The pros and cons of using the a$$hole lane

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I have a confession to make: I use the asshole lane. What's that? Well, when a sign announces that, for example, the left lane ends in 1,000 feet, drivers are supposed to immediately move right. But especially when traffic is backed up, I stay in the other lane until just about the point when it disappears, passing lots of other vehicles in the process. I call it "the asshole lane." I'm starting to rethink my strategy, though, after nearly getting into two accidents in as many days -- in part because I encountered a pair of fellow assholes. I'm not sure which of us was bigger, but it was probably me.

As a native of Grand Junction, I never used the asshole lane during my formative driving years. But then I moved to Los Angeles, where traffic frequently devolves into a form of post-apocalyptic combat that would make Mad Max bawl like a colicky premie.

After months of watching other drivers use the asshole lane, thereby shaving considerable chunks of time off their mind-numbing commutes, I began to do likewise and found that the asshole lane had become part of the SoCal driving culture. Drivers expected people to stay in disappearing lanes for as long as possible, and their preparation made merges a relatively safe and orderly process, with only occasional exceptions. And the results got everyone to their respective destinations faster -- or so I told myself.

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A Colorado Department of Transportation photo from 6th Avenue at Knox Court earlier this year.
The same proved true the year I spent going to Northwestern in Chicago. But upon moving to Denver, I discovered that the asshole lane is less accepted here. I still used it when the need arose, but I was likelier to be thanked for my efforts with the shake of a head or a fist by those who watched me roar past them than I ever was in L.A. or Chi-town.

Still, I persisted, and my use of the asshole lane generally seemed like no big deal -- until last week.

My commute home takes me through the westbound 6th Avenue construction zone, where the entrance to the highway is reduced to one lane in what promises to be a horrific mess for months to come. But when I attempted to use the asshole lane on Friday, a fifty-something woman to the right kept zooming up and zooming up to the cut-off point -- and then, instead of letting me in, she zoomed again, nearly clipping my front fender. And then, on Monday, another woman of a similar vintage did the exact same thing, all the while staring straight ahead with homicidal determination.

Once the merge was completed and we got onto the highway, both women moved into the fast lane and maintained a steady forty miles per hour or so, causing an even more unnecessary jam that forced others to swerve around them at a risk to everyone in the vicinity. Definite asshole behavior in my book.

Then again, I'd clearly provoked them by using the asshole lane in a way that's standard procedure in at least two major American cities, but not in this one. And after years of trying to import the technique, I'm afraid I may have to leave it behind once and for all.

Of course, I can't guarantee how firm my resolve will be on the ride home tonight....

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our Lists & Weirdness archive: "Photos: Top ten cars whose drivers can be jerks on icy roads."

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73 comments
Sherri Spencer
Sherri Spencer

Good luck trying to inform stupid people, John. They don't WANT to learn, that's why they're stupid. :)

Annie Beechum
Annie Beechum

If you go to the end of the lane you are properly driving, it's called the zipper merge there's no reason to leave the lane open I wish people would understand this! It drives me nuts that people that use the lane and merge at the end like they're supposed to are viewed as assholes!

Adam Aedro Drotar
Adam Aedro Drotar

Are we really going to talk about how shit the drivers are in Denver again? If so let's talk about the turn lane and how no one uses it until right before the turn despite the quarter mile lane leading up to it We can also discuss the fact people let these assholes in from the asshole lane like they deserve it. It seems like shitty drivers from all over the world flock to Denver to make the few of us with half a brain want to murder them.

Dave Edgell
Dave Edgell

There is only so many signs that explain right lane must exit how many times?? Assholes. Maybe they can't read English..

