The sick sound of metal on metal

By Ben Selby

Driven's new motoring writer finds it's not just our roads that are different from his Christchurch home

Auckland drivers (above) seem in a hurry, compared with the more sedate pace of motoring in Christchurch. Picture / APN
Auckland drivers (above) seem in a hurry, compared with the more sedate pace of motoring in Christchurch. Picture / APN

Driving along Quay St on my first week in Auckland, I noticed a VW Golf Mark V bearing down on me at a considerable pace. Maybe the driver was keen to check out my test car, the latest Golf GTi.

The Golf behind me - with considerable alterations from factory specifications - hissed and growled, staging attack after attack from my rear quarters like a junkyard dog. Feeling somewhat intimidated by his persistence, I turned sharply onto lower Hobson St.

Seizing his chance, the Golf driver flicked out from my slipstream, buried his right foot and shot forward on a wave of torque and intake noise.

From that moment, everything went horribly wrong for him.

The back came round to the sound of tortured tyres, he lifted off and attempted to countersteer, they gripped, abruptly, causing the Golf violently to swap ends. The car collided head-on heavily into the barrier, causing it to rocket backwards to the sound of twisted metal and shattered glass.

I slammed on the brakes as his headlights, spoilers and bits of metal showered the road, creating a minefield of man-made materials.

Leaping from my seat, I ran to his aid asking if he was hurt. His reply? "I'm fine, was just being silly."

I helped him collect bits of his Golf off the road as he phoned the police. As other cars slowed and carefully drove around the debris, I glanced over at the driver as he paced back and forth, with a look of devastation unquestionably written on his face. When he thanked me and said he would be okay, I hopped in the GTi and drove away, giving him a friendly toot on the way out.

I had just moved from Christchurch to Auckland to join Driven so this was an interesting welcome to Auckland driving. It also got me thinking as to what the parallels are with driving in Auckland and Christchurch.

One obvious difference is the sheer size and mass of the Auckland road network. Combining the spaghetti that is the Auckland motorway system, the concrete jungle CBD and the numerous hills leaves me with plenty to get my head around. I have found motorway traffic flow to be both a blessing and a curse, especially when knocking-off time arrives.

The condition of roads in Auckland is a welcome change from Christchurch. Commuting on Christchurch streets after the earthquake, locals are forever wary that the road you are on might not be in the same state as it was the previous day.

Bad weather during the night can bring out fresh potholes because of how "munted" some post-earthquake streets are. Parts of eastern suburbs are "no go" areas for testing a new car and plenty of work for road workers in orange vests.

As well as the contrast in roads, the driving style between the two cities is obvious too.

In Auckland everyone is zipping here and there like a squirrel on caffeine. Several times I felt I was holding things up by doing the speed limit on the Auckland Harbour Bridge. Maybe the 100km/h limit is only advisory. In Christchurch, things move a bit slower. We are happy to potter round at the national limit.

The lack of steep inclines and motorways snaking through the city leave Christchurch very flat in contrast to Auckland. Only if you lived in the port suburb of Lyttelton or on the Port Hills did you need to do a hill start. Christchurch is definitely a clutch-friendly environment.

One thing I have found which does not differ between the cities is the average motorist's disregard for using the indicators. On a commute last week around Auckland, I counted four motorists failing to signal their intentions to either turn a corner or change lanes.

This is something that has frustrated me for some time, as I experienced this lack of courtesy back in Canterbury too. While out on a road test, I was just about collected by an imbecile jumping across two lanes to catch the turning arrow before it turned red.'

However, despite a "smashing' unofficial welcome, Auckland is starting to grow on me, although the chance of you seeing me wearing blue at Eden Park is minimal at best.

- NZ Herald

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