Respect The Damn Traffic Zipper, Asshole!

By the way, I wonder where all these people making the grocery store comparison shop? I’ve never had to merge into a checkout line…

Interesting, but it shows the results after the influence of the assholes and idiots is included. Whith a well ordered early merge in which the merging lane matches speed and takes their position in the thru lane well ahead, it can continue without even stopping. Yeah it will back the slow up farther, but nobody has to stop and it keeps flowing. The problem comes in with assholes who use the merge lane to pass people, then suddenly cut into the ordered spacing the good drivers have all created, causing them to slam on the brakes, stopping the flow. The big problem they seem to have with it is the slowdown may build up past the signs, and people may rear-end. Well, anybody who rear-ends anybody in any condition is a moron who doesn’t know how to drive. You shouldn’t need freaking signs to know “hey the guy in front is slowing down, I have to slow down too”. And the lane straddling? If you are trully doing an alternating zipper the lane straddle and block doesn’t do anything anyway, cause you shouldn’t be passing people. If you are passing people, then the zipper isn’t working and you’re just using it to line jump.
I would like to see an objective study of only qualified drivers to see whether the early merge or zipper merge has more through-put. I believe we are all being slowed down by the typical lowest-common-demoninator factor in which we allow for the morons and assholes and moving to the shitty late merge, instead of shooting them, and letting the roads work naturally.

Let me clarify the Missouri situation. There weren’t two full size lanes open and we were all crammed into one (because of early merging) with the other wide open. I didn’t mean to give that impression, but sometimes I have trouble putting my thoughts down just right.

The lanes had narrowed to what amounted to one extra-wide lane as we approached the merge point (where crewmen were hard at work and directing the flow of traffic). Cars were merging in a zig-zag pattern (the “zipper”), but some drivers were bypassing that point to try to get in ahead. When we got to the point where there were no longer two full lanes, we ended up having to stop because others were zipping around us and jamming the whole thing up. Up till then, we were still mostly in the left lane (not having fully merged yet), watching as the other half lane and shoulder were used to fly by us. So we moved to the center of this area, leaving no more room to get past. Then we saw behind us a few car lengths a pickup and a semi do the same. So actually, we helped out by completing our merge a bit early.

ding ding ding, we have another winner! The early merge will NEVER work simply because some people are assholes. The only way to deal with is in a non leathal way is to elimiate the advantage of the ending lane. The only way to do it is have the good folks choose the shortest line and take it to the merge point, while speed matching as much as practical.

While I think your argument makes sense for merges in light traffic, I don’t think it works for congested situations.

If the road is over capacity, then there is no way the cars can merge at speed. Wherever they merge, it is going to be at reduced speed – often stop and go. Thus, the late merge point is just as safe as the early merge point, and yet uses more of the road capacity, resulting in a shorter overall backup. In the end, cars get through sooner, are just as safe, and are less frustrated by people they perceive as “cheating the system”.

That would be true if not for the existence of stubborn early mergers who ignore late merge signs. They increase traffic in the thru lane, forcing other drivers to compensate by switching to the merging lane. Instead of allowing this natural compensation to happen, straddlers force everyone into a merge at the point of the straddler, leaving unused road capacity between the straddler and the merge (which lengthens the backup).

The problem is that we can’t escape reality. The right approach is the one that gives best results even when people are trying to game the system. Good signs can probably change the behavior of the straddlers and early mergers who are trying to do the right thing, but we’re unlikely to ever prevent someone from zooming down the unused lane in an early merge.

It would be interesting, I think the merge at the merge point would win hands down however as:

1 - It would be fair, all would get through in the same time.
2 - ‘qualified’ drivers would set up the zipper as they approached the merge point, and drive to it staggered and go right through.

While the early merge has these disadvantages.
1 - It is unfair by design, people who merge into ‘slots’ have effectivally cut the line.
2 - is it not organized which is more likely to cause shockwaves as multiple merges happen at the same time.

I would first like to thank meara for the links. Interesting research. I would hasten to point out that these studies are related to Construction Zone work and are not necesaarily applicable to daily lane use, as in an on-lane to an interstate type of merge. Many of the guidelines and standards for these Construcion Zones are somewhat different.
I would also point out that this effectively proves my point that the so-called zipper approach is not the standard or recommended usage buy the fact that it is to be used only where the specific signage has been put in place and is recommended against in day-to-day non-congestion driving. The study in fact points out the problems created by those not executing an Early Merge, waiting till the end of the lane and making a Forced Merge. While the zipper may work well were it is recommended and signage exist for everyone to be using the same rules, it does not work well in normal conditions.

