The following distance: A revisit

I wrote this post over three years ago. The tone is ranty – no doubt I wrote it after some incident on the roads – but sadly the topic is still on point. Arrive Alive recommends a 2 – 3 second following distance as the bare minimum, increasing to at least 5 – 6 seconds during adverse road conditions when it rains.

I don’t think they realise that I would never make it home on time if I allowed that following distance. Certainly not in traffic – if you are not literally on the bumper of the car in front of you at all times, someone is going to turn their car into the 1/2 car gap you’ve left and force themselves in.

Even under “normal” road traffic conditions, it is unsafe to allow this following distance, particularly at off-ramps. As you are indicating and turning onto the off-ramp, someone is going to come from the fast lane, cross the solid barrier line and chip in next to you on the off-ramp. He (because without a shadow of a doubt, it will be a he) will probably have his indicator on though, because that seems to be the only time people use their indicators anymore.

We’re supposed to report bad driving because traffic officers can’t be everywhere. The other day, I watched a traffic cop sitting in his car, waiting two cars behind a taxi that had stopped in the left lane to pick up passengers. Why didn’t the traffic cop get out of his car and reprimand the driver for obstructing traffic?

Was he:

  • Afraid the taxi driver would shoot him?
  • Scared the passengers would shout out the windows at him for making them late?
  • Terrified that other drivers would get irritated that he was adding to the road obstruction?
  • Filled with apathy and laziness?

Who knows?


A spectacularly rainy day in Cape Town, and the experience on the roads

As I (and several others) have mentioned time and time again, when it rains in Cape Town, people cannot drive. Yes, as a thoroughly purebred Capetonian I can say that. My driving skills are fine though – the fact that I indicate for every lane change and check my mirrors before going over already proves that I am a better driver than 75% of Cape Town under normal conditions.

When we checked the weather last night and saw the expected conditions for today, we decided to leave 5 minutes earlier this morning (we actually ended up leaving 8 minutes earlier). We still got to our first stop at the same time though, because it was raining so, so hard. Visibility was extremely poor, and we had to traverse multiple roads. The radio dude even suggested people leave half an hour earlier, because traffic was already that rough on main routes.

On the plus side though, for the first time, I saw people actually (gasp) maintaining safe following distances. Driving at a safe speed. Going slowly through clearly flooded portions of the road. Headlights (not brights) were on. Indicators were used to change lanes.

Yes, the weather was that bad, it forced Capetonians to drive correctly.


Carpooling in Cape Town makes no sense – an update

One of my first posts on this blog was about why carpooling makes no sense in our city. I’d like to issue a small update to that post, based on my experience.

My home situation has remained the same since that post, with one recent development – my sister is now working for the same company as me. As a result, we now take turns driving on a weekly basis. We both get to save on petrol, and since I managed to secure an official parking spot at work, we get to share that space.

My knee has improved greatly in that time, so driving in traffic does not give me pain for days anymore. We leave work at 15:45, just before things start getting rough. Traffic is not predictable anymore though, but most days it’s fine. We no longer belong to the gym, as I prefer my own exercises now, so the schedule is basically constant.

This is still not carpooling though. The colleagues who stay in my area often go to site to visit clients, while my sister and I are office-based, so we can’t set up a reliable schedule with them. At least I don’t have to feel guilty anymore about being one of the many single drivers.


Traffic in Cape Town – no solution in sight

A few weeks ago I was on the way home from work. As I headed down the N1, I noticed the cars were backed up a lot, way worse than normal. As I got closer, the radio announced that there had been an accident halfway down the M5.

What did this mean for me? My commute time had probably just tripled, and on a Monday afternoon to boot. So I decided to experiment, by taking another route home. Before I could get boxed in, I switched lanes to get into the CBD. I spent 15 minutes waiting in a line on an offramp to the CBD.

15 minutes after that, I was on Nelson Mandela Blvd. 15 minutes after that, I was on the M3. I then decided to wind my way through the suburbs to get home. Total drive time? Approx 1 hour 10 minutes. For reference, it normally takes me max 25 minutes to get home.

