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A PHYSICIST WRITES . . .
Let me anticipate the silly season with a few examples of silliness I’ve seen or heard about already. Recently I stopped at traffic lights, alongside an empty bus-lane (also at red). A small motor-bike moved into the bus-lane, the rider clearly hoping to trigger the detector that lets buses go first. But he failed, and when I got the green light he stayed put. Silliness followed by some sense, at least.
When lights are ‘upgraded’ at a junction, often the authorities remove the column on the far side of the crossing which you rely on when you are at the front of the queue. A friend tells me that once when he was second in a queue held at red (by lamps directly above, with none opposite) he accidentally bipped his horn whereupon, to his alarm, the driver in front moved off...
At one of our group meetings recently, a driving-instructor member said that he had evidence (I forget from where) that some commercial reps are convinced that the closer they are to the vehicle in front, the faster they are moving.
I notice that some models now possess amber sidelights actually on the side of the car. If you only have time to give it a single glance and you are viewing it from the side, it’s possible to mistake the sidelight for a direction-indicator repeater.
Our towns are filling up with 20 mph zones. The exit signs for these show a 30 roundel (usually) and below it, “Zone ENDS” alongside a crossed-out 20 which is in light grey. But on some of the signs the 20 has faded away in the sunlight, leaving you to wonder whether the 30 limit is starting or ending at this point!
Finally some common sense, I would say: at last month’s meeting the speaker (an experienced traffic policeman) put a question to us: suppose a car is on a 30-limit road at night in good weather but travelling at 38 mph. An unlit bicycle suddenly emerges from a turning and there’s no chance of avoiding a fatal accident. How much is the driver to blame?
After some discussion the PC summed up, saying that in court it would be probably be agreed that if the driver had been within the speed limit the cyclist might have survived. I couldn’t resist pointing out that if his speed had been just 39 mph he would have missed the bicycle altogether, being some way down the road when it emerged. “Quite right,” said our man (not knowing my background, of course). “You can’t argue with physics!”
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