This is the type of driving I’ve witnessed but I can’t believe that someone would seek to justify leaving the Open Lane, once in it, and switch to the Closed Lane “to compensate” by driving past those who arrived here before them and now will pass through the Merge Point ahead by this method. :smack:
kanicbird- Again, this approach works well in situations were the traffic is moving at a snails-pace but not at or near normal driving conditions. Traveling at 50+, parallel to a Semi, and deciding who’s turn it is at the last moment is not good planning. Also, if we are traveling approximately alongside each other on the highway and you change lanes to join me in the right lane, it is not considered “cutting line”. The left lane is supposed to be for passing. I know this may come as news to many readers, but it’s true. So changing lanes ahead of me in the flow of traffic happens all the time. No big. But, if I have been creeping along in the open lane for the last mile or so because I merged when the signs said to do so, and then you come blowing past and cutting in 20 cars ahead of me, that’s different.
While I agree that some applications used in Construction Zones may be useful, I am mostly referring to the normal road use in standard lanes, like highways. It is the highway merge that has been there for years and known to the vast majority were I see the greatest abuse of the proper merging being done.

This is a little different but in the same vein. Often times it is necessary to design a traffic signal intersection with a dual-left turn lane going quickly into a merge. In this situation I think it is only courteous to use the zipper approach. In this instance, it was necessary to use both lanes to turn left in order to get the maximun number of cars through on the arrow with the minimum amount of green time dedicated to a turn lane. Additionally, it is very difficult to make the lane-drop known to the cars on the main street in advance.

I also do not support designing and signing for the lowest common denominator and just “do it the wrong way for everyone since some asshole’s gonna do it anyway”. This could apply to neighborhood/School Zone Speed Limit signage and No Passing Zone markings as well as most all constraints designed to improve flow and safety.

Best thing in a construction zone merge is a highway patrol car siting in the closing lane with a guy pulled over for ‘charging the closing lane’ to get ahead.

they do that a lot around here.

Also, we have one local cop who will go pull a ‘charger’ out of the line that some fool let in. He is the most popular cop in the county.


I’m the one who starts adjusting speed at the “merge ahead” sign so that I’m positioned to the right of and between the two cars in the left lane so that when DoT says “Right lane ends - merge left” I can smoothly glide left and in between the two cars I’ve been trying to pace.

I say “trying” because this rarely actually succeeds. Too many drivers falsely believe they have paid their dues by waiting in line for their own personal sections of pavement, prefer tailgaiting over merging, and refuse to follow the rules as set forth by the traffic engineers.

I am glad to hear it. I have gotten the impression that I disagreed with something you’ve said in an earlier in the post but, on review, I don’t see any. In any event. Thanks. I think you’re saying that you do what I’ve been supporting (ie. not waiting to the very end to start getting over)
I agree that it doesn’t always work out, but if I’m one of the thru-lane vehicles I will have allowed a gap in front of me for you to merge into smoothly.

…which is why I often end up at “the very fucking end of the lane until [my] right tires are in the grass before forcing [my] way into the line of cars who have been waiting their turn to advance”.

I am mostly addressing those merging drivers that rocket down the merge lane, past several openings left by considerate drivers trying to get “ahead of just a few more” and when the tires hit the grass they feel the thru-lane drivers owe them an opening. You were offered numerous opportunites to do the right thing and passed them up. And now you’re pissed and it is all so very unfair.
Tough shit. Wait like the rest of us.

Why should I? I’m following directions. The directions say “merge”, I merge. If the directions half a mile back had said “merge” I would have merged then. Why do you have a problem with people who follow directions? Why are you incapable of following directions?

I think if you look again you may notice there are signs hundreds of feet before the end of the lane. LANE ENDS at 1500 ft., MERGE LEFT at 1000 ft. , the standard merge symbol sign at 500 ft., all well ahead of the end of the lane. Very few signs, as I recall, right at the very end just before going into the grass.

Just freaking merge when you get the chance, meaning you should be looking for that chance as soon as you know you have to merge. Believe me, you are not really in that much of a hurry that you can’t do that. The real problem is that oo many people think that driving is some sort of competition and if they can gain a couple of car lengths then they have somehow beaten the other guy. You know what, it’s not and you haven’t.

I can’t say much that hasn’t already been said, but I’ve got to voice my support for the late merge system such as that of Pennsylvania. To have everyone line up in one lane a mile in advance not only defies logic, it is also chaotic and encourages assholes in both lanes (i.e. those who refuse to let someone merge and those who zoom past everyone in the open lane). With the late merge, traffic flows better (from what I understand), and if it’s done right nobody has to look for an opening or decide whose turn it is to merge. There’s no need to think of a merge as getting in line for something. I only wish that the road signs would not indicate which lane is closed. Maybe that would prevent everyone from lining up like idiots and instead cause them to move forward and merge at a single point in an orderly fashion.

But of course it can’t always work ideally since, as the OP indicates, there are going to be some jerks who don’t believe in taking turns.

From what I see, If you merge earlier, you can do it while moving with the flow of traffic. If you wait till the end, you will be very nearly stopped and will slow down traffic when you do merge.

From what I’ve read I’d have to say:
If the traffic on the mainstreet is flowing well, look for the gap and merge as soon as it is safely possible.
If the traffic is essentially stopped and backed up well past the beginning of the merge lane, go slowly towards the end, looking for gaps and, failing this, fall back on the zipper method.
Most will co-operate with the zipper effect when the merge lane has no option but to go to the end. I know I would.