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  • We've all been in this situation before: you're driving home from the hospital after a grievous injury where a fan threw bricks at you as a joke,

  • and you see that because of construction of a new McBurger Wendy's, the right lane is about to end, and this two lane highway will be reduced to one measly lane.

  • So, what do you do?

  • Well, being the morally upstanding, lawful good driver you are, you go ahead and merge into the left lane as soon as possible,

  • and wait in line, listening to your own podcast Showmakers, available now on Nebula.

  • But as you're waiting in your slow queue, thinking about what a great point you're making in the podcast,

  • you see that some punk-faced jerk with slicked back hair in a hot-red sports car doesn't merge over.

  • He keeps driving in the right lane, and then right before the convergence point, merges left, cutting in front of you and everyone else.

  • What a jerk, right?

  • Wrong!

  • What if I told you that "jerk" in the right lane...was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.?

  • Bet you're regretting calling him a jerk now, huh?

  • And what if I also told you that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. didn't cut in line: he did exactly what traffic experts say you're supposed to do.

  • It turns out, merging early is actually bad for traffic.

  • It's sort of like talking to your grandparents about politicsit may seem like the right thing to do, but in the end, everyone just ends up angrier, and you get cut out of pop pop's will.

  • The reason is pretty simple: in dense traffic, if everyone merges early, they make the open lane unnecessarily clogged, while a long section of perfectly good road sits unused.

  • Instead, traffic experts recommend something called the zipper merge: cars drive in both lanes up until the merge point, and then take turns going through it, closing like the teeth of a zipper.

  • Some experts say that adopting the zipper merge could actually reduce traffic by 40%, while other experts say that dolphins can swim up to 30 miles per hour.

  • That second set of experts were dolphin experts.

  • One real-world example of the problems a zipper merge could solve can be seen in Fort Collins, Colorado, at the intersection of Southbound Lemay Avenue and East Horsetooth Road,

  • right next to the Warren Tennis Courts, Warren Lake, and the offices of an Allstate insurance agent named Jennifer Harms.

  • There are two left turn lanes on Lemay, but here's the thing: most people plan to only be on Horsetooth for a hot second, before they make a quick right turn back onto Lemay right here.

  • And because of that, all the cars tend to stack up on the inner turn lane, so then they'll be in the right lane once they turn, and thus can easily make their right turn back onto Lemay.

  • Basically, the number of cars who use the far left turn lane on South Lemay is the same as the number of cars I've been hit by: one blue Acura.

  • And here's the problem: because there's always a really long line of cars in the inner turn lane, it takes longer for them all to pass through the light,

  • which means the traffic lights have to be programmed to stay green longer to clear them all out,

  • which means everyone at this intersection ultimately waits for longer.

  • If drivers would instead evenly split themselves in the two turn lanes, and then zipper merge into the right lane on Horsetooth, everyone would be better off.

  • And that's why the Colorado Department of Transportation has endorsed the zipper merge,

  • even putting an entire page on their website urging drivers to adopt it, including a video featuring the mean chef from Orange is the New Black and a child breaking labor laws.

  • In 2011, Minnesota's Department of Transportation ran an entire campaign urging drivers to adopt the zipper merge, including billboards, PSAs, YouTube videos,

  • and even buying the domain name dothezippermerge.org, although they've since abandoned it and it might have a new owner now whose name is definitely not me.

  • In 2019, North Carolina even introduced a series of speed sensors and big light-up signs that would sense when there was upcoming congestion at a merge,

  • and urge drivers to "USE BOTH LANES TO MERGE POINT, Y'ALL."

  • In Germany, the zipper merge has been common practice for years, and they even have a long, confusing German word to prove it: Reisverschlussverfahren.

  • But not all states have endorsed the zipper merge.

  • And that's because, like airport security, communism, and this joke about communism, while it works great in theory, it doesn't always work great in practice.

  • And that's because theory fails to take into account the human aspect of drivingspecifically, our capacity for spite.

  • You see, the zipper merge can sometimes fail when so-called "traffic vigilantes" see someone trying to do a late merge, and refuse to let them in,

  • believing that the late merger is trying to cheat or cut the line, and that by refusing them entry, they're doling out pure, cold, traffic justice,

  • instead of what they're actually doing, which is creating even more congestion and risk of crashes.

  • The good news is, if humans don't manage to figure it out soon, computers probably will,

  • at least if self-driving cars ever manage to be rolled out in the widespread way that experts have spent ten years saying is coming in the next ten years.

  • The most efficient way to reduce traffic is for all cars to drive at a constant speed at a fixed distance from the car in front of them,

  • which falls pretty high on the list of things that humans are bad at, but computers are great at.

  • Until then, though, now that you've watched this video, you can start merging at the last minute,

  • and when people honk or yell at you, you can bask in the glory of knowing that a YouTube video told you that you're right and they're wrong.

  • Now let's say, fresh off of finishing this video, you start a guerrilla marketing/intimidation campaign getting people to use the zipper merge on your daily commute.

  • Well, for that, you'd need some skills.

  • For example, assuming you don't want your banner to look like this, you'd want to learn some graphic design skills,

  • and, of course, the best way to learn graphic design is from a graphic designer.

  • That's the philosophy behind Skillshare.

  • They have thousands of quality classes from the practitioners of different skills, teaching them to you.

  • For example, in just 36 minutes, you can learn the core principles of graphic design from the co-directors of the Graphic Design MFA Program at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

  • Skillshare is designed for creative and curious people, like myself, I think, so when I need to learn a new skill, that's exactly where I go.

  • Whether you want to learn illustration, music production, video editing, nonfiction writing, or one of so many other skills, Skillshare almost certainly has a class on it,

  • and you can start learning new skills right now for free for a full month by clicking this button, or heading to the link in the description.

  • It's free for a full month, so at worst you won't lose out on anything, but at best you'll have bettered yourself with new skills, and helped HAI.

We've all been in this situation before: you're driving home from the hospital after a grievous injury where a fan threw bricks at you as a joke,

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Why Traffic Scientists Want You to Cut People Off

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    林宜悉 posted on 2021/12/19
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