Discover more from Map Nerd
You’re Merging All Wrong: The Zipper Merge 🚊
You're not supposed to cut people off. Or maybe you are? (🚊Crazy Transit Series)
Hi! If you’re new here, this is Map Nerd. We explore amazing places and cool things on the world map, usually with a video story + quick digestible info. If you enjoy it, subscribe and you can explore with us!
The Zipper Merge:
The right “wrong” way to get moving faster
AMERICANS MERGE ALL WRONG.
In the US, we don’t like it when people cut us off. Its considered a big f u to the drivers behind you, especially at a big merge when everyone’s waiting patiently in line to get passed that bottleneck, (then when you pass it, its like we all immediately join a formula one circuit).
But it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, it actually shouldn’t. that’s because you are SUPPOSED to merge late – like where the lanes combine – not a 100s of feet earlier. It’s called the zipper merge and it’s the fastest, most efficient, and safest way to merge.
Europeans have been doing this for a while – it’s actually law in Germany (Reißverschlusssystem). But it hasn’t caught on in the US – Americans think moving into the lane before it gets backed up is polite, or at least its not the giant F U that merging at the last second is. But, I am here to tell you, its not an F U. In fact, it’ll get you all moving faster – this is a well studied thing.
When cars move in earlier than the merge point, they leave a perfectly good second lane virtually empty, and force one lane to get seriously backed up. When both sides move just a bit slower, and everyone trades turns right at the merge point (like a zipper), congestion decreases by almost half. Both lanes move similar speeds so you don’t feel like you’re getting cut off and everyone gets where they’re going faster. Big caveat: this does not apply when traffic is moving freely.
This has proven to be a tough thing to teach American drivers. A strange combination of politeness to strangers and fear of road rage makes most Americans very hesitant to try the zipper merge.
So much so that states have had to get creative to hit the point home…
As of now, Illinois and Utah put the zipper merge into law, and it’s up for vote in North Carolina, with its own merch too. Interestingly, California hasn’t yet gotten the memo – their current rules frown upon late merging.
So next time you’re backed up at a merge, take the empty lane to the end. Others might get mad, but feel good you know better than them.
Thank you for reading Map Nerd. Subscribe for free to explore more and support my work.