Bradford Ashington
Bradford Ashington

Let's be honest here....not even the best of engineering designs can overcome the seemingly infinite supply of human stupidity and selfishness...this design only works if there is an ample amount of space in between vehicles...unfortunately, there is an insanely high # of over-privileged yuppie douchebags who have this seemingly innate need to fucking tailgate even when there is very light traffic, so when rush hour commences, the douchebaggery factor exponentially rises....u see the results day in, day out

Tiffany Nichole
Tiffany Nichole

'Homicidal determination' that really cracks me UP! Lol! I'm a asshole too! Don't worry!

annik419
annik419

I once asked a highway patrol woman about this merging thing and she said she wished that everyone learning to drive would learn about the "aipper effect." You go along in your two lanes until, say, the right lane ends. Then, one-by-one, the driver in the continuing left lane lets in a driver from the ending right lane. Then it's the next left laner's turn and so one.

It is very fair, it is very efficient, and no one is lablaed an asshole. I frankly think it's the people who speed up and don't let you into their lane when yours is ending who are the jerks. In Seattle and its neighborhing cities, if a lane is ending a mile or two back, the sheep -- I mean the drivers -- all start lining up in single file, making the commute even longer. It's so obvious to NOT do that. (Well, apparently not.)

Julie Anne Wood-Holmlund
Julie Anne Wood-Holmlund

Drove in Omaha for over 10 years, and everyone there uses all merging lanes until the merge point. Same for the 3 years while in the UK. (The assholes are the ones who won't merge because they're desperate to get a mere one or two cars further up.) I've always been confused about the way it's done here around Denver. I'm just trying to be efficient, and I'm the asshole? No way! :) Colorado drivers need to get with the program.

Bill Workman
Bill Workman

If this is your biggest problem...you live a very sheltered life.

Alex Sasha Bachayev
Alex Sasha Bachayev

Lot's of asshole lanes in New York City area, the city lives based on assholes!

Naomi Ochoa
Naomi Ochoa

It's called merging and that's what your supposed to do. The real a$$holes are the ones who take it personal and won't let anyone in. Traffic would actually run it's course smoothly if this is done properly.

esimmons2000
esimmons2000

Oh, and for those EB -6- to SB-25- merge people, that 6-exit to 25-entrance 'ramp' goes for almost a mile - DON'T be that asshole that stops where it touches 25 with your blinker on. jesus, match the speed of 25 - even if you gotta go ½ mile. I've had people cut me off where 2 mix to 1 lane,  so I don't get slightly ahead, just to see them come to a stop where it merges.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

"when a sign announces that, for example, the left lane ends in 1,000 feet, drivers are supposed to immediately move right."


Complete BULLSHIT from the know-nothing brain-dead stoner Roberts.


You treat that situation the same as any other MERGE lane.


When there is dense traffic in both lanes, the entire 1000' should be used and vehicles should alternate / merge as a zipper, maintaining a constant flow as possible


When there are only a few vehicles in the merging lane, they too can / should use as much of the merge lane as necessary / possible to create the least disruption to the flowing lane. The fewer the vehicles, the more seamless and less disruptive the merge should be ... unless you're a complete idiot like the author.

sporobolus
sporobolus

Americans are on the whole quite ignorant and irrational about driving; they tolerate more deaths and costs than they would in most any other activity; i think it's time to raise the bar for drivers licenses - how about yearly licensing with standards like those for aircraft pilots? 


this article portrays a good driving practice (cooperative zippering) as a bad one that should nonetheless be practiced with guilt and aggressioninstead of confessing, in effect, his own failed driver education, Roberts could have instead researched the topic and used his journalistic platform to help diminish the nastiness of driving — or is more mayhem somehow in Westword's interest?


esimmons2000
esimmons2000

I think I encountered one of those 'ladies' in an older crappy jeep. Looking straight ahead, like no one else around. Came within 3" of clipping me.

Christopher Snyder
Christopher Snyder

i don't understand all the sheeple who immediately merge when confronted with a lane closure.

Brian Smith
Brian Smith

I never understood this. The road is there, why wouldn't you use it? Should we widen the highway so we can not us the extra lane?

