Excuse me? That lane is called a bike lane for a reason - it's for bicycles.

Driving is one of those things that people often view as a right, but it's actually a privilege. Strong opinions about right this and wrong that are formed around driving as well. Here's one of my biggest pet peeves.javascript:void(0)

I was out running a quick errand the other night when I came to an intersection that frustrates me every time I drive this particular route. I was going straight and my side of the intersection has a left turn lane, straight lane and a bike lane. It just so happens that there is a constant flow of cars turning right from this direction – and they ALWAYS use the bike lane. I’ll grant that this side of the intersection certainly needs a right turn lane, but that doesn’t mean that in its absence the bike lane is an acceptable alternative.

I’ve always been annoyed by people who use the bike lane to make right turns, but my objection to this has increased about a zillion times since I drove by the scene near my house where 5 cyclists were hit – while cycling in the bike lane on a quiet Sunday morning last July. I actually forced myself to go out cycling through my area after that accident because it made me feel timid about cycling in traffic and I needed to get over that to enjoy cycling again.

I don't ever feel fully comfortable cycling in traffic because there are still too many drivers who don't pay attention to cyclists who are entitled to share the road.

I did a little research on whether it’s legal to use a certain portion of the bike lane this way, just to see if I have justifiable angst. I found an article about bike lanes on torontoist and they say “right-turning cars are also prohibited from entering the bike lane except in the final, short dashed section”. I have to say that I’m surprised that I can’t easily find anything addressing this in the Ontario Driver’s Handbook, but I’m going to make the assumption that torontoist did their research.

So, if you’re ever in an intersection that doesn’t have a right turn lane and there’s a “jerk” up ahead who’s hugging the bike lane so close that no one can turn around them, it might just be me. And if I find out I'm wrong, I'll move over so you can get through to turn right. Because that’s how I roll.

What are your driving pet peeves?

What do status symbols really symbolize?

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine proudly showed me her new Coach handbag. I ooh'd and ah'd at the treasure she'd acquired and listened to how she had been looking at them at the Rideau Centre for quite some time. She was quite excited about the fact that she'd purchased her bag in Florida for under $200 where the same bag in Ottawa would have cost $300-400. Clearly, her bag was a bargain shopper's dream. And this particular friend truly knows how to find a good deal; we find out about a few different new ones every time we visit. (Personally, that's WAY outside of my spending comfort zone on an item like that, but that's a choice each individual must make on their own, based on their own circumstances.)

Not long after, I was watching a segment on Ellen and she was giving away a pair of Coach sunglasses. Just last week I was at Costco and saw a girl walking in with a rather garrish, in-your-face Coach bag (see similar bag to the left). After that, I realized that this is a status symbol trend that has gotten a lot more prevalent recently. Of course, Coach has been a status symbol for a very long time, but until recently, I thought it was pretty much reserved for upper class folks that have far more money to burn.

Since I was recently laid off and the economy is in the toilet, these incidents/observations got me thinking about what message status symbols send. After all, the current economic situation is rooted at least partly in the U.S. real estate crisis - and isn't a house one of the ultimate (and most expensive) status symbols? Of course, the lenders must shoulder much of the blame because they intentionally approved mortgages they knew the borrowers could not afford. They were counting on basic human nature of wanting "bigger, better and faster" to try to maximize their profit margins. Obviously, the scheme worked until it all fell apart.

Buying a house one can't afford is foolish, but as an investment you intend to pay off over 20-30 years, it can be somewhat justified, though I wouldn't recommend it! The one status symbol I'll never understand is cars. What possesses people to purchase a car they can't afford when it immediately depreciates the second they leave the lot?!

A couple of years ago, a couple we know purchased an Infiniti G35. They proudly drove their shiny new car throughout the fall of 2007 and spring of 2008. Then, in the summer of 2008, the car started to sit in their driveway more and more. We eventually found out that, because they had to fill it with premium fuel, they were opting to share their far more fuel efficient Toyota Corolla. Oh, and last week, the Corolla was replaced with their brand new Toyota Prius - an even more fuel efficient (hybrid) car...and the G35 is once again sitting in the driveway more often again this summer as gas prices slowly rise. Personally, though it is a bit of a gas guzzler, I'm quite happy with my Hyundai Santa Fe that was less expensive than the G35 and the Prius! I also appreciate having only one car payment.

So, what's my point? Just that perhaps we (people, in general) are not particularly good at counting the cost of "things" these days. Making a $200-300 purchase is something many people do without even batting an eye anymore. So, is a Coach handbag excessive or frivolous? Not if that's the level of quality you appreciate, desire and can afford. Going into debt to have a name brand item or increasing your debt to buy a name brand item has gotten so many of us into trouble - me included. Of course, we keep doing it to maintain an image. I do wonder, though, if these often highly coveted status symbols might ever backfire and begin to symbolize poor money management for some.

Of course, my thoughts are probably nothing new to anyone who has to support themselves or their family right now. It's only natural in these troubled economic times (DRINK!) to re-evaluate how you think about and spend money. Maybe I'll even retain what I'm learning now when things do get better!