Traffic flow

· life ·

There's a very busy crossroads not far from my home which is controlled (like most crossroads in the UK) by traffic lights. At peak times, it can take ages (even on a bicycle) to make it across the junction -- when the school run bites, glaciers can move faster. You have to wait in the queue for what seems like hours, then about three cars manage to dash across the junction before the lights turn to red. Tonight, pedalling up to the junction, things were very different: traffic moved slowly but smoothly, and before I knew it I was at the junction, and discovered the cause of the unusual speediness: the traffic lights had broken.

There was no carnage, chaos (or other words beginning with 'c'). People crept gingerly out into the flow of traffic, waving politely to other drivers and giving way to the predominant flow, but somehow it all worked rather smoothly. It was rather scary on a low-slung recumbent bike, but I do have a very big and very fluorescent flag on the back, so I trusted that drivers might see it and wonder what it was attached to in time for me not to disappear under a big truck.

It was something like my first ride in a rickshaw in India. As we piled headlong into the meleé of cars, bicycles, motorbikes, other rickshaws, pedestrians and cows, with everyone (even the cows) ringing their bells and hooting their horns, I honestly thought we were all going to die. I closed my eyes, and then -- much to my surprise -- opened them again. Somehow everyone had come out the other side intact, and were even driving the same vehicles that they started off with.