A couple of weeks ago, we wrote an opinion piece about zipper merging. We took some advice from our friends at the Missouri Department and Transportation and tried, in good faith, to get the word out about a practice we hoped would reduce our collective frustration and distress that boils up when we travel through road construction zones.
We did our best to explain zipper merging. At its most basic level, it amounts to vehicles taking turns, or alternating, as they merge together from two lanes into one and pass through the construction zone.
Then the pessimists of Facebook tore into it like it was a delicious stack of pancakes at Bric’s Belgian Waffle and Pancake House.
“Nobody’s smart enough to do this,” commenter Chris Roberts wrote.
Geez, Chris, you really went in for the kill straight away. We think our readers are smart, that’s why we wrote about zipper merging in the first place.
“It’s a great idea, but people have the, ‘You’re not getting in front of me!’ attitude. And people won’t change,” Tom Hardy wrote on our post.
Tom started off pretty rationally. We’ve all seen people take the, “You’re not getting in front of me,” tact on U.S. Highway 65.
Honestly, one of the most fulfilling senses of teamwork a driver can experience is when one driver scoots up the right lane only to have their progress halted by a line of cars working together in the left lane, driving close enough together so that the jerk who tried to make the pass on the right side in the first place is boxed in behind a tractor-trailer. Those people in that line of cars were strangers, but now you’re all friends.
But maybe Tom is wrong on one thing. Maybe people can change.
“It takes everyone buying into it and everyone willing to let a car move in front of them,” Facebook commenter Marrhya Williams wrote.
Alright, Marrhya. We’re with you…
“Unfortunately, too many people are selfish. They won't let a car in front of them, or they force their way over in an opening made for the car ahead of them,” she continued.
Oof. There’s that pessimism again.
If you still have any optimism remaining, “Wait to merge, take turns,” is the somewhat rhyming slogan MoDOT wants you to remember about the zipper merge.
Zipper merging works best in heavier traffic with slowing and sometimes full-on stopping traffic. Drivers are encouraged to fill both lanes of the highway right up until the point where the lane ends. At that point, the drivers take turns merging their vehicles “every other car” at the point of the lane closure.
When done correctly, the traffic will appear from an aerial view to resemble the two sides of a zipper coming together to close a jacket or a bag.
“By using two full lanes of traffic until the merge, you reduce the difference in speed between the two lanes. The length of backups is reduced 40-50 percent. When both lanes continue to move slowly, everyone is equally delayed, which reduces road rage,” MoDOT officials explain in a press release about zipper merging.
Or, I guess we could all keep driving as is, and Highway 65 can be a six-lane pessimistic free-for-all.