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Three years of road rage (and wide open left lanes)?

Since we have to endure this “mega-project” for so long, we better all get on the same page.

I’m one of those who follows the signs that say USE BOTH LANES when backed up and TAKE TURNS AT THE MERGE, which means take turns at the merge to me. I’m pretty sure these signs, their positioning, and the whole setup have been thought out and planned to make the situation as easy as possible for everyone.

Despite those instructions, it seems a majority of people decide to fall in line to the right, maybe assuming they’re eventually going to have to merge anyway. This creates a very long backup in the right lane and a wide open left lane up to the merge, which leads to angry drivers in the right lane who see others cruising by them in the left lane. If a majority of us would actually drive through this the way I think it was intended, I think it would be a lot smoother, similar to the second merge going west from downtown, where traffic spreads out a little and left laners can seamlessly get right without anyone having to slow down at all.

I bring this up after seeing the attempts by some to take up both lanes and actually getting swerved at yesterday for using the wide open left lane. Thank goodness the kids weren’t in the car. Seriously who “fake swerves” their vehicle at another moving vehicle?

Am I wrong here? And if not, how do we get everyone through this as intended? I’ve seen letters to the DNT addressing this and basically saying the same thing I am, obviously without impact.

34 Comments

bluenewt

about 9 years ago

The New York Times magazine had a good piece about this question: Are you cutting in line if you don't merge until you have to merge? Or are you making things worse if you line up before you have to? 

The Urge to Merge 

Bad Cat!

about 9 years ago

I think it's a "Minnesota-nice" thing to the extreme end. I've been stuck in the same position, and even though the sign says "use the left lane," I know that the left lane does eventually end, and I'll feel selfish if I use the left lane just to get ahead of the rest of traffic. I'll keep my honest place in line in the right-lane, even if it means I'm ignoring road use suggestions (seriously).

As for the fake-swevers, fuck them. I don't get too pissed at late mergers unless they're just being opportunist douchebags (which clearly does not apply here because there's a traffic sign that specifically says "use left lane!"). There's no margin of error in tight traffic, no reason to possibly create an accident.

jkent

about 9 years ago

The "use both lanes and then take turns" system has been shown to be more efficient, but only if drivers actually obey the instructions. The book "Traffic" by Tom Vanderbilt has an extensive discussion of the dynamics starting at page 45.  The Minnesota DOT did a 2003 study (on I-35 no less) that showed the same thing.  You can read their report here: http://www.dot.state.mn.us/trafficeng/research/data/DynLateMerge.pdf  They found drivers started to figure it out near the end of the study.

woodtick

about 9 years ago

When the weather is as nice as it is these days, I ride the bike.  For everything.  

Cars are coffins.

Jude

about 9 years ago

I think a lot of people take the right lane rather than have to get into that horrible situation of merging (accident waiting to happen in my opinion). I see lots of people speeding up on the left to try nose in at the last minute.  The whole thing is a huge mess, it's a wonder it's working at all.

conrad

about 9 years ago

Thank you thread starter.  I can't tell you how many dirty looks I have gotten by following the rules.  If it was not posted to use both lanes I wouldn't but I do because that is what is asked of me. 

I have gotten honks, dirty looks, I can't tell you how many people don't "Take Turns at merge" and if one car is an ass and doesn't let you in when it should it's like that gives others the a-okay to do that same.  I have had a guy purposely block me from merging at all, speeding up and slowing down so I couldn't get in the right lane. I thought it was just a misunderstanding until the guy kept doing it and gave me a bad look. The book Traffic, sites many studies that say that late merging is more efficient.  

Please, people of Duluth, let's be kind to one another.

vicarious

about 9 years ago

Woodtick, your intentions are noble. But I need to be in Minneapolis by 7pm tonight, thus I shall drive an automobile.

Terry G.

about 9 years ago

The odd thing is that you usually have to merge either way. Staying in the right lane means you probably have to merge further back.

One thing that bugs me is that MNDOT often eliminates a lane of traffic waaaay before needed in construction zones. Again, it just seems to push the merging and congestion further back.

@ndy

about 9 years ago

Just out of curiosity, if we are to use both lanes prior to the merge, at what point should the two lanes merge? Right at the point where the left lane ends? If the traffic in the right lane is maintaining any pace at all and the cars in the left lane are slowing to wait for someone to allow them to merge, it seems to me that would cause cars in the right lane to have to brake abruptly to allow cars in the left lane to merge, thus highly increasing the likelihood of an accident. I'd much rather stay in the right lane and slow my commute by a few minutes rather than risk being involved an accident.

edgeways

about 9 years ago

You merge prior to coming to a stop. If the right lane is maintaining speed and maintaining decent following distances then it's like a zipper. If people are aggressive and sitting on the bumpers in the right lane it doesn't work so well.

