Construction Ahead

Here’s a question for you. No, it’s not a poll, and I don’t insist you answer in the comments. And I’m not sure there is a right answer .

Suppose you’re in the left lane of a three lane road. You pass a sign warning that, due to construction, the two left lanes are closed ahead.

Do you:

  1. Immediately start working your way over to the right lane,
  2. Wait until you can see the lighted arrows where the closure begins, then move to the right,
  3. Stay in your lane until you reach the point where it’s closed, then merge to the right?

As you might have guessed, I’ve got strong feelings about this one.

Remember the Richmond-San Rafael bridge? The one I use to get to and from work? The one where they’re busily replacing the expansion joints? The one where two lanes are closed in each direction for hours at a stretch so the construction can be done safely? Yeah, that one.

The backups are, to put it mildly, horrific.

Once everyone has gotten into a single lane, traffic moves at almost normal speeds. The problem is in getting to that point. Within minutes of the cones and signs going up, all three lanes are filled for miles leading up to the bottleneck.

It’s easy to blame the tie-up on the people who picked the third answer. After all, they’ve taken the “me first” approach. Sure, going all the way up to the point where they have to merge may save time for the first few people who do it, but when they stop and wait for a chance to merge across, they trigger a cascade of stopped cars in all the lanes.

On the other hand, one could just as easily point fingers at the people who were already in the right lane or who moved into it at the first warning sign. If they were more willing to allow late movers to merge, the delays would take longer to develop.

The rule of the road–written or otherwise–used to be “take turns, one from each lane”. That seems to have been kicked to the curb.

The people I don’t understand are the ones who picked the second answer. Do they think the first warning signs are a prank? Do they have to get stuck in the miles-long parking lot before they believe the signs are real? It seems like waiting but not going all the way to the final merge point just gets you the worst of the other two possibilities. But maybe I’m missing something. I await enlightenment.

As I said originally, I’m not sure there’s a right answer to the question, though I’m fairly certain that the second choice is the wrong answer.

But I hope we can all agree that the folks who repeatedly lane-hop into whichever lane is moving fastest and the ones who drive up the shoulder are the absolute worst.

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