Friday, 3 June 2011

Advanced motoring

There is a beautiful, tree-lined bike-path along the river, which forms most of my 15-minute trip into "work" at the aforementioned erudite space. The trees are protected by order of the City Council. Geese sit around and watch you glide past. Even the dogs are well-behaved. It is a total pleasure to cycle along: so much so that even getting caught in a hailstorm on the way home isn't too terrible.

There is only one road junction to get through after all that delightfulness, and it has helpfully been provided with one of these advanced stop-lines: a special green breathing-space for cyclists.

Of course, this is incredibly inefficient. Putting all those cars whose makers boast of how rapidly they can go from nought-to-sixty (because they haven't been allowed to boast of top speeds on car adverts since round about the time England won the World Cup) in a queue behind those of us who might, just possibly, make it from nought to six by the far side of the junction (on a good day) could be construed as a criminal waste of horsepower. But the Council is one step ahead: they've been listening to American physicists talking about waves. Who have found, interestingly, that rapid acceleration is one of the things that causes traffic jams: waves of still-ness, in the intervals between futile acceleration, propagate backwards along the road, bringing everybody to a halt in apparently random, unexpected places.

The people campaigning for a 20 mph speed limit on the city's smaller roads are beginning to use this to argue that a lower speed limit on roads which are at or beyond capacity can increase traffic flow...a bit like easing-off the tilt angle of a wine bottle so that the wine flows out smoothly and doesn't "glug". It would also help stop people driving as if they were late for their own funeral.

So there I was yesterday afternoon, sitting waiting for the lights to change, noticing once again that drivers are not always alert enough to actually stop before they end up in the "advanced" bit, because I've had to go all the way round to the front of some posh black thing in order to come to a halt on the small remaining bit of green space...when the full implication of the car's length, blackness, shininess and large floral display in the back window sinks in.

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