Jeff

about 9 years ago

Obeying the signs also helps those who may need to get off on lake/5th  If the line of cars is beyond the exit you are also adding in cars that don't even need to be there.  If both lanes had 1/2 the total cars the line would be half as long, less with those exiting the freeway.  It's telling you to use the lane, so, use the lane, or not- but don't hate me for making your line shorter.

Kevin Jacobsen

about 9 years ago

Funny this topic pops up now. I've got a story airing Thursday night on the KDLH 3 News at Ten. "Merging Etiquette 101." Hope it'll teach folks a few things. It'll be on our website as well following the news.

Chris

about 9 years ago

I have to admit I'm a right lane person, even though I know study after study proves that the last second merge is more efficient.  I don't want to be sitting in the left lane counting on the kindness of my fellow drivers.  My solution is not to even attempt the freeway during my morning or afternoon commute.  The middle of the day seems to be smooth sailing thus far.  I'm thinking I'll make it through the inconvenience of not using the freeway, but I'm hating what this construction  has done to West Duluth.  God help you if you are planning to try and attempt a left turn out of the Denfeld Plaza or the Duluth Clinic West.

zra

about 9 years ago

ditto @ woodtick.

It's a great effort if you are able, but for most peoples situations, the practice isn't practical.

MasterBlaster

about 9 years ago

On the Bright Side, Duluth has its first bike lane!!  Although not technically not a "lane" the new bike "sharrow" is on Kenwood from Skyline up to Subway.

Erin

about 9 years ago

Kind of off-topic, but is there anywhere online where they have posted which ramps on and off of I-35 will be closing? Just yesterday I noticed many signs saying that they will be closing or have already closed - Grand Ave. and Central Ave. in particular - making it difficult for those trying to exit off the freeway in West Duluth.

Lithis

about 9 years ago

MN-DOT's I-35 Duluth Mega Project page. (The Duluth Public Library links to it; that's how I found it.)

Paul Lundgren

about 9 years ago

Yeah, I got rerouted into Proctor yesterday when the Grand Avenue exit was suddenly closed without warning (at least warning that I noticed, anyway). 

Mn/DOT's Interstate 35 - Duluth Mega Project page does note the "southbound I-35 ramp to Grand Avenue (left exit to Hwy 23) is closed," so I guess I should have been following along.

Erin

about 9 years ago

Paul: There was a sign on the southbound side that I noticed near the Bong Bridge exit, but until yesterday it had been covered up. I assumed it was the off-ramp closure since the only words I could make out were "Grand" and "Central." Would have been nice to give motorists notice who don't know about the MN/DOT page yet. So what are we supposed to do once they close the Central Ave. exit?

Paul Lundgren

about 9 years ago

We are supposed to take the bus, I guess. Or get off at 40th.

woodtick

about 9 years ago

Vicarious and zra - understood.  We all have cars.

eco eco

about 9 years ago

I don't have a car--how'd I get to Bozeman?

EvilResident

about 9 years ago

This is gonna be a horrible 3 years.

The Big E

about 9 years ago

The "zipper" model is attractive in concept, but I just don't think people actually behave like that in traffic.  What winds up happening is an increasingly disrupted flow that accordions back down the line (swelling as it goes) with every late merge.  [Incidentally, there was a fairly interesting article on traffic jams in The Atlantic ages ago that discusses varying interpretations of this phenomenon.]

I wonder if posting more signage ("Follow at a car length distance," "begin merge zone," etc.) would help.

Jude

about 9 years ago

What I see happening is the folks in the left lane mostly do not want to take turns, they want to be in front, racing to some finish line.  The right lane people seem to be way more patient, knowing there is no way to rush a line, no matter, we all have to go on one road.  If the two lines were equal from the start (as in traffic on I-94 at rush hour), then people are going slow enough so merging is less of a problem. I think that "use both lanes" sign is just a recipe for disaster and safe drivers know it, so they sensibly stay in the safe place, out of the way of the speedsters who race in the left lane. . I will just expect delays, drive sensibly and allot extra time.  Not worth getting all raging, this is going to last a long time.

Terry G.

about 9 years ago

Personality Types:

Left Lane = "I don't care what other people think, I'm doing the smart thing"

Right Lane = "Damn those know-it-alls, I'll show them a thing or two"

Barrett Chase

about 9 years ago

This is why I never travel east of the Duluth Grill.

