Time for a car upgrade?

I’m thinking it might be time to upgrade my car at some stage soon.

Some people turn them over every few years. Not me — I’ve been driving a 2000 model Astra hatchback since 2008, almost nine years. The previous car was a 1993 Magna, which I had from 1998 to 2008.

Of course, I drive far less than the average person.

In fact it’s common for the car to not leave the driveway for almost a week at a time.

If we had car share in my area, I’d be seriously considering it. But we don’t, and with weekend PT (other than north-south on the trains) being lacklustre, it’s still needed.

With my sons now moving towards learning to drive, and the Astra nearing 17 years old, I think it’s time to consider an upgrade.

The other big reason? My mechanics told me at the last service a few weeks ago that the next one would be a biggie.

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Steam engine, Warragul

So, if I’m upgrading to a “new” secondhand car, what should I buy?

Car size — probably similar. I want something reasonably economical, and easy to park. A 5 door hatch has been good. Though it needs to be not too squishy in the back seats.

Safety — the prospect of my offspring driving makes me think now is a good time to move to a five-star safety rating, so it would need to be a reasonably recent model.

Goes without saying — aircon, power windows, remote locking, cruise control, all those modern conveniences.

Some kind of modern music connectivity would be nice (though not essential) — who’d have thought a CD player in the car would ever seem old hat?

Auto or manual? Mostly I like driving a manual, but sometimes it’s a pain. The boys started out happy to learn on a manual, but early lessons have proved frustrating — the mysterious workings of the clutch are holding them back from learning everything else. So I’m leaning towards an Automatic, and later they can learn manual driving.

Gears of car

Price — I’m thinking up to about $15K.

Of course hopefully I can probably trade-in or sell the Astra. Private sale might actually be a bit of a chore, given the need to get a Roadworthy. Theoretically it’s worth about $3-4000, though it’s probably not in the best shape. Not that it’s been in any prangs, but it’s aging, and if the mechanic is warning me of costs to come, the best I might get is a couple of thousand from a dealer trade-in.

(I lost the handbook during a service last year, which was annoying. The mechanic swore blind they didn’t have it, but I always put it on the passenger seat when I take it in, and it didn’t show up anywhere at home… until, relief! Months later they rang back to say it had turned up again!)

Possible models

Toyota Corolla — apparently October 2012 onwards gets a 5-star safety rating. There seem to be quite a few around the $12-15,000 mark.

Hyundai i30 (2015 onwards gets 5-stars, which might price it too high for my budget).

Prius or Mazda 3 would suit but are probably out of my price range.

Any other suggestions?

The real challenge: can I get it done before the rego expires in August? (With a multitude of other things happening, perhaps not.)

  • Why does the default search on drive.com.au not filter by location? Do they really think it’s useful for the default results to include cars that might be thousands of kilometres away?
  • Carsales.com.au isn’t much better. Start entering criteria in the quick search option; realise you want to filter by age of car and need to go to the Advanced criteria, and it wipes everything you entered so far!

Learning to drive

Masters Hardware couldn’t launch a viable business against Bunnings, and only a couple of years after launching, have closed up all their outlets.

As this photo shows, they also couldn’t construct a functioning pedestrian crossing:

But here’s one thing they did manage: they’ve provided empty car parks right across Australia for learner drivers to practice in.

Yes, we may be more public transport-oriented than most households, but we do have a car, and the time has come to teach my offspring how to drive.

They haven’t waited as long as I did (I was 27 when I got my licence), but neither have my kids jumped into it at the first opportunity. We ended up getting them Proof Of Age cards when they turned 18 because they hadn’t got Learners permits yet.

But it’s starting to happen now, and apart from paid lessons, we have headed down to Masters a couple of times. And both times, other L-platers have been doing laps as well.

As it turns out, it’s not perfect at South Oakleigh, because there’s an active supermarket at the other end of the car park, and an alarming number of motorists like cutting through the car park at diagonals to get to it. Sure, you may save five seconds, but you risk smashing into a learner driver.

Figuring out the clutch and manual gears seems to be about as hard and frustrating as I remember it being when I first learned.

(I’ve been thinking about upgrading my old car, which might include going to an automatic — more on this soon. Something for family discussion.)

Anyway, we’ll keep practicing, so thanks again, Masters.

Why is this road rule never enforced?

Those of you who follow me on Twitter will know I see a lot of motorists blocking intersections, including pedestrian crossings.

Here’s road regulation 128:

Entering blocked intersections

A driver must not enter an intersection if the driver cannot drive through the intersection because the intersection, or a road beyond the intersection, is blocked.

Penalty: 3 penalty units.

At the time of writing, a penalty unit is $155.46, so this is a fine of $466.

A separate regulation, 59, talks about where vehicles coming to a red light must stop:

(1) If traffic lights at an intersection or marked foot crossing are showing a red traffic light, a driver must not enter the intersection or marked foot crossing.

