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Life Without Left (Right!) Turns

Sarah Zielinski, writing on the Smithsonian blog, argued that life without left turns would be much safer. Converting that to the UK road system would mean dropping right turns instead. It certainly avoids having to wait for gaps in two streams of traffic but, with a road system that is far from the regular grid layout that many US road systems are built on, would it work without having to travel much further out of your way?

I took a look at the route I cycle to work each day. Using the distance measurement tool for Google Maps (available as part of their “Lab” features), I calculated that my normal path is about 1.65 miles long. Allowing myself one right turn (coming out of my house, which is on a quiet with good visibility and very little traffic), I figured out a route that came to… 1.60 miles? I must admit that is not what I had expected.

What had happened was that I explored on the map and found a route that didn’t snake around so many back streets. In fact, with another tweak (saving my right turn until a little later through the estate I live on, but still on a relatively quiet road), I can get it down to about 1.56 miles. That might be worth a try, although I will have to consider weight of traffic on the roads I travel and also the number of traffic lights I have to pass.

It is amazing what you can spot when you reconsider things you take for granted. Of course, since my cycle commute is my “free exercise”, it might be argued that what I really need is not a shorter journey but a couple of gnarly hills to get those legs working!

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