|Reversing part 1: bay parking
||[Monday 28th April 2014 at 10:49 pm]
Finally, the driving lesson writeup (which was mostly written at the weekend, so I've not entirely left it until the last moment).
To begin with we didn't do any driving at all - instead, the AA has sent round a list of the top ten questions that people get wrong on the theory test (for non-Brits, this is essentially a multiple choice exam). So we started off by going through those, with me trying to work out what the correct answers were. Some were reasonably obvious, while others were less so, especially those where you have to pick multiple answers and some of the wrong answers look plausible (as an example, when involved in a collision the documents the police might ask for are your license, insurance certificate, and your MOT test certificate - but not the vehicle service record).
They didn't include my favourite trick question (which the Brighton lot may remember from when Dom was learning), which is what you should do when approaching a tunnel. I forget what all the answers given were, but the correct answer is to turn your radio on and tune it to a local channel. Yes, really - my instructor and I had a good laugh over it. A bit of context: with the possible exception of the recently-opened Hindhead Tunnel, most tunnels in the UK are so short that by the time you've switched the radio on and hunted for a station you'll be through it and out the other side.
Anyway, with that out of the way (I got 7 out of 10, and the pass mark for the actual test is 43 out of 50 so I should do ok), it was back into driving. The pickup for that lesson was in Fareham for a change, so we began by heading up through the town and across the top, before trundling south again at the western edge of Fareham. Along the way I encountered a pair of school crossings (one with people crossing), so I can check those off the list of crossing types I've handled. We then continued down through Stubbington and into the western edge of Lee-on-Solent, trundling along the seafront and into the maze that is Gosport.
My dad's mentioned before that the Fareham area is well-provided with unusual road layouts (I think his comment was something along the lines of that if I learnt to cope with the roads in Fareham, I should be fine anywhere - after I'd directed him through a couple of back streets and under a narrow railway bridge), but I think I found a new surprise in the form of a tidal road (we don't have any of those in Horsham). Little Anglsey Road in Alverstoke is along the edge of a basin, and floods at high tide. It's actually a bit weird to drive along as there's no real edge on the water side - instead, the road gives way to a shingle beach (the tide wasn't quite that high when I drove along it).
There was one awkward moment, when going round a sharp left turn into a road with cars parked both sides immediately after the turn I ended up face to face with another car and had to squeeze into a little gap to let them past. Afterwards my instructor mentioned that that's a situation where you can actually go over the central line, as doing so improves your sightline going round the corner and you can always move back to your side if there's another car.
After that it was time for my first real go at reversing! There's four types of reversing manoeuvre that are taught: bay parking, reversing round corners, parallel parking, and turning the car around ("three-point turn"). These days the examiner will pick one to actually test you on (they used to pick two, but one was replaced with the free driving section of the test). Today's was bay parking, so we trundled along to a mostly-empty carpark (which amusingly enough contained another learner out on what was probably their first lesson) to practice in.
To park you first pick your space - call this space 1. You then continue forwards a bit and line yourself up with the separator between space 3 and 4 about halfway along the passenger door (exact position depends on how big your car is). Engage reverse (properly - unlike forward gears, reverse needs some actual force to engage otherwise the gears just grind against each other and you go nowhere), add a smidgen of gas, and then pivot your clutch foot back on your heel (this gives you more control over speed than just lifting your foot) until the car starts slowly moving. Then frantically steer left until you reach full lock, and let the car trundle backwards into the space. If you find you're cutting the corner then you can straighten up a bit. Once the car is mostly pointing into the space straighten up the steering and continue back until the front line is lined up with the wing mirrors (like when stopping at a junction). Simples!
Oh yes, and while you're doing this you also need to look around, both out the rear window and over your right shoulder. My instructor suggested using the steering wheel to pull yourself forwards to make it easier to look around.
She also commented that when actually taking your test, you're allowed to open your door and look out to see if you're actually in the space or not. If you're not happy with how you're parked, then you can roll forwards out of the space and try to line yourself up better (if you're really lucky your instructor might even hint that you should do so). You're only allowed to try again once, though, so you can't just spend all day trying to squeeze into a space.
After that I pulled forwards out of the space (going forwards something like 2/3rds of the way before turning?) and then had a couple more goes at parking. I think I've got some idea of where to line up the dividing lines on this car, though if in doubt I can always go a little further forwards before reversing as you can always turn less tightly that way. I then drove back up to Fareham, this time going over the Newgate Lane flyover for a change (previously I've turned off just before and taken Palmerston Drive) before once again heading round Quay Street Roundabout. I'm starting to get used to that one, at least when approaching from the south or the west - there's a different path needed if coming from the east. By now it was 5pm and the roads were filling up with commuters, which like to take every little shortcut possible. Case in point: there's a little side turning that's really only intended for traffic to a dozen houses, but if the lights on the roundabout are red then the commuters nip down it as it bypasses the lights. This is most unhelpful when I want to turn across that side road and the cars are only coming down it because the lights changed to let me get there in the first place!
Next week (well, tomorrow now): more reversing! And a new pickup location at a much earlier time, with a whole new collection of overcomplicated roundabouts to deal with. Hence the earlier pickup time, so as to avoid the commuter traffic as otherwise it'd take forever to get across them.