They’re narrowing the streets in my neighborhood, and everyone is up in arms. People are freaked out, saying that narrowing from sort-of-1.5-lanes to 1 lane+bike lane is going to cause huge traffic snarls.

On the face of it, this sounds reasonable. After all, won’t fewer lanes mean less space for traffic, so traffic must go slower?

That depends. If all drivers simply stayed in their lanes, never made turns, and drove at constant speeds, yes. But they’ve been doing a *lot* of experimenting in Boston with alternative configurations. They’ve compared the results and found that sometimes narrower streets with curb cut-outs and bike lanes result in all kinds of unexpected benefits.

It’s long been known that widening a street won’t necessarily ease congestion because people simply drive more, until the congestion reaches prior levels. “Archie, it’s such a nice day, let’s go drive down the nice, new freeway.”

This is called science. We measure what happens, we compare and contrast, and we learn the world doesn’t always work the way we think it will.

If science always matched up to our intuition, we would have invented high technology 10,000 years ago. We couldn’t have technology until a relatively small number of people invented the scientific method and were willing to believe it’s results over what their intuition said. Intuitively, a 10-pound ball falls faster than a 1-pound ball, the Earth is flat, and the sun rises and sets. Science, however, shows that the balls fall at the same speed (acceleration, actually), the Earth is round, and it spins, rather than the sun moving.

Next time you find yourself getting defensive over some scientific study, stop. That’s a good thing; it means that maybe you can revise your beliefs to reflect reality. Read the study, consider with an open mind, and find out.

Science gave us ziplock bags. Who knows what might be next?

The Power of Science to Solve Today’s Comple…

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