Go with the flow

Today I enjoyed a day working from the Redditch office with the rest of the Manufacturing development team.  The M6 was relatively kind to me with a 2 ½ hour journey each way.   I spent the journey down watching the relative flows of traffic, as I’d read some interesting discussions about traffic flow last night and this stated the revelation that when moving in heavy traffic you can reach your destination not trying to travel so quickly.


The gist of it is that because of the increase in space you (should) leave in front of your car when travelling at higher speed, the effective capacity of the road is reduced.  Therefore the most efficient speed is a constant lower speed rather than always accelerating to the speed that the car in front will allow.  Also in urban areas more cars can travel through a set of lights if they are travelling at 15mph than at 20mph which therefore reduces queues at lights, waiting time brake-pad wear and fuel consumption.  It’s not just a win-win it’s a win-win-win-win.


Until last year, as a heavy user of the M6, I had realised that when the traffic builds up the best lane is the ‘slow’ lane.  Although given the opportunity, cars in the fast lane will speed up to over 70mph, they also slow down to a lot less than the trucks in the slow lane.  Trucks like to stick to a steady speed or are limited to 56mph and I found it relaxing and stress free mingling amongst them until the traffic thinned (most of the time it didn’t ever thin).  I had noticed that on occasions I had ended up passing cars in the fast lane which I had previously seen half an hour ago.


The reduced capacity at high speed also explains why the reverse is true; when traffic is very heavy you are forced to travel slower even when there is no obstruction.  Eg trying to travel from Manchester to Leeds for 9 o’clock, everything seems to stop just after Huddersfield.  


If you want to ‘go play in the traffic’ do it safely here:


Although on the traffic light scenario they only ever seemed to turn to red once and then stayed green forever which might be ideal but is not very realistic.



PS apologies for the font change yet again but I’m still trying to find myself in a calligraphic sense


About holmesinho

Happily married father of 2 living in Prestwich 5 miles north of Manchester, England. I cycle most days though mostly commuting and also enjoy running and triathlon.
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