Your Afternoon Traffic Frustration Plea

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Rock Creek Parkway Afternoon Traffic

Dear PoPville,

Can we stop the line cutting?

Every day, during the afternoon rush hour on Rock Creek Parkway, a line forms from the Mass. Ave. exit up towards the zoo. There’s a long slow line, with many patient drivers trying to get home. However, there are so many people who cut in at the last minute causing a whole lotta horn-honking and angry bitter drivers. Is there anyway to start a campaign, perhaps with a temporary sign that says “Respect your fellow driver. Don’t cut the line.”

I’ve seen police pull people over for cutting in at the last minute, but they aren’t there enough to make an impact. It’s so aggravating.”

81 Comment

  • Some of this is simply drivers who are unfamiliar with the traffic pattern and didn’t notice the signage. So this problem is unlikely to go away. I suggest taking a deep breath and not working yourself into a tizzy or else finding an alternative route that won’t cause so much frustration.

    • +1. I’m also going to guess that there’s not a lot of overlap between those drivers and the readers of this blog, but who knows.

    • Thats not true. Anecdotally, I would say that 99% of the people who drive that road during rush, are people who do it frequently. RCP is a weird animal with reversible lanes etc, and it isn’t filled with tourists during rush.

      People who are “surprised” by the exit, or the line don’t drive right up the end at full speed and then cram into a spot. They know what they are doing.

      • This. I think the posters are giving their fellow drivers too much credit. I commuted through RCP every evening for over 4 years. The behavior the OP mentions came from DC/MD/VA license plates, not tourists or out-of-towners…and it allows causes an annoying backup.

  • whatever, i agree. people who do this are the worst.

    • Enabled and encouraged by the ostensibly kind drivers who allow it. You don’t help someone by teaching them to do wrong, by rewarding it.

      • By not letting them in, you’re just causing a worse traffic situation for everyone because the car trying to get in ends up blocking both lanes.

  • I witness this everyday at this location, it has gotten to the point that I have just stopped caring because it made me way too frustrated. I just breathe and say it is what it is.

  • maxwell smart

    I’m going to wager to guess that these are the same people who cut in front of people getting on/off the bus/metro.

  • This reminds me of several spots on the beltway where on-ramps are so long that by the time they end, the actual entrances are back around the bend, completely unseen. So people already on the beltway, stuck in gridlock, use it to skip 15-20 cars and then merge in as if they’re just innocent on-rampers looking for a place to squeeze in. And the cars up ahead who let them in have no idea that they’re actually cheaters. When I used to commute back from Tyson’s and people did this, I’d often see others pull out to block them. It often led to some tense moments.

  • Yes! I drive home this way every day and those people are the worst! And while a slim few may be genuinely confused, most seem to be arrogant jerks who don’t want to wait in line. UGH.

  • I’m gonna guess most of the line cutters have license plates that say “MARYLAND” emblazoned on them.

    • they’re probably republican christians from prince george’s county.

      am i doing this rite guys?

    • +1 – My husband, my friends, and I play a game where we track the demographics of douche bag drivers. Maryland license plates make up at least 75%! It doesn’t matter if it’s a fancy car or a beater, if the driver is young or old, a man or a woman, black, white, Asian or Latino – Maryland drivers all suck!

      • PS – Isn’t it ironic that I inserted my comment here, near the top of the top of the feed, instead of at the bottom? LINE CUTTER!

  • One way for drivers to discourage these line cutters, is if they attempt to maintain a constant distance between their vehicle and the vehicle in front of them. However that rarely happens because drivers sitting in a line often seem to be too slow to respond to a movement in traffic.
    As much as these line cutters are to blame for frayed nerves, the drivers in line who are slow to react to moving traffic are equally to blame for causing traffic jams or “jamitons”. So before blaming the line cutters, ask yourself the question “Have I done my part in minimizing a traffic jam?”

    • Fun post; thanks. I think I disagree though, because unless your constant distance is very small someone will cut in (at least in this line). It’s really tough to leave a ~10 ft space and move at a constant speed. And if your distance is small you have to brake preventatively anytime the person in front of you does.

      • Glad to bring the entertainment. Here’s some more to last through your weekend: Traffic’s like water, It’ll flow wherever there’s an opening. If you hate it, don’t create an opening, because someone else with better reflexes will capitalize on it.

