David Coveney

Anatomy of a Traffic Jam

I’ve just spent far far too long doing these two illustrations. The first shows a traffic jam that’s a problem, caused by people not using up all the road. The second shows what happens if the two self appointed guardians of the road move up a little, don’t block people, and if other road users don’t all try and keep to the left.

Basically, during busy periods, it’s much much better if people use all of the road. Yet in Britain it’s a common scene to see a mile of empty right-hand-lane prior to roadworks. Consequently the traffic jam is far longer than it needs to be and, in many cases, the jam will go far enough back that it blocks a junction – causing a lot of people extra delays and frustration.

So let’s all try and help others on not by obsessively queueing politely in traffic jams, but by using as much of the road as possible.

Anatomy of a traffic jam, part one of two
Anatomy of a traffic jam, part two of two


Since the page went up I’ve been made aware of the following two links which are very interesting and have animations of some traffic problems:

Wave motions and how to prevent them
How increased spacing helps improve merging

Thanks to brangdon @ cix for those.

I’ve resized the images slightly in the browser to help them fit better on this theme.  If you want to view them full size or in better quality, right click (or do whatever Mac owners do) on the image and click ‘view image’ to see the full unadulterated version.

I’ve also added this post to the Campaign for Thinking… just because