Is the Zipper Merge Really Faster? Superior Auto Body Enters This Saskatchewan Debate

Superior Auto Body Saskatoon has been in business since 1961, and we have been an SGI ELITE Autobody shop and have been SGI accredited since 1982. There are many reasons we have so many loyal longstanding clients from all over the city, but mostly it is the small, personal touches that we offer to people who have been unfortunate enough to require our services. We offer newer model courtesy cars and vans for our clients..and to help out we will also pick up your vehicle and take it to your SGI appointment for you and deliver the courtesy car to you at home. In our latest blog post we discuss the zipper merge and share a National Post article and video on this heated subject!

Our team at Superior take pride in their workmanship… as we always say, “When we get through it’s just like new”.


Is The Zipper Merge Really Faster?

It’s an ongoing debate on the John Gormley show – and the National Post wrote an article on it – so our team at Superior Auto Body are going to settle this once and for all.

All hail the zipper merge: How Canadian politeness is killing the efficiency of our highways

” Canada’s stubborn refusal to merge late is dangerous, anarchic and — amazingly — slower. In some of the better-driving parts of the world, it’s illegal. “


Virtually every traffic scientist agrees Canada is absolutely awful at merging through bottlenecks. In fact, it’s hard to imagine how we could be worse. At the first sign of a lane coming to an end, the Canadian strategy is to immediately cram into a single file and abandon the soon-to-run-out lane. Then, as cars slowly inch ahead through the gap, they zealously defend the sanctity of the line by aggressively blocking the entry of any and all late mergers. But the late mergers always get through, forcing the queued drivers to watch with mounting frustration as vehicle after vehicle cuts to the front of the line.

The system is dangerous, anarchic, slow — and in some of the better-driving parts of the world, it’s illegal. In Germany or Austria, refusing entry to a late merger can get you a ticket. The reason is that German-speakers know there is a better way. They naturally gave it a complicated name, reißverschlussverfahren. But in North America, it is known simply as the zipper merge.

The zipper merge works by simply having drivers delay their merge until the lane has come to an end. Then, at the precise point of the bottleneck, drivers from each lane take turns entering the gap, like a zipper.

The most obvious benefit is reduced congestion. Cramming into one lane can double the length of a line of traffic and cause unnecessary road blockages to fan out for kilometres behind the bottleneck.

Second, the zipper merge is fair. The simple mantra of “stay in your own lane until the bottleneck” prevents the stress and anarchy of jockeying for position in a single lane. The aforementioned line-cutting BMW, meanwhile, no longer has a clear path to the front of the line.

And, incredibly, the zipper merge might even be faster. A 2004 study by the Virginia Transportation Research Council found that under ideal conditions, the smooth efficiency of the zipper merge results in a faster movement of traffic through the bottleneck. In essence, when a line of traffic isn’t forced to come to a virtual halt in the chaos of early merging, it allows traffic to maintain the momentum that gets it past the obstruction quicker.

zipper merge

“By working together, by abandoning our individual preferences and our distrust of others’ preferences, in favour of a simple set of objective rules, we can make things better for everyone,” wrote Tom Vanderbilt in the 2008 book Traffic.

Jurisdictions have tried with varying success to convert their citizens to the gospel of the zipper merge. Starting in the early 2000s, the state of Minnesota has been the U.S. standard for the zipper merge, rolling out pro-zipper merge signage and public relations campaigns. Since 2015, the City of Saskatoon has been pushing the zipper merge as a method to reduce congestion.

And, earlier this month, the Alberta Motor Association officially came out in support of the zipper merge. “It’s okay to ‘cheat,’” said the organization in a press release.

The problem, unfortunately, is psychological.

Canadians love lining up. It’s one of our proudest traditions. We line up at bus stops, at Tim Hortons and even on Black Friday….come on Saskatoon, work on your zipper merging skills!

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