        • I agree. Its sad that it has come to this, but I see so many people on their phones and not paying attention I cut this line (the five times a year Im in it). As long as its not over the solid line or slipping in to a too tight of a space to cause an issue, I dont feel bad.

        • Exactly. Nature abhors a vacuum.

        • You are rage inducingly unaware of your position in your own analogy. OK, you say traffic is like water and it will flow where there’s an opening. If you are a car, you are traffic, you’re all water and all water is equal (there’s no us and them in traffic). So you want traffic to flow because then you will flow, so create space! If you rush to close up and block every gap, water (i.e. traffic) can’t flow. If you want traffic to flow, you have to create space. If a car fills a space, create more space.

          Rate of travel is based on time, speed and distance. You can’t create time. In traffic you can’t increase your speed. But you can always increase space, which is another form of distance.

    • Oh, I’m sorry. That will not be possible. I have to pay attention to the phone calls, texts and games on my handheld cell phone. Oh well.

  • Amen, OP! I couldn’t agree more. I’ve never even had the catharsis of seeing one caught. I feel better just for your post. It will help me resist giving up and joining them.

    At least half the reason there’s a long, slow line is because of people cutting in. I disagree about being unfamiliar with the traffic patterns. The nature of RCP generally means that you know where you’re going if you’re on that road. I also see people pulling quite calculated moves at speed — they know exactly what they’re doing. And to get out ahead of the poster who says that “a zipper merge is more efficient, that’s how you’re supposed to do it”, a zipper merge only applies when two lanes are going to one. In this case you have two lanes going in different direction.

  • I agree, this is very annoying and very clearly causes traffic. I don’t think there is a solution, however, so the most relaxing way is to just not worry about it.

    In Bethesda area (southbound on Clara Barton Blvd in the afternoon) they tried to remedy cutting in line by placing those plastic bendable posts on the dotted line about 100 yards prior to the exit to force drivers to get in line earlier. I have found that this doesn’t work very well because people can still fit between the posts, so they still cut. Also, if you’re driving too fast the posts come up quick causing drivers to slam on their brakes to make the merge in time. They removed them for this reason I think.

    The GW parkway has the same issue, and cops are out writing tickets at the 495 ramp once every few months.

    There is not a good solution so just sit back and try not to get worked up.

  • As a traffic engineer who models flow of traffic due to signals and obstructions, I can tell you that if people merged “normally” here and got into line when they saw the line in front of them, rather than blowing by everyone and cramming yourself in at the last minute, traffic would flow almost at speed in that lane and there would be virtually no line.

    Its the repeated disturbance in the flow of traffic by the merging that slows EVERYONE down.

    And as a resident of Mt Pleasant who drives that road daily, it infuriates me how purely self obsessed so many people can be. On the other hand, I am always that guy “not” letting someone merge in front of me last minute, and you should see the look of pure rage and shock as they then pull into the left lane and go up Cathedral Ave or to Connecticut, clearly the long way to wherever they are going.

    • +1 on the “self-obsessed” point, and I always try to prevent them from merging in front of me too, and am ususally sucessful, but obviously it’s not worth getting into an accident over it, and some people come pretty close to causing one with their aggressive, entitled last minute cutting.

    • I sometimes give ’em my best NASCAR block move as well. My favorite is when they give you the pre-emptive wave that they use to try to good-faith their way in front of you. I shut that down every time with a smile.

    • I’m in agreement that this is wrong. In NYC, on the FDR S/B they have the exit only lane to the Brooklyn Bridge and people cut in often. So they made it a solid white line and added those plastic pylons that are about 3 feet apart. It just moves the mess to the place before the pylons.

      I also wanted to say that this is bad, but if there is a lane closure for construction, you should merge at the merge point. I too remember looking at people whizzing by in the closed lane as cheaters, but then I read a book called “Traffic” and now I’m a late merger and it makes sense. You should use all of the road capacity that exists. People just need to remember the “Zipper” rule.

      • Zippering only works if traffic is already significantly slower than normal. If people try to zipper at normal speed, then traffic will very soon be significantly slower than normal.

    • I used to drive this route and not only do the “line cutters” mess up things for people headed north, they also screw up those trying to get off the RCP at CT Ave. I remember one particularly infuriating d-bag who would came to a complete stop, tried to squeeze in, got denied, then zipped ahead three or four more car lengths to only stop again. He repeated this pattern about 5 or 6 times, creating a line of at least 20 cars in the CT Ave lane, everyone honking and enraged. My sense is the vast majority of these line cutters are selfish jerks who don’t care about others on the road. My solution was to stop driving RCP….tho only because I got a different job with a different commute.

