Not really a web thing, but this is engineering/usability/design related.

There’s this crazy idea floating around that Oregonians don’t know how to drive. You hear it mentioned every once in a while, usually by someone from the busy roads of California. I admit I have seen my fair share of people going 65 in the left lane on I-5, driving along in ignorant bliss, as the lineup behind them is preparing to run them off the road. But, usually this is an occasional annoyance.

However, I’m starting to come to the conclusion that we Oregonians do indeed do not how to drive. Every day when I drive home from work, I prepare myself for the psychological torment of the Scholls Ferry merge. I work in Beaverton and live in Sherwood, so the quickest route there is to take Scholls Ferry to Roy Rogers (no, not named after THAT Roy Rogers). Scholls Ferry is bad enough with its stoplights every two car lengths, but then we hit the merge. The great traffic engineers of the city of Beaverton designed this splendid system of roads that will go along in two lanes and then merge into 1 lane about 3 feet after a stoplight. Walker Road (by Nike campus) has a lot of these as well. No, it’s not really 3 feet, but that’s pretty much how they’re treated since only the hooligans or the newbies cut ahead of the backup in the left lane by driving up the right line and merging in after the light as everyone in the left lane tries their hardest to not let them merge, cursing them vehemently.


But, are they really hooligans? Or, are they the smart ones, and the other 99% of the drivers in the left lane are the idiots. When I first encountered these things, I always patiently waited my turn and fumed at those who tried to beat the system. But, now, I’ve realized that I can cut a good 5 minutes or so off of my commute by driving up the right lane and save my sanity. It’s at the risk of inciting road-rage, I know.

The way I see it, these layouts are designed to prevent just the backup they cause by letting more cars through the lights, and letting them merge. There’s also some purpose to allow cars that are turning right before the merge to bypass the congestion, but I think the bigger issue is reducing congestion by letting more cars through. So, due to the societal norm of waiting your turn, the system backfires and the congestion remains, serving very little improvement over a single lane system.

Not a very usable design, huh? How should this be fixed so people feel free to use the right lane? Or am I cheating and need to get back in line?