I’m always interested in unconventional solutions to traffic issues, and reader Paul up in Ontario sent along the following: “I observed recently that on a road under re-construction, the process involved grinding a rough surface on a lane prior to re-surfacing. On a multi-lane road, the lanes were not all surfaced at the same time. As a result, whenever a motorist encountered this “noisy” surface, they shifted to a lane with a smoother surface. As a result, the noisy lane became open!”
His idea would be to pave the left, or “passing” lane in such a way that a driver would presumably only stay in it for a bit before the ensuring vibration became annoying. This would solve the problem of “left-lane” bandits, people who camp out in the lane that is designated, by law or by norm, for passing slower traffic. People would make their passing maneuver, then move back into a lane to the right.
One issue, of course, is that for some people, the fastest drivers, the left-lane becomes their de facto lane, and they may force out dozens of drivers (necessitating all kinds of disruptive lane changes) for their own benefit. This raises another possibility. The road could be grooved in such a way, as in Japan’s Melody Road (that’s an engineer inspecting the road pictured above) to produce a certain sound at a certain speed. Grooving could presumably be laid so that drivers going over a certain speed produced a really grating, revulsive sound (music might be tricky as one person’s annoyance would be another’s delight). In a sort of Nudge-like way, drivers could choose to stay in the unpleasant lane if they wished, but they would be subtly steered toward the more harmonic travel lanes.
The grooves of the Melody Road, it has been suggested, can be rather powerful (and certainly more so than signage): “You need to keep the car windows closed to hear well,” wrote one Japanese blogger. “Driving too fast will sound like playing fast forward, while driving around 12mph has a slow-motion effect, making you almost car sick.” There you have it: Nausea, the new traffic calming device!
The concept has been demonstrated in Denmark as well, much earlier in fact, in the so-called “Asphaltotone,” the creation of artists Steen Krarup Jensen and Jakob Freud-Magnus, shown below (in Danish):
Grooves have already made their mark on road safety, of course. The so-called “Sonic Nap Alert Pattern,” or SNAP, was first tested on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in 1987 (after numerous instances of “drift off road” crashes due to fatigue and other causes). SNAP had the advantages of not being raised (the Turnpike had to be bare for snow-plowing), and being narrow, so repair and maintenance vehicles could traverse the roadside without obstruction. In time, the Turnpike saw a 70% reduction in DOR crashes after the shoulder rumble strips were installed. They too have a sound quality, of course: They get louder as you’re going faster, and engineers had to strive to adjust the pattern to make sure it was loud enough to be heard over the ambient sound of the car/truck interior.
This entry was posted on Thursday, September 11th, 2008 at 1:47 pm and is filed under Drivers, Etc., Traffic Enforcement, Traffic Gadgets, Traffic Wonkery, Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.