I have been mentally composing this short little thing for a while. Not entirely sure why but I guess it's kept me occupied. The more perceptive of you will surely see the parrellels I'm trying to illustrate. Go easy on it, it's just a draft I typed out yesterday. Feel free to provide as much constructice criticism as you like, I have thick skin.
"The Art of Lane Changing
I spend a lot of time riding my motorcycle. It’s very confined and occasionally a tad claustrophobic inside the helmet which, coupled with the near automation of my daily commute, tends to leave me alone with my thoughts. When I refer to the automation, I allude only to the route selection as a whole. The tedium of the process leaves experimentation and postulation as the only means of mental stimulation. The selection of lanes for optimal flow along a given road is, to me, as intriguing as it is potentially elucidatory.
The strategies I could select to choose which lane will deliver me to work on time can be broken down into two distinct mindsets. The first of which, centres around my prior convictions about the lane’s underlying flow characteristics.
For example, let us imagine that we are travelling along a road that consists of two lanes followed by an intersection that only allows people to either turn right or go straight ahead. They can turn right only once it is safe to cross the oncoming traffic. If I’m travelling in the right hand lane, and I know that there is a binomially high chance that at least one of the 50 cars in front of me will choose to turn right holding up the entire lane, I must decide which lane to choose in order to see me through in the shortest amount of time. In the first of our strategies I would swap to the left hand lane even if at first it may appear slower banking on the fact that it will pay off when the other cars get caught waiting behind the turning car.
Alternatively, lets say I was unfamiliar with another road and the only information I have at my disposal is the immediate comparison of flows in either lane. This presents an interesting question in itself. Do I change into the lane that is flowing more freely in the hope that I too can travel more quickly, or do I stick with my lane banking on the masses to change to the fast flowing lane which subsequently causes a reduction in travel speed of that once faster flowing lane? If one assumes that lane changes are completely efficient and that I can change to either lane at the very instant I desire, then following the freest flowing lane appears the obvious choice. In this way I can change lanes and, upon detecting a slowing down of momentum, move back to my original lane some several cars ahead.
So which strategy should one choose?
On the one hand, the general populace will surely figure out over time that there is a high chance that someone will turn right at our imaginary intersection and account for this by ensuring that they are in the left lane. This then leaves the right lane sparsely populated and the left lane completely full, grinding to a halt. The more opportunistic of riders then spot an opportunity to wiz down the somewhat empty but perilous right hand lane and attempt a rapid and undeniably dangerous last minute lane change.
On the other hand, we should consider the daily variations in traffic flow. It would surely be prohibitively complex to try and consider every variable to construct an entirely holistic model of the flow of each lane at each point. Events such as a dog running out onto the road or an elderly woman travelling ludicrously slow in what would normally be a fundamentally faster lane become much more difficult to monitor and analyse than more obvious events like roadwork. Furthermore, if everyone knows the roadwork will happen, it can often cancel out any gains to be had by selecting a different route because every other punter has chosen a similar alternate route and is stuck in the same traffic that you are albeit on a new road.
However, if we assign a probability rating to each possible event and provide some sort of critical cut-off such that we only consider the variables that will have a substantial impact and that are substantially likely to occur, over time, the dog running out on the road would appear all noise and no bite. I note that I must endeavour to choose more accurate probabilities than my fellow road users else I make the same incorrect choices they do.
At this stage I’ve left myself in a rather confusing strategic pickle. If I could really be bothered and if I indeed felt that the data collected would be as allegorically useful as the theory, I would spend the next few months riding to work testing each tactic and finding an average performance based on my arrival time at work. Something tells me I’ve thought about it too much…