Whether you’re a car enthusiast, motorcycle commuter or a Sunday driver, we’ve all had to deal with it. No, I’m not talking about the 1998 hit comedy film featuring Jackie Chan & Chris Tucker, nor am I talking about the quite frankly awful sequels that would follow.
We’re talking about Rush Hour Traffic. The curse bestowed upon motorists that is only comparable to a cold sore, and just like herpes, it’s here to stay.
So how on this earth is this still an issue in the 21st century? First we need to look back to late 70’s California where smog checks came into effect, strangling performance of cars and not solving the constant gridlock experienced at the time which has followed to this day. The smog is no longer the issue it once was, however, that being said the constant idling of cars in traffic hasn’t gotten better, but instead, a lot worse.
It would seem that environmentalism could have been targeting the wrong culprit this whole time, and to some extent, still is… CARS.
I know, I know… cars are one of the leading causes of increased CO2 production, but hear me out. We need to have a quick discussion about burning fuel. A car uses fuel and air to create that wonderful explosion that turns your crank, which in turn will move your transmission bits thus turning your wheels. When do you burn the most amount of fuel though? When accelerating.
Both @scoopdalex and myself drive big, cumbersome diesel family cars that will get a fairly decent 40/45+MPG on the motorway, but will easily get as low as 12MPG when accelerating from a junction or when increasing speed once those pesky variable speed limit zones are in the rear view mirror. Of course we could accelerate a little slower, but I have a much heavier foot than our beloved editor, Alex. That won’t aide in the reduction of congestion either.
“So Webby, what is your genius idea?” I’m glad you asked! It’s to prepare for the future, just like we should have done with the smog back in California back in the late 70’s. Don’t just target the friendly car…
Target the road too!
It’s all fine and dandy strangling a car for it’s own gasses so we can breath somewhat clean air, but there are more cars on the road now than ever before. According to a Department of Transport report from 2011, the number of cars on the road in the UK has increased from 4,000,000 in 1950 to over 35,000,000 by 2010. Obviously, that number has increased since, and will continue to do so. The roads however, have barely expanded for the growth.
“Why are we not targeting the roads!?” I hear you ask. I’m glad you’re following.
Money. It’s all about money. Nobody wants to invest trillions into redesigning a whole road network, especially as electric cars are now becoming incredibly popular and more common. This will not solve the traffic issue that has plagued us for nearly 50 years, and we all know it.
There are a few ways that one could reduce congestion on our outdated and undersized roads, and that is by being smart. Not extremely smart, but a little clever. Motorcycles are a good idea, but we’ll move onto that in a moment.
A great way for the Average Joe to get home a little quicker would be a motorway that doesn’t go from a smooth 3 lanes, to 2 lanes and back to 3 lanes again. This is very common on British motorways and forms a most annoying bottleneck between junctions in and around cities. You get your obvious BMW, Audi and White Van Man using the left-hand lane because it’s often faster flowing and will then proceed to cut into the middle lane before the junction at the last minute which in turn forces your Average Joe to brake which will lead to a sort of chain reaction. ‘You brake, I brake.’
Not a single variable speed limit will solve this bottleneck! We need infrastructure, and it needs to be dang smartly designed and easy to understand for you and I to boot.
Nowadays I can’t speak for inner-city traffic as I no longer work in a city, and even when I did, my trusty Honda CG125 could deal with traffic without a single issue. Y’know, I’d be that guy filtering (lane splitting) right on past you. That was until I got hit by a third party from behind whilst stationary in traffic. See the irony there? Ha. “You should have filtered, Webby”.
That CG125 is still better than my CBR600F3 will ever be. I miss it dearly.
This will be somewhat biased towards motorway traffic as I commute 42 miles a day, on a motorway. Lord help us…
Now we know what causes the congestion, but what about solving it?
Elon Musk put it very, very well with his strange but innovative idea…
“We have a 2D road network, and we have buildings in 3D” – Elon Musk
So this tech-titan believes tunnels are a good idea for congestion, and I as both a motorcycle rider and a 4-door saloon driver agree. There are a few things I need to bring up of course. I personally believe that these tunnels should be limited to electric vehicles only and that the cars should be programmed as standard to understand these tunnels appropriately so human error is all but removed from the equation. We live in a day and age where fibre optic broadband is available everywhere except the middle of nowhere and the occasional village. Why not funky tunnels on primary areas such as motorways and congested dual carriageways? If there is a demand, companies will deliver.
Electric vehicles are quickly becoming a fantastic alternative to conventional ICE vehicles and within 10 years purely electric cars will be at the very least 1 out of 4 cars on the road, but very few companies are willing to invest in the road network infrastructure, and this is wrong.
Imagine it, 1 million cars out of 4 million use these great tunnels across a small country like Wales. That’s 1 million cars travelling at a fixed speed underneath the motorway beneath your ICE/Hybrid pedals. That’s 1,000,000 cars that are no longer clogging up the road. You can leave work, get stuck in some traffic until you get to a motorway/A road, and the junctions overall are much clearer thus reducing the stop/start insanity.
Your true petrolhead could continue to drive in reduced traffic for a few years, and your electric car brethren could increase the need for extra, deeper tunnels as demand naturally increases. As much as we hate to admit this fact, it is a fact, electric cars are the future. This does not mean the end of the internal combustion engine. The internal combustion engine is a natural part of history and is a key figure of the industrial revolution, it can’t just die off forever. The simple yet increasingly complicated design is what made the world what it is and as above, it won’t die for hundreds and hundreds of years. It shall live on, I say!
Believe in the electric car as both an idea and as a solution to our congestion issues. You can still own your Toyota GT86 with a funky HKS supercharger as your classic sports car running on homemade ethanol, but your daily might just be a 2029 Nissan Leaf. Just sit back as the tunnel software guides your eco-mobile through the funky Elon Musk tunnel, both reducing CO2 and easing congestion.
Alternatively you could buy a motorcycle, filter between cars and ease congestion that way.
This is @scoopdwebby signing off with his first article.
Hopefully the GT86 with the funky HKS supercharger will be mine one day.