Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The speed of (traffic) light

Ever crossed a big cross-section by bike when the light just changed? While you were completely occupied trying to cross the road before bikers and cars run into you, did you notice how long it took for the traffic light to change from green to red? No? you be surprised. If you look, uh.. count closely, you can find that it only takes 1 second from green to yellow (or orange if you prefer) an the other second goes into to change to red, and I found this is consistent at small and big cross sections in Taipei.

So imagine, at the MOT proposed maximum speed of 15km/h for bikers, how far will you get in 2 seconds? Well simple mathematics will show you that is 4.16 meters per sec, thus around 8 meters! If you ride a road bike like me (I have to confess I violate this informal speed limit) at around 25km/h, that is around 14 meters.

Are roads wider than that in Taipei? Oh, Definitely yes. Try to cross Tung-Hua South road from Hsin-Yi. The gap is huge! Let's take a car, 50KM/H, that would be 26 meters only. Even a car won't make it. So, bottom line. The lights are changing way too fast!

And again, yesterday, I was just halfway on the crossing and there the light went, yellow.. a police officer who was "controlling" (Actually more just copying the traffic light) saw me coming and while it was yellow.. stopped me !! Told me "just wait here" , I was there halfway, beside the police officer, with all buses, cars, and all other traffic passing me in the front and back. That was weird.

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