Monday, February 21, 2011

Getting Out Of A Jam

After watching this video on how to break up traffic jams:

The thought occurs to me, if one vehicle driving sensibly can really have that much of an impact, wouldn't it be useful just to pay a handful of people to drive like that in the rush hours everyday, if a dozen drivers on one motorway could unblock the major congestion points then they would save tens or even hundreds of thousands of people a significant amount of time and fuel. Say one blockage causes 50000 commuters to lose 30 minutes of workplace productivity a day at a rate of 10 pounds an hour then that would cost the country 1.25 million pounds a week or roughly 60 million a year. Whereas it would only cost a couple of hundred thousand to pay people to keep the traffic moving.


TDK said...

Don't they already have this in this country. Some motorways have those variable speed limits.

I have to say that whilst I have some sympathy I note that his camera faces forwards. We see what happens ahead of him not behind. We miss the constant stream of traffic that has to pull out and overtake him.

I also note that his theory boils down to if everyone drove like him then there would be no problems. Isn't that delusion universal? I mean think about it. If it is really true that only a handful of good drivers can "force" better traffic flow then why doesn't that happen anyway? Can it really be the case that there are NO good drivers at all?

Ross said...

TDK- the article does mentioned the variable speed limits on the M25, although in my experience people don't pay too much attention to them.

"Can it really be the case that there are NO good drivers at all"

The type of driving that he is recommending isn't something that anyone does naturally so there might be very few of his type of driving.

I've been trying the thing about letting people merge into my lane ahead of me on the motorway and it does feel odd, although there wasn't much congestion. That may just be a coincidence of course.

James Higham said...

Were you thinking of that on the way into work?

Ross said...

Yes. I was actually driving as he recommends. I don't know how I affected the traffic in general but it certainly is more efficient to drive that way, a lot less braking.

TDK said...

The type of driving that he is recommending isn't something that anyone does naturally

I disagree. What is the archetype of the man in a flat cap about, if not this.

... so there might be very few of his type of driving.

That's my point "few" apparently is enough. Ergo, there must be none.

Ross said...

Maybe they are there on most days but when they're not is when the jams occur.

banned said...

If I ever allow a gap to build up in front of me there's always some tosser wanting to overtake into it.
An "expert" once told me that the best way to look at traffic congestion was to examine fluid dynamics which seems reasonable.

Mark Wadsworth said...

R, I always drive that way in stop-start traffic.

It is an intellectual challenge to guess exactly which gear to engage (anywhere between 1st and 5th, just depending) so that you can basically take your feet off the pedals and let the car roll along at minimum rev's for the maximum distance before you have to even dab the brake or accelerator, let alone change gear or anything dramatic like that.

lorri666 said...

To Banned: So what if someone moves into the gap? Since you are not tailgating the person ahead of you, you don't have to slam on your brakes. All you have to do is ease up on the gas a little to re-create the space. Now that same "tosser" will not be blocking you and everbody else by cutting in up ahead at the really jammed-up section, because he's already in the lane he needs to be in for his exit. I've been doing this for years in L.A. and yes, it works. It seems counterintuitive that slowing yourself down speeds things up, but you actually can see your own lane speeding up while others stay jammed. Or I should say it's not really slowing down, it's just staying at the same rate of traffic but leaving more space.

Bill Beaty said...

> We miss the constant stream of traffic that has to pull out and overtake him.

"Has to?" There is no such stream. The camera view behind me is totally boring: a column of moving cars, identical to the column that's ahead of my gap. Those high speed merging drivers are all coming in from the distance (presumably delighted to finally arrive at a gap in the sold wall of cars in the exit-only lane.)

I discovered that most people don't jackrabbit dangerously in traffic in order to gain a few seconds. When I was performing this trick every day while commuting, I'd watch behind, and only one or two times per week I'd see a weaving/road-rager pull out to pass me. To avoid getting rear-ended they have to wildly accelerate, and the engine noise is extremely obvious.

And yes, there were no gap-leaving drivers at all. That's why that half-mile jam existed. At least that once was the case. In the last ten years I've seen more and more of us ...and this jam doesn't form anymore, at least in the 3000ft length it once always had. Too many people now know the trick.

Bill Beaty said...

Also note: whenever it feels very odd to allow other cars merge ahead of you, it means that you've been dangerously tailgating without realizing it.

Safe gap lengths at nearly all highway speeds require that you leave a space which several merging drivers can easily fit within. Even down at 30KPH, a 3sec safety gap is 25M. To keep out merging vehicles, we all must drive such that any small accident causes an enormous multi-car pileup.

Ross said...

Bill Beatty- Thanks for that. Since I've started doing what you suggest, I have become aware that there are often other drivers already doing the same thing.