You really should take the subway

The best advice I can give anyone planning to travel to Boston can be summed up in a tongue-in-cheek paraphrase of the words of an old Johnny Cash song: Don't take your car to Boston, visitors; don't take your car to town.

One reason is that you'll find almost nowhere to park. And any available parking is expensive.

But real travelers don't let parking problems deter them. So I'll let you in on a secret, well-known to residents but not first-time tourists: Driving in Boston isn't like driving anywhere else.

Traffic lights and one-way signs don't mean the same thing here that they do elsewhere.

You don't believe me? Stand on the corner of Massachusetts Avenue across from Symphony Hall. When the light turns red, watch how many cars keep going. It's not a questions of if a car will run the light, but how many.

Boston rightfully brags about what a wonderful city it is for walking. But smart pedestrians learn very quickly that when the walk sign lights up, they should always check to see if the traffic has actually stopped before they step into the street.

And when the street you're crossing is one-way, be sure to look the other way before crossing. Is that a bicycle flying down the street the wrong way? Yup. It happens all the time.

Watch out for bicyclists on the sidewalk, too. They're not supposed to be there, but hey, they're scared to share the road with those motorists.

Be on the lookout, too, for "no left turn" signs - though it will seem no one else is. For all anyone pays attention to them, they might as well not be there.

You'll quickly discover that pedestrians have their own idiosyncrasies. Bostonians think nothing of walking across the street in front of traffic. And standing on the corner meekly till the walk light appears? That's so Seattle.

You're going to love Boston. But when you return home, you may have more to tell your friends about than the Freedom Trail and the Red Sox.

E-mail the Travel section at csmtravel@csps.com.

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