Friday, November 12, 2010

Premature Merging Bottleneck Syndrome

Anyone who has spent any time behind the steering wheel of an automobile has had the two-lane bottlenecking to one-lane because of roadside construction experience. You know, you’re driving down a two-lane road, suddenly up ahead you notice that cars are all beginning to merge over into one lane, even though the actual construction isn’t taking place until a mile up the road.

The merging of cars a mile ahead of the actual place where merging is mandatory is usually done in obedience to some unwritten, but well known rule. The rule says it’s rude to pass a long line of cars already merged into one lane by continuing to drive in the empty lane until you actually have to merge.

This rule creates what can only be described as a sort of epidemic of premature merging. It exists because the majority of humans (warning, stereotype ahead) are altruists, pacifists or just plain stupid.

Tell me you haven’t been a victim of this phenomenon, you see everyone merging prematurely and so you decide you too need to merge prematurely. Once you’ve merged prematurely, you curse anyone gutsy (or smart) enough to do the logical thing, continue driving until they actually have to merge.

You curse these people, unless you’re like me. I find late-mergers to be heroic. If everyone didn’t merge until they actually had to, that is, abandon premature merging, the inconvenience that is roadside construction would be much shorter-lived.

It’s really just common sense. Two lanes are better than one lane. Two lanes can accommodate more cars than one lane.

When a bottleneck does occur, the inconvenience created by that bottleneck is proportionate to the length of the bottleneck. If the bottleneck is ten feet long, it will inconvenience all of the vehicles involved in the bottleneck for ten feet of time, or until the one lane turns back into two lanes. However, if the bottleneck is twenty feet, or one hundred feet, or one million feet, it will inconvenience all of the vehicles involved in that bottleneck for the proportionate amount of time.

The more cars that merge prematurely, results in the greater the length of the bottleneck. Thus, each car that merges prematurely is extending the length of the bottleneck. Whereas every late-merger is reducing this length of bottleneck time, proportionate to the number of late-mergers there actually are.

It turns out that studies show that my reasoning is not only correct, but that late-merging is also safer than premature-merging.

Thus, late-mergers are all heroic, in the sense that they stand in defiance to the highly contagious epidemic that is premature merging bottleneck syndrome.

1 comment:

  1. I've wondered about this before, I'd have to say I'm about 50/50 on this one, some days I feel smarter than others I suppose.