Stephenie Falcone
Stephenie Falcone

I have noticed that people who drive the same route every day know what's coming up and get in the correct lane well in advance, and then there's those who've never gone that way before because they're going to an interview or something and then they're like, oh shit I'm supposed to get over. I can totally accomodate them and have been there myself, but even using the zipper effect, there are still plenty of assholes out there that just want to get ahead and push their way around the road because they are too impatient to be polite to others.

fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

It is interesting, reading these comments, that if you are in one lane and want to get to the other, those in the other lane are assholes.  However, if you are already in a lane in which others are attempting access, then they are the assholes.


I guess it is all a matter of perspective.  

Cognitive_Dissident
Cognitive_Dissident topcommenter

If the traffic isn't moving, use the whole lane. If the traffic is moving, merge. It's that simple. The distance between the sign and the end of the lane is there to allow you to merge at speed, and if you don't merge intelligently at speed, you're an asshole, and I don't let your kind in when you wait until the lane ends. 

However, if the traffic isn't moving (comparatively, like 5mph), you're doing the right thing by "using the whole road" instead of leaving part of it empty.

Brendan Flynn
Brendan Flynn

"I drive really slow in the ultra fast lane, while people behind me are going insane I'm an asshole.."

Greg Dolak
Greg Dolak

These are the same "people" that make turns from two lanes over....because "I wanted to turn there..." Only concerned with one person while driving.

Heaven Northrop
Heaven Northrop

Screw those people I HATE you! If I see you I will not let you over. You are the problem and we have such bad traffic problems you see the lane ending get the f over!

Matthew Barrows
Matthew Barrows

As tax payers we have spent millions on these lanes. I am amazed at the people that only use one lane of the new Santa Fe overpass. Use it how it was designed and run to the end!

Amy Brugh-Reinhardt
Amy Brugh-Reinhardt

On ramp: Also called the acceleration lane to make sure you meet highway speeds before merging. Anyone who took driver's ed knows to use the whole lane to not slow the flow of traffic.

Luke O'Bryan
Luke O'Bryan

Actually during congestion and in construction zones, Colorado Department of Transportation recommends using both lanes until the merge point. The "late merge" or "zipper merge" helps with traffic speed, traffic flow and is actually is more efficient, but most Colorado drivers don't get it. It's the people that don't let the "assholes" over who are the bigger problem. From CDOT: https://m.facebook.com/coloradodot/posts/527285163993061

fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

Gosh adam, those of us with a full brain believe "murder" might be a bit excessive.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@esimmons2000  ... that is what the wide shoulder -- safety runout -- is for ... just go around those morons, passing them on the right, and leave them in your dust.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@sporobolus  ... you didn't expect any accuracy or facts in a Wasteword story by Michael Fluffmaster Roberts, did you?

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

... timid idiot drivers are as timid idiot drivers do.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

... yet another Wasteword / Fluffmaster Roberts FAIL!



sporobolus
sporobolus

@DonkeyHotay @esimmons2000  the shoulder goes to zero before the noted merge point (onto SB I-25)  because of proximity to the S. Platte River; this will improve in a future phase of the Valley Highway project, but getting more room will require shifting the railroad on the east side of 25

sporobolus
sporobolus

@DonkeyHotay @sporobolus  Roberts is fairly professional in person, and has done some good stories, so i'm inclined to believe it is Westword's bottom line that propels the fluff

sporobolus
sporobolus

@DonkeyHotay @sporobolus  i guess i have only read some of his articles, though over a span of many years; at this point i only read selected sections of Westword via RSS, and the quality has certainly declined

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@sporobolus


Fluffmaster Roberts is notorious for DELIBERATELY LYING in the headlines and/or stories he writes, omitting inconvenient facts that counter his preconceived promotions, or intentionally inflaming the audience with misleading and inaccurate teasers.


He's no journalist, he's a hack blogger lazily spewing xxx words per day to collect a paycheck.




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