A case for merging with manners
July 19, 2005
Things have gotten ugly out on Main Street this summer – especially during the afternoon commuter rush – but present conditions are actually worse than they need to be.No, we’re not making a point about the city’s failure to craft a long-term solution to Aspen’s urban-style gridlock. We’re also not going to chastise the vast number of gas gluttons who unnecessarily drive their cars to work – alone – every day.Our point today is to encourage those drivers, as they leave town in the afternoon, to use the outgoing left lane on Main Street and to merge at Seventh Street. The Aspen Police Department has launched a campaign urging people to “merge with manners,” hoping to dispel the misguided notion that left-lane users are somehow cheating the folks who dutifully take their place in line on the right.There are two reasons to hope that commuters listen to the cops and change their behavior behind the wheel.The first reason is for the sake of public civility. The current situation, in which those on the right routinely block any left-laners who bypass the line and try to merge, is rude and dysfunctional. The folks on the left end up feeling guilty for moving to the front of the line even though they are not doing anything illegal. And the folks on the right feel slighted because they think they’re playing by “the rules.”Of course, nobody actually drafted these “rules” and the daily one-lane lineup serves no practical purpose.Which brings us to the second reason to heed what the cops are saying. The current lineup in the right-hand lane backs up traffic all the way to Galena Street. Using both outbound lanes will shorten the queue and not block as many intersections. Also, it stands to reason that an orderly, alternating, two-lane merge (Somewhere, in some big-city past life, we’ve all done this, haven’t we?) will flow more smoothly than today’s awkward logjam, and possibly save everyone time.Please, everyone, let’s do all we can to take some pain out of this summertime traffic. Try merging with manners. Trust the cops on this one – at least until the city comes up with a politically palatable long-term solution.