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People drive very fast in Madrid. Very, very fast…and they drive bumper to bumper. If you come from a country with a slower pace, Madrid can be a shock to the system at the beginning. But after a while, you stop gripping the wheel till your knuckles turn white, you start inhaling and exhaling and get into the zooming, swerving and fast-paced lane changing like a pro.
People in Madrid generally speed up when they see you trying to join a motorway, probably because they´d have to break very hard to slow down enough to let you in. Still though, joining a motorway is a white knuckle experience. You never know if you can make it in the 3 or 4 short seconds you have, while 4 lanes of cars are flying past you at a ferocious speed.
So you´re driving casually along, you put on your indicator to make a turn right and…arrggghhh…there´s a man crossing the road right there just as you turn. The first time this happened to me, I almost knocked a man off his bike. Luckily, the man was just fine and didn´t seem at all freaked out at my terrified face staring at him.
Did I mention that a lot of people just walk out onto pedestrian crossing without even looking to see if a car is coming? Also terrifying.
By now, I´m used to being on the outside lane and having a car come from the inside lane and zip right in front of me to take an exit, with inches to spare. But it´s still a jarring experience to this day. Will either of us make it out alive? Who knows. Don´t even mention the roundabout at the Puerto de Alcalá. Hold your breath and just drive.
When you want to make a turn or switch lanes, there´s a useful little light in your car that´s called an “indicator”. A lot of drivers in Madrid do not use these little lights. Driving in Madrid is like a game. Will the car in front of me go right, will they go left…who knows. Every time, it´s a surprise.
After 9 years of driving in Madrid, I now drive with zero fear. Whenever my family visit me though, whoever is in the passenger seat next to me punches the imaginary brake frantically at roundabouts, motorways and covers their eyes for most of the journey. They´ll learn!