I've lived in the Bay Area for a good part of my life. When you drive the East Bay, North Bay, San Francisco and all the rest, that old "only the strong survive" really applies. You learn to drive fast, you learn to merge, you learn to share the road, cars race past you, motorcycles zip between lanes, which commonly known as lanesplitting can scare the wits out you. While legal in several European countries, here it is only legal in California, like foie gras, it is something we could've lived without. Driving here is a game of skill, fast paced and you better be ready to play.
On my visits to Portland I have observed, a lot of it through my own California expat daughter's frustration, the lack of driving skills that people in Portland seem to have. I guess no one is in a hurry there, it is laid back, there is a kick back vibe similar to a California beach town. Not that that is a negative, it is just something that requires time getting used to. From the frantic pace of the bay, it seems like someone forgot to set the alarm clock, everyone operates on snooze. They drive slow, they don't bother using turn signals, they never seem to use their horns, and they are polite to the point of being obnoxious. "You go", "No you go" back and forth and it can go on for what seems like forever. Finally you both go at the same time, hitting the breaks and then it is Finnegan begin again, "You go", no "You go". Makes you want to pull your hair out or go pull the other driver's hair out.
Now that I am in Santa Barbara I am experiencing a similar driving style to that of Portland. There is some debate (in my own head) I guess as to whether these drivers are actually "bad" drivers or simply "courteous and polite" drivers. I think it is bad driving when one almost comes to a stop while merging onto the freeway. Get your ass out there! Speed up. Don't slow things down. Between (a) the retirees who really have no place to go, (b) the "should have given it up a long time ago" surfer dudes and their "hey man",(c) the I'm assuming illegals, only because they must be driving that slow to avoid getting pulled over, to the (d) "you gotta love them" tourists who think it is okay to stop anywhere to have a look see ~ all of them combine to bring forth deadly road conditions. Deadly in the sense that I just might have a case of road rage here and it won't be pretty. The speed and competency with which they drive gets an F rating in my humble aggravated opinion. If you noticed here that I tossed out any attempt at being politically correct, you would be correct.
I notice that when the speed limit is posted at let's say, 25 miles, people actually go 25 miles or heaven forbid, 20. This is a new phenomenon for me. I expect people to drive at a minimum of 10 miles faster than the speed limit. It is just a given. This would be considered courteous driving in the Bay Area. It's called, "Get out of my way, I've got things to do, places to go, people to see, and I bet you do to." You would think that driving around in this type of beach town would be rather relaxing, or as some people seem to say here, "chilaxing" ~ but I'm not feeling it. It makes my blood pressure rise and makes me long for the good old freeway, that beautiful stretch of interstate. Put me behind a big rig any day. Yes, I think I feel a road trip coming on.