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4 entries from February 2015

About the Roundabout: Increased Neighbourhood Safety and Driving Tips for Roundabouts

Traffic roundabout

I grew up watching Clark Griswold take his family on vacation and inevitably suffer some kind of wacky car problem (safety note: do NOT drive like Clark Griswold).

The incident that stuck with me the most, perhaps because I could imagine it easily happening to me, was the episode in European Vacation when Clark could not escape the roundabout in London.

Luckily, when I drove my first roundabout, it was in North America and much smaller .. and I didn't have to contend with any double-decker buses.

But I'll admit, I do still tense up a little when entering a roundabout. And apparently I'm not alone, considering the amount of "how to drive a roundabout" material that has been produced by Canadian municipal and provincial governments.

Roundabouts large and small, from neighbourhood traffic calming circles to large intersection replacement projects, are being built all over Canada; and governments are doing their best to make sure drivers are ready for them.

Roundabouts have been shown to be safer and offer more benefits than traditional intersections for a variety of reasons:

  • Overall lower vehicle speeds
  • Better for vehicles as well as pedestrians
  • Reduced "vehicular conflict points" (a fancy way of saying that since all cars are moving in the same direction in a round about, there aren't as many head-on crash opportunities)
  • Increased capacity compared to a traditional multi-phase traffic signal
  • Less idling (reduced air pollution)
  • Aesthetically pleasing (I particularly enjoy all the community gardens that are at the centre of the smaller traffic circles in Vancouver) 
Multi-Lane Roundabout
Photo:© Queen's Printer for Ontario

But even with all these benefits, they can still be unnerving. Here are important things to keep in mind about driving in a roundabout: 

  • Reduce your speed on the approach
  • If it is a multi-lane roundabout, check the signs and choose the correct lane for your desired exit
  • Traffic already in the roundabout has the right of way; wait for an appropriate gap to enter
  • When in the roundabout, proceed with traffic until your exit
  • Use your right signal to indicate your exit
  • Avoid passing and changing lanes in the roundabout
  • Give large vehicles extra space in the roundabout
  • Watch for pedestrians and cyclists upon entrance and exit

This video from the Ontario Ministry of Transportation has an excellent overview of how to drive in a multi-lane roundabout. It includes a demonstration of how to interact with emergency vehicles in a roundabout as well.  

Are you seeing roundabouts being built in your town or city? Do you like using them? 

- Rose R.

Winter in Canada Means WinterGas


Spring may be only a month away, but most of Canada is still held tightly in winter's icy, snowy grip. We share a lot of advice here on PumpTalk about winter driving. But it's been awhile since we talked about what we at Petro-Canada do to make winter easier on Canadian drivers and that's our WinterGas. Because winter doesn't stop Canadians and neither should their gasoline!

Since this year marks the 15th anniversary of our iconic WinterGas commercial, I thought a quick FAQ about WinterGas was in order, starting with:

What's the deal with WinterGas?

"WinterGas is specially designed specifically for the Canadian winter months and is available in all grades of gasoline in the winter months. It has three main differences versus the fuel we use during the spring, summer and fall months.

First, WinterGas is specially formulated to have a higher RVP - or vapour pressure. This means that the fuel is more volatile and vapourizes more readily, which is especially more effective in winter months when the temperature is much colder.

Second, Tactrol™, our proprietary deposit control additive is included. This additive is a detergent that is designed to help keep engines operating efficiently and reliably by removing deposits formed in the fuel and intake system.

Third, WinterGas includes an additional additive which is a gas-line anti-freeze that keeps fuel moving when temperatures start to drop."

Basically, WinterGas helps with cold weather start ups, helps prevent fuel line freezing and keeps your fuel systems clean - all extremely important in our extreme Canadian weather!

Does WinterGas cost more?

Nope. WinterGas is available in all grades of gasoline and doesn't cost extra.

Where can I get WinterGas?

No other gas station in Canada makes WinterGas - it's available exclusively at Petro-Canada. As our old commercial says, "you have to live here to get it"!

For a slightly more technical explanation about WinterGas, visit our older post about WinterGas and how it works.

WinterGas is available until early March, when hopefully spring will save us all. What's the coldest it's been in your neck of the woods this winter? Let us know in the comments!

- Rose R.

But Still No Flying Car: The Coolest Cars from the 2015 Detroit Auto Show

Flying Car

I don't know about you, but ever since I saw Back to the Future II, I've been looking forward to 2015 with great anticipation. Hoverboards! Food hydrators! And of course, FLYING CARS.

While some of the movie's predictions, such as video calls, mobile payments and video games where you are the controller have totally come to pass, others have not and my precious dream, the flying car, is among them. And sadly, looking at the line-up at this year's Detroit Auto Show, it's as if car manufacturers aren't even TRYING to make it happen. Disappointing.

That said, there were many sleek and sexy new concept and production cars unveiled at North America's biggest auto show last month and more than a few caught my eye. From hybrids and electric vehicles to insanely flashy sports cars, from giant pick up trucks to tiny speedsters, this year's show had a little something for every auto enthusiast.

This video from AutoGuide highlights some of the top debuts at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show this year. Are any of these vehicles on your wish list?

- Rose R.

What's the Deal with Diesel Prices?


That's a question that we've heard recently on a fairly regular basis: gasoline prices are falling, but what about diesel?

In order to answer this question, it's essential to understand about how diesel and gasoline are priced.While gasoline and diesel fuels are both derived from crude oil, they are separate commodities and priced independently in the North American markets. So they each have their own supply and demand fundamentals and these often move in different directions.

Gasoline is primarily a retail product and prices tend to jump towards summer as more drivers hit the road or go on long cross-Canada road trips.

In North America, diesel is more of a commercial product. We use it for road transport, industry, agriculture and heating. Prices tend to rise in the winter when demand is strongest - this is the time of year, particularly in Canada, where we use a lot of heating fuel and we transport more goods from farther away.

OK, that's the demand side of supply and demand. What about the supply side; how is it affecting diesel prices? Since the North American consumer market is a gasoline-dominant market, refineries are optimized for gasoline production. For example, a barrel of crude will produce 18 to 21 gallons of gasoline but only 10 to 12 gallons of diesel fuel; there is simply less product in a market that wants more diesel.

So while retail diesel prices have, in fact, fallen in recent months as the price of crude oil has declined, the price reductions are less than for gasoline largely because of the seasonal increase in diesel demand with production remaining consistent.

We've written a couple of other pieces on PumpTalk about diesel prices: "Global Demand and Diesel Prices" and "Diesel Prices". Also, this article in the Vancouver Sun has some additional information about falling diesel prices compared to falling gasoline prices.

Hope this clears up some of the questions you have about diesel prices these days. Do you drive a diesel vehicle?

- Rose R.