Thursday, April 16, 2015

Cooperation: On The Road

There's something that I really love to witness.
It's a small thing.
A thing most people probably don't pay much attention to.

It has to do with driving.

I love finding places where the traffic pattern requires people to cooperate, especially in ways that involve "unwritten rules."

One such place locally involves a one-lane bridge, where the custom is that three cars go across, and then the next one waits, so the cars from the other side can go.

Another local one- my favorite- is a hairpin turn, on a hill. It requires the downhill car to stop about 20 feet back from the stop sign, so a car making the turn to go uphill can cross into the opposite lane safely. It also requires cars from all three directions (downhill, uphill turn, uphill straight) to coordinate taking turns so that it works smoothly.

What I like about these situations is that the "rules" are not stated anywhere. They have developed over years of travel.

So how do new people learn them?
There aren't signs.
I've never seen anyone tell anyone. No one rolls down a window and yells, or anything.
I have seen a few cranky looks at the fourth car on the bridge, maybe, but at the hairpin turn, people smile and wave.

And yet... people learn.
They watch other people do it.
They take their turn.
They do what makes sense.

And there are rarely accidents at either location. I can't think of any for the past several years, at least.

I think it works because... it's what works. People don't try to manage it other ways, because those don't work nearly as well.

The city has tried, a couple of times, to force a change of traffic pattern for the hairpin turn. They occasionally voice "serious concern" for that intersection. For a period of time, they put up a sign prohibiting the uphill turn. People HATED that, and eventually, they took the sign down.

They are talking about prohibiting it again, and even prohibiting the downhill turn, but forcing everyone to go half a mile down the road to a roundabout.  I REALLY hope they don't, not only because it is terribly inconvenient, but also, people aren't nearly as polite in the roundabout (often people get confused, since we don't have many around here, and they aren't sure who has the right of way).

Mostly, though, I hope they don't change it because I LOVE the way it works now. It is a lovely nearly-daily opportunity to see people cooperating and helping each other. Why eliminate that?!?

Today, while traveling, I got to see another example of driving cooperation. Several times, there were situations where there was an on-ramp, and both the cars on the ramp and the ones already on the road matched speeds so the merge went like a zipper. Beautiful!

Am I the only one who see these things?

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