Honk If You Hate Honking

Life by Adam on 2008-04-18 11:21

People around here love to honk. I used to honk, very occasionally, while driving in LA. In almost all cases it was to alert someone that they were causing an obstruction, if it seemed like they were unaware of it. This is not supposed to be unfriendly. I think we’ve all done it - you’re digging around under the seat for something at a red light, the light turns green, and you fail to notice. After a brief waiting period (say, 5 or 10 seconds), a honk to alert you to the situation from the driver behind you is, to my mind, perfectly reasonable.

Since coming to SF, I’ve stopped using my horn altogether, as a backlash to what to me seems to be massively gratuitous use.

The use of honking here seems similar to my former purpose: alerting someone to an obstacle that they are causing. But the thing is, streets here are a veritable obstacle course nearly all of the time. Taxis pulling over to pick up fares. Riders on bikes and motorcycles. Lots of pedestrians, and rarely do they pay much attention to traffic signals. People looking for parking, or trying to parallel park in a space that’s just a tad too small (and they all are). Delivery trucks pulled over with their hazards on, because there’s no place to park them while making the delivery. Muni buses, tour buses, cable cars, and trains. And here and there, a newbie to driving in the city, who finds themselves constantly confused by the labyrinthine tangle of one-way streets and no-turn intersections. (e.g., me about eight months ago.)

In this environment, honking rarely serves a useful purpose. There’s cars and people and buses and bikes everywhere you look, all weaving in and out between one another; so when someone honks, it’s pretty much impossible to tell what they are honking about, if it is directed at you, and if so what you should do. It just adds more distractions to the chaotic mess. Which leads me to believe that in fact it isn’t about obstruction alerts anymore, but is just a way for people to vent.

This city has many charms, but this little bit of the local culture is really quite unpleasant.

Post a comment

Enter your comment (some HTML allowed)