In the graphic above you see traffic merging because of a lane closure ahead. This is one of the most common traffic pattern changes you will see in a city with regular construction (like Victoria). Despite its frequency, this is one traffic manouver that the vast majority of people get wrong. In an effort to be thoughtful or polite, many drivers think that by merging early they are being more courteous to their fellow drivers. No so! It turns out that city planners and traffic specialists have studied this at length and what they found is surprising to most people. The only way to keep traffic moving at its fastest possible pace is to use ALL of the available road. If one lane is left empty due to early merging it can actually slow traffic by an extra 50%! This is why specialists advise using what is called a “Zipper Merge”. Everyone should go to the end of the lane they are in, and then take turns merging into the open lane in an alternating fashion. This means everyone gets where they are going faster. Here is some info on the topic, it is definitely worth knowing about.
What is a Zipper Merge?
When a lane is closed in a construction zone, a zipper merge occurs when motorists use both lanes of traffic until reaching the defined merge area, and then alternate in “zipper” fashion into the open lane.
Zipper Merge vs. Early Merge
When most drivers see the first “lane closed ahead” sign in a work zone, they slow too quickly and move to the lane that will continue through the construction area. This driving behavior can lead to unexpected and dangerous lane switching, serious crashes and road rage.
Zipper merging, however, benefits individual drivers as well as the public at large. Research shows that these dangers decrease when motorists use both lanes until reaching the defined merge area and then alternate in “zipper” fashion into the open lane.
So I’m supposed to merge late?
Yes! As you see the “lane closed ahead” sign and traffic backing up, stay in your current lane up to the point of merge. Then take turns with other drivers to safely and smoothly ease into the remaining lane. Don’t worry about being “Victoria nice.” When traffic is heavy and slow, it is much safer for motorists to remain in their current lane until the point where traffic can orderly take turns merging.
When not to do the zipper merge
When traffic is moving at highway speeds and there are no backups, it makes sense to move sooner to the lane that will remain open through construction. The bottom line is to merge when it is safe to do so.