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In praise of the zipper merge on Bayview

A couple of years ago my brother and I were having a discussion about the proper way to enter a highway when there is stop-and-go traffic. The two of us rarely agree on anything, so it wasn’t surprising that we disagreed on the appropriate course of action in this situation.

He thought you’re better to go all the way to the end of the on-ramp lane, merging into traffic at the very last minute. I, on the other hand, suggested it made more sense to cut in at the first safe moment. Nothing got solved that day. We agreed to disagree.

Fast forward to 2017.

I’m driving in the car one Saturday a couple of months ago listening to the Motts on CFRB; they happened to be discussing the “zipper merge,” a situation where two parallel lanes of traffic are forced to merge into one lane imitating a zipper closing, hence the name.

For those of you who aren’t aware of the Motts, they’re a husband-and-wife radio broadcasting team who often debate issues of the day on the radio. They had read with interest that transportation experts determined that the zipper merge was a more efficient way to process significant amounts of traffic forced to merge from two lanes to one (my brother’s solution) rather than at your earliest opportunity (my solution).

While both the Motts felt that the zipper merge made sense from an intellectual standpoint, one of them wondered if Torontonians would be kind enough to implement something like this. The problem, they reckoned, was most people would lose their you-know-what if cars started passing them on the inside lane to do the zipper merge farther down the road – essentially at the last minute – and in doing so, get where they’re going sooner.

What does the zipper merge have to do with Leaside? Plenty, if you’re anywhere near Bayview, which narrows from two lanes to one between Parkhurst and Eglinton.

Having spent the better part of a year watching Bayview’s northbound traffic back up at all hours of the day right outside my apartment, I can say with certainty that they were right to question whether drivers could be mature or kind enough to make this work effectively.

Every morning and evening, my wife does battle with cars travelling northbound on Bayview between Parkhurst Blvd. and Eglinton Ave. Despite traffic being at a standstill, very few cars are willing to make room so she can turn onto Bayview heading southbound. The drivers might not be moving anywhere,

but they’ll be damned if someone else can.

It’s not logical, but it is human.

Every once in a while, usually during evening rush hour, the zipper merge works like a charm because the volume of traffic forces drivers to occupy both lanes almost all the way to Eglinton. Sometimes it’s not possible because of parked cars, but when there’s nothing in the inside lane between Parkhurst and Eglinton, drivers ought to fill both lanes with cars and trucks.

I’ve seen firsthand that it works. And while we’re at it, remember that when Bayview residents are trying to get out of their driveways in the morning, they’re not attempting to jump the queue, they’re just trying to get to work or take their kids to school, like everyone else.

So, be nice Leaside and prepare to zip up with the zipper merge.