Ever Wondered Why You Are Stuck In Traffic When You Can’t See Any Broken Down Car?

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Everyday, I take Shara-e-Faisal (Karachi) to come to office and then go back home. It is the main road on which I travel the most, around 26 kilometers daily. And on my return to home, I face traffic jams on a daily basis. It is an everyday routine. Before leaving, I prepare myself mentally that it is going to be busy and crowded and slow. This happens everyday. I can remember few days when it was not as busy as usual and I got home on time. Otherwise, there is no way to escape the rush hour.

But one thing I noticed was that even though traffic is dead slow, you don’t get to see any upside down donkey cart, or an old car with smoke blowing from under the bonnet, or two rickshaw drivers have a go at each other. There is nothing that is apparently causing the jam, yet there it is. For people who don’t live in Karachi, Shara-e-Faisal is mostly signal free. There are couple at the extreme ends of the road, but on my commute, I don’t come across any. So even though you don’t see thing causing the slow traffic, you’re still stuck in it.

Well this is what is called the ‘accordion effect‘ or ‘concertina effect‘. This phenomenon happens when a body in motion gets disrupted, and it causes the disruption in the motion of the bodies following. In traffic, when this happens, you end up with start stop traffic. You accelerate, then you brake because the vehicles in front are braking, and so are the cars in front of them, and so on and so forth, until you pass the origin of the disruption. This invisible traffic jam moves backwards. So lets say a car did break down on a busy road such as Shara-e-Faisal, and eventually it was pushed to the road side, the disruption it caused behind will stay and keep on causing the continuous start stop traffic. This, in short, is what the accordion effect is.

You don’t even need a broken down vehicle, even a driver who suddenly disrupts the traffic by driving slowly and making following cars brake behind can cause this kind of jam as well. It is called accordion effect because the traffic is moving in the motion of an accordion; vehicles bunch up behind each other, then pull apart again, and continue to do so, until the jam is left behind.

Watch this video below to understand how this happens, even though you don’t need any physical entity that is causing the start stop traffic.

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  1. Usman says

    Shahrah e Faisal now looks like a small road after shifting to Lahore !

  2. guest says

    OMG.. I really used to curse those cars which made me stop and go without any reason i such conditions.
    any solution of this affect? i used to floor my car as soon i find space to get away from these type of jams

  3. Adeel Qadir says

    Nice one Mr wise guy but the real reason for this effect is that shah re faisal is not of uniform lane width it keeps changinging from four to three lanes even five just before flyover at baloch colony . these bottle necks are the cause of traffic anarchy

  4. Shara-e-Faisal Karachi says

    its the damn rickshaw walas, cd70 bikers, old datsun taxi cabs, auntie drivers etc driving in the fast lanes that cause this.

    There should be traffic laws that prevent rickshaws, mopeds, buses and slow traffic from driving in the fast lane.

  5. Hazzy Shahze says

    There is a traffic law for all of them.But there is no application on the rule even if the person with a complete Driver’s Licence the person don’t know which lane he has to drive fast or slow and he also don’t know from where he has to overtake.
    The problem is not in rule’s……The problem is in the application of the rule.

  6. Rayhaan Khan says

    You say you travel on Shahra-e-Faisal for 26km daily. For your information Length of Sh-Faisal from Metropole to Airport is 15 Km. If you travel for 26 km on Sh-Faisal, as you have written, that means you travel from Metropole to Landhi daily. Designated Sh-Faisal is a 15 KM road from Metropole to Airport and afterwards it becomes National Highway N5.

    Now coming to the point of traffic problem at Sh-Faisal, you say that it is almost signal free and there is no apparent cause of traffic jam and you define fancy terms of ‘accordion effect‘ and other crap just to impress people. My dear you are seriously misleading readers. The cause of traffic Jam on Sh-Faisal is due to 5x Bottlenecks as given below:
    1. Metropole Intersection
    2. Recently constructed four lanes flyover near Baloch Colony Interchange (It should have been bare minimum 6 lanes instead)
    3. Drig Road Intersection (existing flyover is two lanes & only caters for traffic coming from North Side)
    4. Minor Intersection before Natha Khan Bridge
    5. Intersection at Star Gate
    Nuisance of Traffic Jam during rush hours can only be mitigated subject to proper planning by Govt/ Engineers of above listed bottlenecks. So dear instead of writing Fancy Articles having no reference and homework I think you should not write articles on this website cause it is seriously undermining the intellectual image of people running this web site.

  7. Baber says

    He meant 26 kms in total. Coming and going. While these bottlenecks are chokes for the traffic, kind of reminds me in the UK, they reduced the lanes to create a flow of traffic and delete these bottlenecks. The places you mentioned, get the traffic stuck because of these bottlenecks, where 5 lanes come while only two or three are able to pass. So when the traffic ahead slows down, it slows the traffic behind as well, it isn’t misleading readers, he mentioned a phenomenon which is known as accordion effect..

  8. Rayhaan Khan says

    I think you should have read paragraph 2 of review before rushing to reply me

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