ToWaRd

about 9 years ago

Defensive Drivers are a bane on the existence of smooth traffic flowage. The best defense is a good offense. The posted speed limits should be considered a minimum, thank you. If you can't stand the heat ...

RS

about 9 years ago

@ Jude, I agree 100%.  I know they request using both lanes, however  I would rather take my time in the R lane than attempt to get over into the L lane just to be shut out and probably smacked into while trying to merge back over.  I work too hard to pay for my car to put it to use as a battering ram.  Plus, coming off the exit from work (Lake Ave to I35South), left lane traffic is already whizzing by me at a faster speed than I plan on going, so once I reach my intended speed (the speed LIMIT) in the right lane, I make sure I allow extra room in front of me for anyone who would like to merge over and smile an extra bright smile at anyone who tries to flip me off or shake a fist at me (it's hilarious how pissed people get if they see they can't rattle you and get you angry).  When I am on my way to work, as usual everyone else feels the need to go faster than the speed limit, so again I just stay where I am at in the R lane until the construction starts.  As for the speed LIMIT, if the law states you are not to exceed XX MPH, I am not going to exceed that MPH no matter how long the line of traffic I am holding up.  That goes for any road, highway or freeway.  I don't care if you're late for something, it's your fault you didn't leave earlier.  I want to arrive in one piece and not in a body bag, and I sure as heck do not want to pay a "coupon" for speeding.  
That said, I will say with these exit closures and one-lane traffic, commuting from where I do (Cloquet) has become quite easier and less time consuming than it was when all the exits and both lanes were open.  Thanks MnDot for a more peaceful ride to work every day! =)

RS

about 9 years ago

Oops, hit submit too soon...One last thing, maybe the traffic coming from farther down the freeway should be directed into the left lane to allow those of us coming off the ramp to have the right lane.  Two problems solved with one answer.  Oncoming traffic has no problems entering the freeway, and both lanes are used until the merge point.  And for the record, just because I don't get over into the L lane, I do still allow those who do to merge over when the time comes.

B.A.

about 9 years ago

My 2 cents: 

If everyone let one car merge in front of them where two lanes or an onramp and lane converge, traffic would flow much more smoothly. Unfortunately, this is not a perfect world and people are aggressive, impatient, and will defend their spot in line as if their life depended on it. The merging situation will never be resolved because there will always be people that value their place or the 30 seconds they save not letting a car merge in line over any rational argument to the contrary.

Someone sideswiped my car on I35 last fall trying to jump ahead of people at a merge point and did $3200 damage to my vehicle. After letting multiple people merge in front of me and following the car in front of me at 2 or 3 car lengths (so I didn't have to hit the brakes every 2 seconds) this person got impatient, swerved out from traffic, sideswiped my car, and pushed me onto the shoulder.  He was forced to stop about 3 car lengths ahead of me because of the traffic, so I parked on the shoulder, walked up to his vehicle, asked him what the **ck he was doing.  He barely gave me a second look and drove off.  He did stop eventually, after which he lied and told the police during his interview that I was playing with my cell phone. The police, thankfully, must have thought he was an idiot as well (though I never saw the police report) since his insurance company later wrote me a $3200 check no questions asked. Unfortunately, this was one of the few days I didn't ride my bike to work.

P.S. Thanks to all of you wonderful motorists that occasionally let us poor souls trying to enter Superior St. from 62 Ave East merge into traffic. I personally can't wait until the Lester Bridge reconstruction is complete and things return to normal.

Since I'm ranting, I'd also like to say that certain cyclists contribute to traffic problem as well. Like motorists who don't want to share the road and seem to never signal their turns, I see cyclists blow through stop signs and ignore traffic signs all of the time. If you're going to ride on the street and take the lane from time to time to pass parked cars, etc, at least be courteous enough to obey traffic signals like a vehicle. I've heard people that ride make excuses like "I want to keep my momentum up" or "I don't want to unclip." Are you seriously that lazy? I ride both road and mountain bikes with "clipless" pedals, and it's not that big of a deal to unclip and stop once in a while to obey a traffic signal or stop sign.

P.S. ...and to the high school kids that blew an air horn at me twice last summer when I was riding home on Grand Ave, if I ever manage to get your license plate expect a visit from the local constabulary... Not that I'm holding a grudge...

jj

about 9 years ago

What is with the new trend in Duluth where when the traffic light turns green, oncoming traffic beats you to the punch and makes their turn in front of you, stopping all of the traffic who has the right of way from going through? It happened five times this week. Today, two cars got through before the right of way traffic could proceed. You have to actually be heading out into the intersection on the crossing traffic yellow to not let them do this to you.

B-man

about 9 years ago

We are all too stupid to drive together.

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