    • epric002

      +1 so maddening. so often MD drivers. i also do my best not to let them in.

    • Traffic Engineer, eh? Business must be booming…

    • So you’re the guy who’s delaying traffic. Traffic is just the aggregate of several incidents of friction, i.e. two cars coming into proximity and both slowing down to adjust to each other. When two cars do this poorly, because one car won’t let the other car in, the friction increases. Traffic would flow more steadily if each car kept space in front of them that would allow cars to merge with as little friction as possible. The sooner you let him in, the sooner you go. And what are you fighting for? 20 feet? 40 feet? Once you get up to speed after the merge you travel 40 feet in what, 1 or 2 seconds? So in other words you’d rather come to a standstill point of friction over 2 seconds?

  • Let’s just all agree that the food in Philly blows DC out of the water. Better food without the fuss…:)

  • Get the NPS to extend the solid white line much farther. Right now it is only maybe 15 -20 car lengths. As long as there is a dotted white line, I’m going to merge toward the end of it. It might not be polite, but it is legal. But I agree, those who cut in across the solid line should be drawn and quartered.

  • you need to yield to people that are more important than you.

  • ‘Zipper-ing’ is the way it should be done. It should be taught in driver’s ed, and enforced by the cops!

    • Zippering works at a merge point (assuming traffic is already moving fairly slowly), but this is not a merge point, it’s a split! If you’re trying to zipper from the left lane you’re blocking a through-lane of traffic.

  • On the stretch of RCP between the zoo exit and the exit to Piney Branch Road, I was going north on a recent Sunday while another driver — rounding a bend and talking on his cell phone — decided it would be a good idea to pass the three cars in front of him. (They weren’t going fast enough to suit his taste because they were behind a cyclist.) He came within feet of hitting me head-on. And it was no small miracle that the cars behind me didn’t cream me, as I had to come to a dead stop.

  • As someone that has gotten into that lane at the last moment at this location and at the same time does not like doing it when others do it, here is my approach (and I know this will be unpopular, but so be it). My approach to driving is one of efficiency and filling the gaps. There are many drivers barely paying attention, going slow, and leaving big gaps in the line, which is where I come in, putting a car in place where a space for one has been created by inattentive drivers. (Personally I like driving in Italian cities where there is no tolerance for sluggishness, even by old ladies in little Fiats). Once I am in line (and it sometimes is way at the back of the line). I do not allow any room for a car to enter and have zero tolerance for those trying to butt in. Now, that said, if when I try to fill a gap and there is no gap to fill I do NOT try to cut someone off or pathetically sit there with my blinker on hoping someone let’s me in. Instead I continue up to Conn. Ave. and take another route (about same travel time but less scenic, relaxing, etc.). It is a bit of a gamble. Usually there are gaps to be filled, but maybe 1 in 4 times I need to just keep going up to Conn. Ave.

    • This talk about “efficiency” and “filling the gaps” is just your rationalization for selfish behavior. I bet my friend’s husband who likes to pass people on the right at intersections — banking that he’ll be able to get back into the lane before the line of PARKED CARS begins — rationalizes the same way.

      • Safe and selfish without impeding others is the way to go.

        • If every one adapted the same strategy, it would be a real shitshow.
          We don’t because we recognize this. You are the ads hole who thinks they’ve “cracked the code” and found a nifty little shortcut.
          Or, you are a sociopath.

          • +1.
            If you’re eventually going to exit from the right lane, do you really need to be in the left lane at all?
            The only time I’ve ever felt a need to pass people on northbound Rock Creek Parkway is just north of the Watergate, when people are slowing down for the Whitehurst Freeway/K Street exit. I occasionally pass people there (or slightly north of there)… and then I get back in the right lane and stay there.

    • Assuming you’re supposed to leave three seconds following distance for safety, I don’t think you are “gap filling” so much as cutting in front of a whole lot of people. Those aren’t “gaps”, that is a safe following distance.

      I have NEVER seen an honest “gap” on RCP at rush hour. Never.

      You are a jerk, dude.

