Driving in Sydney: here’s what I’ve learnt

Sydney traffic, Driving in Sydney, Australia

I’ve been living in Sydney for 18 months now, and one of the most common questions I get asked from non-Sydneysiders is: ‘How do you go driving?’

With a face that’s a mixture of horror and disdain, it’s as though they’re asking me how I go plucking my nose hairs, eating pig’s feet or riding a unicycle.

I drive everyday to and from work. On a good day, that means I spend two hours on Sydney roads (on a bad day, three hours). Two hours weaving my way through a fucked up mess of poorly-planned road network, travelling the arduous 12km between home and work. That’s a lot of waking hours navigating Sydney traffic, and as such I’ve had a lot of time to ponder my relationship with Sydney’s roads. I’ve come to a few conclusions:

Sydney Enfield Drive, Driving in Sydney

Sydney drivers are the most courteous in Australia

Don’t throw eggs. I absolute believe this to be true. In Melbourne, you had to plan your lane changes with absolute precision, months in advance. Whereas in Sydney, if you put your indicator on drivers actually let you merge. Huzzah! It’s a bloody Christmas miracle.

I totally get that this makes absolutely no sense because Sydneysiders are the first to push you to the ground if you’re not walking fast enough through Martin Place Station, or jump the queue so they can get their morning coffee 30 seconds before you. But on the roads, there’s a mateship, an unwritten rule of civility (well, most of the time…).

This mateship gives you an air of confidence, like you’re an armoured tank rolling through the streets of Sydney. If you get in a sticky situation, stuck in the wrong lane, you know your fellow drivers are going to have your back.

Having said that, if you show the slightest sign of hesitation, any lack of confidence, that kinship is retracted as fast as you can say Cross City Tunnel, and you’re stuck behind that parked car for the next five minutes.

Sydney Tower, Oxford Street, Driving in Sydney

The scariest thing possible when driving in Sydney is…

The horror of going over the Sydney Harbour Bridge by accident. It’s happened to us all. That moment when you realise there’s no turn off, you’re going over the Bridge, you’re stuck in one of the eight lanes, and you’ll have to find somewhere to turn around and pay you $4 toll to come back. It’s a costly and time-consuming mistake that one.

Driving over the Sydney Harbour Bridge by accident is like when you’ve done a shot and it makes a reappearance all over the bar. That feeling when everything starts to slow down, and you know what’s coming but there’s nothing you can do to stop it.

There’s an area near Darling Harbour that actually gives me the willies if I’m behind the wheel. It’s a tangle of road, confusing as all hell and there’s Sydney Harbour Bridge signs looming ominously overhead. I avoid that area at all costs.

My general advice is be VERY careful when driving through the city. Lane positioning is paramount.

Sydney Harbour Bridge at night, Sydney, Australia

Sydney Harbour Bridge. Image credit: Destination NSW

The horn is your friend

There was actually a stage in my early driving career when I was terrified of the horn. I think I thought it was going to jump off the steering wheel and give me a wet willy. Back then, I’d rather have someone take off the driver’s door than touch the horn.

If that person saw herself now! It’s rare I get through a day without honking that beauty – it’s my best friend when driving in Sydney.

On the flip side, it’s rare to get through a day without being tooted at myself. If you’re not taking off from the lights within 0.0004 seconds, toot. If you’re not pulling into a blocked intersection, toot. If you’re not invading the personal space of the car infront, tooty toot toot toot.

Kim Lamb, Sydney lifestyle blogger, Driving in Sydney

I have a newfound fear of buses…

They stalk my sleep, those big blue whales of the road, who loll around, not caring what or who is in their path.

I’ve already been sideswiped by bus 333. RIP driver’s side mirror. No apology, a lot of hassle and five months later I’m still waiting for the insurance reimbursement.

Traffic and buses, Elizabeth Street, Sydney

… and I have a newfound hatred for taxi drivers

Here in Sydney there’s an infestation of taxis. They’re EVERYWHERE. So if the BO and poor service wasn’t bad enough, you also have to share the roads with taxi drivers and their atrocious driving. Just like buses, they also couldn’t care less if they hit you, swinging their taxi around like an Ebola-infected monkey, the arrogant bastards.

People have no regard for their life

In those rare moments when you can actually get up to the speed limit, you’re terrified. Gripping the wheel in horror. Because you’re waiting for the inevitable pedestrian to fall out of the sky. That person who’ll attempt to cross the road even though there’s no green flashing man or pedestrian crossing even, and it’s actually a four-lane road they’re trying to cross, filled with cars doing 70km/h.

Who’s in so much of a hurry they’re willing to risk their life?

City traffic, Driving in Sydney

The lanes can be narrow

The lanes in Sydney are ultra skinny. Way skinnier than the rest of the country – kind of like the Sydney population really. They’re clearly on an Atkins diet too.

Peak hour in Sydney, Driving in Sydney

You can avoid the Sydney toll roads

Another thing I always receive comment on from non-Sydneysiders is ‘the tolls!’ It’s like they’re commenting on ‘the trolls!’ in Sydney. And, hey, when it used to cost me $40 a day in tolls to get to work, it did feel like Roam was trolling my bank account.

But, generally, you can avoid toll roads in Sydney (unless you go over the Sydney Harbour Bridge by mistake). Just plug your route into Google Maps and ask for a non-toll option. Easy, smeasy. It just might take four hours longer.

This website has all the information on tolls you need.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Driving in Sydney isn’t so bad

The truth is, I genuinely don’t hate driving in Sydney as much as I should, or as much as people expect me to. Sure, I’d love to have those two hours spent commuting back in my day, but the actual driving part isn’t so awful.

You just learn to drive with aggression, cuss like a pirate, have blind faith you can squeeze through any gap and become a pro at inventing parks. It’s scary how fast you start threading traffic like a true Sydney driver.

What have I missed? Share your Sydney driving experiences below. 

Driving in Sydney, King Street, Newtown, Sydney




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