Dear older lady in the little black car on I-84 this morning, I salute you. When we all knew that the left lane was closed ahead due to an accident (thanks DOT), we got over to the right. Many people feigned ignorance and went zipping by us in the left lane. Us right-laners sat, not moving AT ALL for a solid 17 minutes because all of the left-lane cars had to merge near the accident, where a third lane also joined the freeway. Then, we started to move. I looked in my rear view and a white RV had moved itself halfway in to the center lane, holding up lefty-lane traffic and allowing us on the right to move. Cars started squeezing by the RV and, a short while later, we were completely stopped again. That's when you, brave and observant older lady, decided to take matters in to your own hands. You moved squarely in to the left lane. I kept your spot open for you on the right and you held up the left lane but kept pace with us until traffic cleared up. Because of you, change happened. You ignored the honks and impatience behind you and stood up for fairness and equality. Good. For. You.
I replied in the comments, but this is an issue for any Blogtownie that drives a car. (You cyclists can stand in the corner and smirk.) THE PEOPLE IN THIS STORY ARE BUTTHOLES. I'm no traffic expert, but I've read a fair amount about it, and that's why I'm a staunch proponent of the "zipper merge." The idea is to fill ALL lanes of traffic (all the way up to the merge point) and when two lanes become one, merge the lanes together (taking turns) like a zipper. You can also use the "bank line" analogy.
Why is the zipper merge the way to go? Here's why. Not only does using all lanes keep the traffic flowing (check out the clogged two left lanes, and one empty right lane on SE MLK every day around 5 pm if you don't believe me), but it's the polite thing to do, and "reduces the overall length of traffic backup by as much as 40 percent." Did the "brave lady" in the story above reduce congestion? NO. While she may have made life temporarily better for herself and everyone in front of her, she effectively screwed everyone who was traveling behind her. Thus, she was not "brave," she was a "butthole."
I briefly spoke to ODOT's Don Hamilton, who refused to use the word "butthole," but did agree that the woman in question was not using polite traffic etiquette, and caused "a potentially dangerous situation by blocking an active lane." He also agreed with me that filling up all lanes and using "the zipper merge moves traffic along at the best pace" and is both the "most efficient and most polite methods of moving traffic."
Still don't believe me or expert Don Hamilton? Let's hear from "zipper merge" enthusiast Jon Stewart (during a Daily Show interview with Drew Barrymore):
Jon Stewart: To me, the hallmark of civilization, and I believe this on its core foundational level, is the every-other-car merge at tunnels…
Drew Barrymore: Well, they don’t let you anymore, they have cones that say, like, don’t you dare.
Jon Stewart: No, no, when you get up to that, and it’s like four cars, and it goes down to one. And everybody suddenly, no matter what, Jew, Muslim, gay, straight, black, white, it doesn’t matter, everybody just goes, ‘I’m next,’ ‘No, you’re next,’ ‘Please,’ and it’s like the zipper merge, and it really says, to me, this is why we don’t drink the same water we shit in anymore, because we are a civilized society. That’s my theory. (via)
YOU HEARD IT FROM HIM, FOLKS. THE ZIPPER MERGE: LEARN IT! KNOW IT! LIVE IT!