Hey Ray - Side zoomers and Anne Lane (was Landers) column

The Sunday June 24 column actually said that studies from Virginia Transportation Center and U Nebraska showed that what they called side zooming (I’ve always called lane crashing) makes traffic merge faster at lane closures. She encourages people to do it. We all know this is nonsense. I have been in many long backups because some idiots ran up to the front and wedged in at 1mph. I have also been in a similar situation where the State Patrol enforced the no passing zone leading up to the bottleneck. Traffic merged at high speed, and went through the closure point at 50mph instead of 1 or 2.

I bring this up because maybe a million or more drivers read the Anne column. If Ray or someone else that she might pay attention to would write to her, we may reduce the number of idiots that this wayward column might otherwise generate. Thanks, for all of us.

And just how many of the readers of this Anne Lane column are even going to who Ray is. Also the number of people who would change their habit is real close to zero.

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In Minnesota its called zipper merging and even the DOT has adopted it. For years we argued about the stupidity of truck drivers that would block both lanes ahead of time but the reality is that it reduced the available lane real estate. What works best is if you come up to the merge point and both lanes take turns.

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my point was Ann would know who Ray is, and maybe read his letter.

I’m having a hard time seeing this, but if it works I’m for it. The only thing that matters is the number of cars going through the closure per minute. One lane at 50mph carries more than two lanes at 5mph. I have never had the experience of the zipper actually working. I am for whatever works.

Folks should use all available lanes until they merge. Not use the shoulder, of course. Doing otherwise moves the congestion point further back. This way (the zipper merge) makes it clear what has to happen, and where. Otherwise, where to start the lane reduction? 100 ft back? 1000? 1 mile?

Either way would work well if drivers would only cooperate instead of compete.


Anyone who spends any time driving in an urban environment knows that all cars should use all available lanes until the last possible moment. Having cars lined up while there is an open lane makes no sense.


That is exactly the issue - drivers who want to get ahead of everyone else. About 20 years ago, after a series of horrendous backups for lane closures around Chicago, I continued through Indiana on 80. When the sign said 'right lane closed 5 miles, the next sign said ‘illegal to be in right lane’, and had a state patrol car parked under it. People merged smoothly at freeway speed, because they had a mile to do it in if necessary. The merging was completed miles before the actual closure, and nobody had to slow down. When the end of the line zipper model is used, you end up with only feet to negotiate in, and somebody will always slam on the brakes to avoid an accident. Traffic never recovers.

If this issue is being studied by actual traffic engineers, and they have made controlled tests of both the last-second zipper and the high speed merge, I will believe them. If they are just sitting at a chair analyzing a computer model that they wrote, it may be garbage in, garbage out. I have not seen the studies, and would like to see what it is they are actually measuring. I don’t see how their conclusions are possible. Till then it looks like I am not going to get the support I expected, and people who are not simply stupid jerks disagree with me. Time for me to let it go.

Really good idea.

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One of my favorite people, Cynthia Gorney, wrote about this 10 years ago http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/03/magazine/03traffic-t.html