Sunday, July 15, 2012

Right Lane to Left Lane Driving


The Lad asked me a while ago if I knew what a country's department of highways did at border crossings to help drivers adjust to right lane to or from left lane driving. It had never crossed my mind to wonder that but I thought I would check it out.

This question was posed to The Straight Dope in 1994 and Cecil it thought too dumb to be bothered with. However someone wrote in and posed this scenario which, when I considered it, was a little interesting. Not that I will ever find myself in this situation, but if I did, what would I do? What would you do?

Dear Cecil:
Regarding what to do when traveling between countries that drive on opposite sides of the road: I once knew a Norwegian who was a student at Oslo U. When he drove home the road passed several times in and out of Sweden, which until around 1965 drove on the left, while Norway drove on the right. The border was and is unguarded and in many places unmarked. The road was fairly narrow and there was a tendency to drive down the middle especially late at night when there was virtually no traffic. Now picture this: you are driving down this road, probably half asleep, you don't know and don't much care which country you are in and suddenly you see a truck bearing down on you. What do you do? --Michael Barr, Montreal

Red: right hand side Blue: the opposite

I didn't think it was a dumb question so I searched for an answer and I got most of this information from The Basement Geographer because there was actually very little information out there. (Then I got lost on the Basement Geographer's website for hours and then decided to add the website to the list on my home page because it is the embodiment of awesomeness). When you look at the blue countries they are predominantly part of the British Commonwealth or were at some point in the recent past. Which makes me wonder why Canada isn't a left hand drive country. Also there is usually very little confusion, explains the Basement Geographer, because countries with one way of driving are clustered together and often separated by geographical barriers like water or mountains, for example Australia, New Zealand and all the island nations of Southeast Asia.

Apparently a few countries have done quite a lot to aid drivers in seguing from one side to the other as they cross the border. But surprisingly most countries don't make a huge deal about it because they financially can't afford to. The ones that do, have various ways to help with the switch. Borrowing heavily from B-Geo (I nick named it) here are some of the methods:

One-way Connector Road

Traffic travelling on the left exits off the highway via a one-way road into customs, and then is expunged via another one-way road into the Congo, merging into right-side traffic.

Congo-Zambian border

Controlled Intersection

Intersecting lanes with traffic lights are the method of choice in and around Thailand, a left-hand-drive country surrounded by right-driving Burma (Myanmar), Laos, and Cambodia.

A grass median splits the two directions of traffic, which then proceed to intersect each other after a short distance, essentially creating an intersection between two one-way streets and completing the crossover:


Thailand-Myanmar

Roundabout

A variation on the one-way intersection crossover is the roundabout, where vehicles enter the traffic circle on one side of the road and leave on the other: 


Thailand-Cambodia Border

Build a Crossover Bridge

In high traffic crossings where lanes of traffic have to be transferred to the other side as efficiently as possible, or where a crossing is already elevated above ground due to the presence of a bridge, a crossover bridge is a handy solution. In these cases, one lane breaks from the roadway, bridges over top of the other, and ends up on the other side of the road.

An archetypal example is the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Western Corridor, built in 2005. Here, Hong Kong-bound traffic leaving Shenzhen customs on the right-hand side drives over top of the northbound lane, ending up on the left-hand side of the Shenzhen Bay Bridge to conform with Hong Kong road rules:




The most spectacular crossover bridge may be the six-lane Lotus Bridge joining Macau to mainland China via Hengqin Island. Drivers leaving Macau driving on the right cross over the bridge only to find the bridge splits in half on the other side, with their left-hand lane performing a 360-degree double back under the bridge to the right-hand side before entering customs. Drivers leaving mainland China on the right double back under the bridge and then over the inbound lane from Macau to end up on the left:

This is the spectacular way I figured every country arranged the switch. Not so.

Or, Do Nothing

Here are two pictures showing the French approach to the Channel Tunnel and the English approach. Two extremes.


Be a good chap and drive on the left

or

S'il vous plaît conduire sur l'autre côté de la route. Nous allons vous aider à le faire par vous de routage par le biais de ce rond-point. S'il vous plaît profiter de notre bel aménagement paysager! Conduisez prudemment. Merci!

My thanks to The Basement Geographer. If he included any information with which to contact him, I couldn't find it.  I would have asked permission to quote from his article so abundantly. Instead I will have to ask forgiveness and hope the links to his page and his blog will be enough.  And now I'm going back there to immerse myself in awesomeness.

I'm reading!

2 comments:

kuschk said...

'Embodiment of awesomeness'? I'll take it!

Frimmy said...

Without hyperbole, yea verily.