like this would reduce frustration, anxiety, and honking of horns.
Then again, maybe not.
Stay tuned for the post, "Licensed to drive...sort of!"