Some drivers like to stay in The Lane That Does Not End. Others like to pass as many cars as possible first, and slip in later. But there’s a third type of driver that I never knew existed. Until now.
There’s construction in my area, and part of that construction involves a lane drop. As usual, there are signs posted about a quarter-mile in advance, warning that the left lane ends soon. And those signs do not lie. Sure enough, you get to a point where the broken white line diving the two forward lanes has been painted black, and orange barrels cut diagonally across the left lane, funneling any remaining traffic to the right.
What people are doing here -and it’s a puzzling majority of them, too- is that they are all getting into the left lane, the one that ends, over a mile in advance, and avoiding the right lane altogether for as long as possible.
Oh, it’s not unusual for drivers around here to hang out in the left lane. In fact, most of them prefer to use the left lane as their default lane of choice, taking the right lane only to make right-hand turns, or to pass trucks and buses, returning immediately to the left lane. Mind you, this is in Michigan, not Gloucestershire. We’re supposed to make the right lane our default lane, returning to it at the earliest opportunity.
But drivers in my area are now taking left lane hogging to a whole new level. Rather than ending their stay in the left lane by merging before reaching the construction barrels, they hug the very barrels that are closing off the lane that ended several yards ago. It’s like they’re pretending that they’re already in The Lane That Does Not End, and that traffic in the right lane must find a place to merge among them.
There’s a wealth of signage all over to show how things are supposed to work here. Even if you haven’t familiarized yourself with this as part of your daily commute, it’s hard to miss the signs telling you what lane you need to be in. There’re the advance warning signs, telling everyone to merge right while they still can, there’s a huge flashing VMS with a right arrow parked in the center turn lane, at which point the lane markings have been erased with black paint. The left lane is OVER, and those two lanes are now one and the same. Within about 50 yards, the row of orange barrels physically funnels anyone who hasn’t gotten the message out of the left lane into the right-hand one.
Yet drivers are ignoring every single one of these signs, riding as far left for as long as they can. Very few of them will even touch the right-hand lane upon approach, despite all the warnings. I’ve even seen drivers merge out of the right lane just to fall in line behind the other left-lane lemmings. They pass by the warning signs, the flashing VMS arrow, past the point where the lane markings have been erased, and keep close to the barrels that are there to force them out of the lane that doesn’t even exist anymore. They’re essentially driving on what is a “left shoulder” of the road.
This leaves the right-hand lane WIDE OPEN. For quite some distance, too. And frankly, I cannot resist passing them. All of them. Every single one, until I get to a car who is straddling both lanes. And more often than not, he’s not doing it to block anybody. Rather, he’s still in the process of hugging the barrels to his left, even though by this point there’s only about 3 feet or so between the barrels and the erased lane markings.
Except of course that what I’m doing isn’t passing. I’m not overtaking or undertaking to get in front of anybody. I’ve read the signs and have decided that the left lane is definitely NOT where I want to be. I’m right where I belong, and they’re all, well, yielding to me.
The only thing that I can figure, is that maybe they’ve got this idea in their head that they’re being nice by keeping the right-most lane open for those who need to use the right-turn only lane ahead. Kind of like a mile-long “right-turn only lane”, if you will. If only it was marked as such.
In addition to the map above, here’s video footage of the roadway approaching and entering the construction zone. (Sorry for smacking the camera with my hand. I’m just jostling it to ensure that it’s actually recording this.)
We like to party, indeed. But apparently somebody must have missed their invitation to the right lane...
This happens on a daily basis, even during rush-hour traffic. The left lane gets terribly congested and backed up, while the right lane is free and clear. Sometimes a few drivers will take the right lane, but we’re in the minority here.
My cruise in the right lane typically comes to an end when I reach the car who’s trying to straddle both lanes. This often results in there being another car to my left. Despite running out of room for the past several yards, he still won’t take the right lane for himself. And how is that driver taking all this? About as well as you’d expect.
On one occasion, I came to a stop marginally closer to the car in front of us than the car to my left was. His response was to surge forward, trying to claim a spot even closer to the other car’s bumper than I was, not willing to lose his place in line.
So we roll down our windows for a little chat. I initiate the conversation, keeping my voice calm, and to his credit, he too avoids turning this into a shouting match too.
After confirming that he’s not waiting to turn left into the nearby driveway, I try to persuade the guy that he needs to be in my lane if he’s going to continue forward. But he insists that he’s already where he belongs. He is clearly annoyed that I’m trying to “merge in”, oblivious to the fact that it’s him who needs to merge over into my lane. He says that he’s just following the line of other cars (as if that even helps his case).
I keep telling him that his lane doesn’t even exist anymore, it’s been over for the past 100 feet or so. I even offer for him to go in front of me when traffic starts moving again. (I’ve passed SO MANY cars in the last couple of minutes, that hey whatever I’m feeling generous. Letting one lousy car in front of me doesn’t begin to compare to all the passing I’ve just done.)
He accepts my offer, yet holds fast to his belief that everyone is supposed to stay left. He will not be swayed otherwise, and all I can do is suggest that he takes a closer look at all the signage next time he comes through here. I let him slip through in front of me, and we part ways, having successfully avoided raising our voices.
Part of me hopes that he and other drivers will get with the program and start using the right lane. But part of me hopes that they don’t, just so that I can keep sailing by on the right.