I'm Wm. Steven Humphrey... and I'm a Zipper Merger. ("Hi, Steve.")


The more time I spend in traffic, the more I realize that one kind (or, at the very least, non-aggressive) gesture can really have a ripple effect through the rest of the commute. People drive like dicks because other people drive like dicks -- but if you respect the spirit of the rule, it works beautifully because people are more likely to be polite if they're treated politely.

BTW, you can see the zipper-merge work at its finest at the eastbound Ross Island on-ramp at rush hour. One in every other car, and traffic flows perfectly -- until some tail-gater messes everything up again.

In stop-and-go traffic, I also try to adhere to a modified version of this guy's theory, which really does seem to work: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGFqfTCL2fs
I am angrier at this than anything ever written in this rag.

That's because I regularly go east over the Fremont bridge around rush hour, and there is the left-hand, exit-only lane for SB I-5, and that's to the left of the two northbound I-5 lanes.

Every single day, a drama plays out as several dozen a-holes use the sparse SB exit-only lane to try to skip the 5NB traffic that typically backs up across the bridge, and then force-wedge themselves into the I5 lanes at the last moment. Usually, the honest people in line see this happening for five minutes and then when they get to the neck, they move their cars over to block this "forced zipper" maneuver. I'm one of them, because fuck those people.

So zipper merging is one thing, and it's obviously the best way to go when two lanes come together, or an onramp comes to an end in busy traffic.

However, we need to invent a "cunt"-level epithet for those people who deliberately cut the line and force themselves back into traffic. That includes people who wait until the last second to merge when a lane is closed for construction and warnings are posted for miles.
Also they should be crucified on the spot of their transgression as a warning to others.
The distinction is quite simple. If two lanes become one, do a zipper merge. If two lanes split to go in different directions (like on the Fremont bridge), and you use the wrong lane to cut the line, thereby holding up the traffic that actually wants to go that way, you should have your driving license revoked on the spot. And your eyesight. And your brain. And your family. And your cat.

Also, people who drive within three feet of the car in front can take a long walk off a short pier.
Steve is clearly out of Fleet enema bottles. Somebody do a Kickstarter for him.
The zipper-merge is proof that sometimes traffic engineers don't know what the fuck they're talking about. Shit that works in models doesn't always work in real life.
The zipper model works if people aren't total asshats and do the "polite" thing by clogging one lane up instead of using all lanes available. Also - thanks "polite" people who come to a dead stop with their blinkers on when merging onto the freeway. Hey ding dong we could all be moving forward if you followed the on-ramp to it's logical conclusion and fucking zipper merged in. Yet more proof that Oregonian drivers are the worst. EVER.
The signage is the problem. The text and graphic on the signs show a lane closing ("Right Lane Ends") and the other remaining open. That's one lane of cars that gets to try, somehow, to wedge in, and the other that's got their space and isn't about to give it up.

To make the zipper theory work, the signs and the lane configuration needs to treat it like two lanes of equal status combining into one lane. Drivers will get it, and be more polite, when they're entering "neutral" space than they are when someone else is trying to enter what they perceive as "their lane."

See, members of the motoring public operate on a sort of canine level --they require clear, unambiguous commands to be happy. When dogs are on neutral turf at the dog park they get along with others just fine, but they get snappy at other dogs who try to enter their lane... err, their yard.

A swat with a rolled up newspaper is sometimes necessary.
Steve, if you know you have to merge soon, and you are rolling on by people who are already waiting in line, you are CUTTING THE LINE. Period! Fuck your 'zipper merge' excuse, you just want a free pass to the front of the line because you don't want to wait like everyone else.
I don't get Steve's beef. Sounds like the woman was implementing the zipper merge. Regardless of whether the merger point is 20 cars ahead or 20 back, she's still doing the same thing and just getting the two lanes to merge into one. In conclusion: Steve is just whining that he didn't get to dickishly cut in front of 20 other cars.
@ Reymont

Dude, that lane is your lane too. Come on over! If you do, you won't be so pissy when someone passes you in it. Stop thinking you're being polite when you're actually holding up traffic-- getting in the empty lane is BEING POLITE TO EVERYONE.

@ Mike Tyson
If you get back into the lane too soon, you're holding up the traffic who is doing the RIGHT thing by trying to zipper merge. Polite drivers go all the way up to the front, and wave nicely when you're let in.

Guys, guys guys. Chill. We have a code to uphold, the one where the big voices in the community never, ever criticize another's driving behavior. There's no such thing as the enemy within.

Oh wait, sorry. Thought we were talking about bike riding.
This is a pointless debate we can afford to have here in Portland where there really isn't anything other than slightly inconveniencing periodic traffic here in Oregon.

I just got back form the nightmarish Bay Area where most Freeways are rolling parking lots 75% of the time, there are no back roads, and "zipper merging" was something hippies experimented with in the 60's.
Reymont: Is that on the left or the right across the pond? Do they zipper merge in Jolly Old England? Have you run into Matt Davis?
If Steve was so wrong, then why did they invent the stop go lights when coming onto the free way? its the same technique, the only difference is they make you actually stop at a light before getting on the freeway. If the douchebags in the fast lane would actually take turns then the fast lane wouldn't be the fast lane eventually, and traffic would be moving at the same pace. Its math people.. it third grade fucking math for fuck sakes.
Steven is correct. Zipper merge is usually the proper protocol. Most Oregonians think it's "cutting," but really they are slowing traffic down by not filling both lanes and merging smoothly. I'm glad somebody has actually taken the time to write a "scientific" explanation for why this is the correct way to drive.
YOU GUYS. This is such a big argument up in St. Johns—the road to the bridge coming from downtown is notorious for a-hole lane-straddlers—that an entire FB group was created to hash it out.

Keep fighting the good fight. Also, as I've gotten older I've realized how people turn little annoyances into giant issues, and I've realized, sometimes, where I had been doing the same thing.

Yet at the same time society goes to shit and they don't do much of anything. These may be related.
If you don't like Steve merging late, here's a question: is it possible to merge too early? If so, why?

Tom Vanderbilt's excellent book "Traffic" starts off with a chapter on his conversion to "late merging." It explains, very nicely, why Steve is absolutely right..