By Ryan Tibbens
To be honest, the "zipper merge," by itself, will not save the world. But it could get us close. A few days ago, a member of my family, one of my favorite people in the world, shared this Tweet on Facebook:
The conversation went something, but not exactly, like this: I recommended the zipper merge. He said that all "zippering" should occur at the first warning sign, not as close to the obstruction as possible. And I said he was wrong. And he said I was wrong. Etc. I tried to convince him by sharing this well-explained and extraordinarily polite, Canadian-made (I love redundancy) video movie on the subject:
It didn't work. He referenced his personal experience in traffic, how the early merge works better, and that zipper mergers are "ass clowns." I looked to my wife for backup, but she agreed with him. I posted real research, state advice, and researched suggestions from mildly popular websites and nationally renowned newspapers. Here are highlights from the ensuing conversation:
That is when I realized that the zipper merge could save the world. Traffic is a serious concern for most voting-aged Americans; after all, about 88% of adult Americans own a car. If ever there was a problem we can agree on, it is that traffic sucks. Maybe it's just misguided sentimentalism, but when I was a child and young adult, I remember that people (mostly) agreed on our problems. We knew what was wrong and that something must be done; our disagreements sprouted on the solution side. Today, despite having the sum-total of human knowledge at our fingertips, we can't agree on basic facts. Not only can we not agree on solutions, but we can't agree on the problems themselves either.
Enter the zipper merge. We all agree that traffic sucks. And most of us do, or once did, agree that people who stay too long in the closing lane are "douche bags," as our Canadian friend in the video points out. He also points out that, in order for the zipper merge to work, everyone has to get on board. So how do we win converts? We use research and logic and patience and restraint (maybe more than I did when I pointed out how dumb a comment was). We need a tipping point. We'll need mavens, connectors, and salesmen. But imagine -- if people learn that traffic can be reduced or resolved THROUGH RESEARCH, then those same people might find themselves opening up to other research, say research on the death penalty as a deterrent, low fat diets, vaccines and autism, and climate change. Long before the zipper merge is de facto reality, people in the closing lane will need to tolerate being called "douche bags" and "ass clowns" and much worse. But if those missionaries stay true to the mission and peacefully accept the abuse, we can make the world a much better place. The zipper merge can save the world by teaching people, in practical and everyday ways, that high-quality, quantitative research can yield better results than our own myopic views of the road. First, we solve traffic. Then, we save the world.
Also, here are some excellent, research-based methods to reduce traffic. Get to work.
because no one else should do it for you.