Tuesday 13 September 2011

Butterfly Effect

Lets imagine a cyclist is a butterfly. Now lets imagine that this little butterfly notices the time and realises that it is time to go to work. So it dons it's helmet (butterflies are unlikely to hit the ground at more than 12mph so it might actually provide some protection....), and sets off on it's commute to the big flower.

Unfortunately for this butterfly, there aren't many butterflies around. In fact the majority of the traffic on it's commute are really large birds flying back and forth on really short journeys. These journeys generally consist of trips to get DIY goods (twigs), to get snacks in for the kids (worms or sometimes butterflies!), etc. This means that the sky is a busy place for the little butterfly, and he often finds that he needs to take evasive action to avoid being knocked out of the sky or eaten. It's a bird eat butterfly world, out there.

However, all is not lost. The butterfly has a secret weapon up it's wing. Having been a pupal of physics for a long time it knows about the butterfly effect. If things get rough and the butterfly fears for it's life, all it needs to do is flutter it's wings in a certain way and chaos ensues. The wind starts whipping up, storm clouds gather and all the big birds scatter for cover, giving the butterfly an opportunity to get to the big flower before the force of the hurricane reaches it's peak.

Could this bike be the answer to commuter blues?

Bravo little butterfly! 

Is it possible for us cyclists to learn anything from our colourful winged friends?

Unfortunately I don't have wings. I have tried very, very hard to whip up instantaneous storms, by flapping my arms up and down in a manic manner, but despite studying physics for many years, I never got to grips with chaos theory. However, fear not. It turns out I do have powers, powers to not only control traffic, but I have the power to cause huge tailbacks that stretch for miles and miles.

What do I need to do to unleash this mystical weapon? I just have to make one car driver behind me understand that I need a little room, and to slow down a little instead of overtaking me dangerously!

Brilliant! Here is the proof sent to me by Professor JimLem of the University of Youtube.

@magnatom Yeah, he could have taken his foot off the accelerator, causing every vehicle behind him to slow down too. Minutes later, there will be miles of tailbacks, resulting in delayed, frustrated drivers everywhere. And all because of YOU.

Cyclists should be grateful that there are designated lanes for them to use at all, since cars, vans, lorries and motorcycles are all operated by people who PAY to use public roads. I'm not surprised this guy reacted the way he did.

So car drivers, the next time you see a cyclist in front of you and it isn't safe to overtake, use your foot-brake and slow down a little. Then look carefully in your rear-view mirror (not too much of course, as you still don't want to knock the cyclist down!), and watch as the traffic chaos unfolds behind you.

Marvel in the power of the YouTube butterfly effect........


  1. It is amazing how many driver fail to understand that they are not paying to use the road, but are only a small contribution towards the damage they do. It really is time they were made to pay more of the cost.

  2. I reckon I pay more for Glasgow's roads than many of those in cars.

    Council tax here is band G and I sometimes have to pay for empty flats between tenants too) Looking at the % breakdown on what my Council Tax gets spent on that makes it around £600/year I pay for decent roads.

    Since i walk and cycle most of the time, the condition of footways is as important as the condition of carriageways.

    Driving too close and poor road reading means that a small speed change from a vehicle in front makes the braking required for each trailing car ramp-up as a scarily increasing wave of severe braking

  3. If you are a tax payer then you pay for the roads regardless of whether or not you own a vehicle and pay "Vehicle Excise Duty".
    we have not had "Road Tax" since it was abolished in 1937. JimLem needs to go read some law.

  4. That's quite true that the cyclist doesn't need to pay anybody to have drive, they are quite luckier at some point but still at some points they are lagging behind.

  5. You have to applaud the continued use of the "I pay road tax" defence. Aside from the obvious VED no road tax the next time a car driver hits a pedestrian he should use this one in front of the judge "it's ok to endanger them, they don't pay road tax" !