What this incident drove home once again, is that there are very few ways in and out of Cape Town. Having a huge amount of cars on the roads compounds the problem. Until our public transport system gets sorted out (for reals, and not half-half solutions), this problem will only get worse.


Pushbullet channel for load shedding alerts – an update

This morning as I drove to work, the lights went out. On this first cold day of the year, with proper rain pouring down, the area I was driving through fell victim to Stage 2 load shedding. The complete darkness was maddening, as was the other drivers’ immediate reaction to drive even more poorly, which is saying something considering it was already raining.

I am aware that the Pushbullet channel has not worked correctly since I created it. This is because I have yet to find a reliable way to generate a RSS feed from a Twitter user’s profile. The options which sprang up after Twitter removed the native ability to do that are unreliable at best.

I do sense an opportunity for me to use the Pushbullet Python library that someone created out of the goodness of his heart to bypass this issue. However, I am now in the throes of preparing for my first university exam in 5 years, so I am feeling a tad bit paranoid and am over-prepping as a result.

I am also considering entering an app building competition, the deadline for which is in 2 weeks. When I’m not studying for the exam, I will be working on that. Once I’ve written the exam, I will be able to turn my attention to my other side projects once again.


Taking it easy on the roads

I’ve had a few close calls on the roads in the last few weeks. One incident involved a car from another province who dead braked in front of me at a green light while we were going at just under 60km/h. The reason?

I had hooted at him about 10 seconds earlier for almost scraping into me when he cut across the lane in front of me. I had to perform an emergency stop otherwise I would have crashed into the back of his car. The man in the Toyota behind me actually reversed a bit, I’m guessing because he saw that this other guy was about to do something crazy.

The dude then proceeded to pull away slowly over the intersection while the light was red. I won’t mention the type of car he was driving, because I already have a strong bias against drivers of those types of vehicle, and I really do try to stay logical about things.

It wasn’t a BMW, but the sentiment remains the same

Now that I’ve resumed going to a client’s office about 50km away from the office for one day a week, I’ve decided to approach things differently. Normally, I would leave home at normal time, hang around in the office for an hour and a half, then go 120 up the N1 to the client.

For the sake of my blood pressure (and petrol), the last few times I’ve still left home at normal time, but then taken a leisurely drive to work (80 on the freeway, 90 in the slow lane on the highway). I’ve bought a coffee at the shop, driven another 10 minutes to a breakfast KFC, and sat in their parking lot for an hour while reading. I then go 100 on the N1 to the client with my music up and windows (slightly) open.

The result? A marked decrease in petrol consumption (using anecdotal readings from Bella’s in-built fuel consumption meter): normally ~130km petrol used over 100km physical distance covered, now at ~110km used. Also, I’m much calmer when I reach the client.

I’ve just changed insurance companies as well, so staying calm on the road is in my best interest.


I’ve been forced to drive at 80km/h

This wouldn’t have been an issue for me before, but since I am now deep into my QLC, it is a problem. A while ago, I had an incident involving Bella’s back right wheel and an unreasonably high kerb.

After receiving two quotes to repair the damage to the mag, one for R2000:

Not bad

and one for R10 000:

jackie what

I was authorised by the insurance to take the wheel to a specialised rim place who would repair it for R1000. Not sure what the point of me running around getting quotes was for. Anyway, the mechanic is quite close to my workplace so I popped around there on Monday for them to take off the damaged wheel and put on the spare one.


So this week, I had the pleasure of travelling on a national highway (part of my commute) at 80km/h. I was forced to forgo my normal shortcut in the afternoons of zooming up the highway a bit in the opposite direction, then cutting around and zooming home. Instead, I had to crawl through about a million robots and traffic to exit the area using the more traditional route (ok it’s like 5 robots). That turned my 4 minute zoom into a 17 minute stop-start aaaargh.

Me, this week

Me, this week


To my utmost delight, my wheel was finished yesterday, looking brand new. Bonus, when I went to reinflate the tyre with nitrogen, I didn’t have to pay since Bella is always going there for her tyres. Yay 🙂

me, today

Me, today

Just kidding. This is more accurate:

Definitely me, today

Definitely me, today