Penalty: In the case of a natural person, 10 penalty units; In the case of a body corporate, 120 penalty units.

(A similar rule applies to entering the “bicycle storage area”.)

So, the rules are pretty clear.

But it happens all the time in the city centre, and there’s no visible policing of it.

Little Bourke/William Streets - vehicle in violation of Rule 218

Lonsdale/William Streets - vehicle in violation of Rule 218

Latrobe/William Streets - vehicles in violation of Rule 218

Flinders/Elizabeth Streets - vehicles in violation of Rule 218

Spencer Street - vehicle in violation of Rule 218

Lonsdale/William Streets - vehicles in violation of Rule 218

Bourke/William Streets - vehicles in violation of Rule 218

Bourke/Elizabeth Streets - vehicles in violation of Rule 218

Lonsdale/William Streets - vehicles in violation of Rule 218

Of course, in a lot of cases, the errant vehicle(s) will end up blocking other traffic, including private vehicles, freight and public transport.

Lonsdale/William Streets - vehicles in violation of Rule 218

Note: The above instances are all from the last fortnight.

You would think that in the city centre, drivers would be more conscious of not blocking intersections, since the chances of traffic congestion are much higher.

You’d also think that given the huge number of pedestrians (the area is dominated by public transport and pedestrians, far exceeding motorists), authorities would put more care into ensuring that vehicles don’t encroach on pedestrian space, for safety if nothing else.

Nope. No visible enforcement. Not even — as many of these photos are — in the middle of the legal precinct.

In contrast, police “blitzes” on pedestrians are very very common — yesterday morning they were busy doing it in at least two locations in the CBD alone.

Even while police are on the scene practicing traffic direction or watching for jaywalkers, they ignore vehicles blocking crossings.

Along with motorcycles parking in pedestrian spaces, and advertising and vehicles blocking footpaths, this is one of my pet hates. And the common theme is that pedestrian space is being constantly encroached upon, and almost nobody cares.

And how is it that the excesses of people in their metal boxes are condoned, while those walking around on their own two feet are marginalised?

Pedestrians in the car park – often there’s no choice

I sometimes wonder if motorists driving in and out of car parks get irritated by pedestrians walking through.

Often the pedestrians have no choice.

These pictures are from Caulfield Plaza – with the major drawcard inside being the Coles supermarket.

There is obvious pedestrian traffic from the railway station and the university campus to the southern entrance of the Plaza. There are no footpaths on this side, so of course people walk through the car park. There is a pedestrianised entrance from Dandenong Road, and another from Derby Road, but few people are likely to go the long way around.

Caulfield Plaza car park

In my suburb, Bentleigh, despite generally being very walkable, it’s a similar story at the big supermarkets:

  • Safeway Woolworths is on the corner of Jasper and Centre Roads, but provides no pedestrian access at all, so anybody coming on foot has to cut through the car park.
  • Aldi is on Centre Road, inside a bigger building, and has a dedicated pedestrian entrance to the street, as well as a car park around the back.
  • Coles has a well-placed pedestrian entrance from the eastern side, but from the western side there’s only a gap in the car spaces with some bollards (see below), and this is located well away from the desire lines, so nobody uses it.

Coles Bentleigh, pointless pedestrian path

These types of layouts are poor design, for both pedestrians and motorists.

And I guess until it’s fixed we just have to live with it. Motorists need to watch out, and consider that every pedestrian is one less car on the road and taking up car spaces.

And pedestrians need to watch out for inattentive drivers. Often visibility isn’t ideal, especially for cars pulling out of or backing into parking spaces.

I wonder though, is making pedestrians walk through a car park subtly discouraging them from walking? Particularly those who are, or are with, vulnerable walkers such as young children or those with mobility problems.

Would supermarkets and other businesses with their own car parks get more customers if they provided safe convenient paths to their doors?

Are newer car parks and shopping centres any better? How do we get this fixed?

Don’t park on a yellow line

I’ve often thought that we have too many parking restriction signs in Melbourne. Some streets have them every few metres.

One way around that is to use line markings. As a long-time watcher of British TV, I’m somewhat familiar with yellow lines: single (roughly: no stopping at specific times, but with some exceptions), double (no stopping at any time), red (roughly equivalent to a Clearway).

It’s not well-known, but we have some variants here: you’re not meant to park along a yellow line.

You’d think it might save some signage… well not in this case, spotted near Patterson station… the council has put a sign with the line (which is only a couple of metres long) to explain it.

Yellow line marking, Bentleigh

Meanwhile down at Mornington, one motorist is disputing a fine, declaring it “unAustralian”… seems a little over the top for a $91 fine.

I wouldn’t object to more use of lines to avoid having to put up signs everywhere, but given so few people seem to know about them, some kind of education campaign might be needed.