      • Nope, if a car is at a standstill, person lulled into texting, there is 3+ seconds. Pay more attention and I am sure you will see some “honest” gaps. But, it’s ok, as you clearly maintain the 3 second rule at all times while you are driving in the city.

        • A sudden, abrupt lane change in front of someone “lulled in to texting”?

          Yeah, that sounds like a safe thing to do.

        • “Pay more attention and I am sure you will see some “honest” gaps”

          You are speeding through hundreds of people waiting patiently in line to go to the same destination. These people have traveled as far as you have. They have family commitments as you do, they do indeed value their time as much as you value yours.

          I can absolutely assure you, there are NO “honest gaps”. That is something you tell yourself to justify being an asshole to other people.

          You are not ashamed, but you should be. Shame on you.

  • In most cases, those people who come up to the point where “their” lane ends and then merge into the remaining lane aren’t cheaters: they’re people who understand that trying to merge any time before that point interrupts the flow and slows down the whole chain. If people would ALL pull up to the merge point and then zipper in, it would flow much more smoothly.

  • I suppose I’m occasionally a line-cutter, but it’s for a different reason. I can get off at either Calvert or the Zoo exit. Usually in the afternoon, I’ll take Calvert, but if I get close to the exit and it’s backed up to the parkway (from the light), I’ll usually cut over and go to the zoo instead. It’s not a pre-determined thing, just a last-minute change of plans.

    • That’s not OK. Once you’re at the solid white lines, you need to stay in your lane, even if it means you’ll have to wait longer.

  • Just wanted to weigh in here. I went through this same situation yesterday. I was coming home from a non routine meeting in VA yesterday. When I was on RCP going North I took the left lanes (the southbounds) towards the zoo. When the median had finally ended I looked over and the line was already formed. I tried to get into a spot but every single driver would not let me in. I actually made it all the way to the zoo exit (going slowly) and still had problems getting in.

    When I finally saw a possible opening a SUV behind the opening saw me try to get in and sped up almost wrecking my car. Someone was actually kind enough to let me in. This is not a cut and dry “those people are horrible” situation. So, I am a proud cutter and that is that.

    • There are plenty of signs before the median that indicate you need to be in the right lanes. Read the signs, Mr. Rationalizer.

  • I’m so glad I’m not the only one who cares about this issue. I brought it up in a post about a month back and didn’t get a lot of helpful comments. I would love to just relax and not care, but after a long day at work, this makes my blood boil every time. I’m all down for making a poster to put in the rear windshield or stick in the grass of the park. Aggggh so terrible!

    • What would have been a “helpful comment?” No one here can change the driving behavior of other people. I agree that the solution might be a longer solid white line – but I’m not the traffic engineer.

  • Things like this are why I do not drive anymore.

  • Question: Why do you all wait in an inefficient line, going stop and go, bumper to bumper to block people from getting in, when that determination to ride bumpers and “slinky” the line is half the reason why the traffic doesn’t flow in the first place?

    The more space you provide between cars instead of speeding up, the less you yourself would have to even step on the brakes. Even if I cut into that gap, you don’t have to push your brakes if you just coast slowly and leave plenty of space. The physics of traffic is quite simple.

    I think the anger comes from the feeling of being helpless, but really, in a best case scenario, both of those lanes slowly filing in together, with the right lane letting the lefthand cars in gradually, one car at a time. Instead the anger of the commute just makes it worse–a vicious cycle. Leaving one lane completely empty is inefficient.

    If anything, it’s the MD drivers who wait in that line. If you’re from DC you should know the landscape well enough to get where you need to go efficiently and take advantage of those gaps.

    • I think the traffic engineer above would call BS on your rationalization about efficiency. What you’re talking about might be true if it were a merge, but it’s not.

  • diploj

    20 years ago, when I was getting my license, my Dad taught me that there are three types of drivers: “idiots (who go slower than you), maniacs (who go faster than you), and you.” There’s not a sign in the world or any number of cops who are going to change that fact.

  • I smile at all y’all as I cycle past on my cheap bike. I know I’m an outlier, though: I don’t live in the awful suburbs, have six obese kids with disabilities and a spouse who does consulting in North Carolina & Delaware.

    • your on the wrong blog if you need to feel like an outlier.

    • Please, you’re not helping cyclists with your comment. I don’t even fit your description of commuters and your comment made me roll my eyes.

  • I think its mostly VA folks who do this… shitbag rednecks with poor driving schools.

  • notlawd

    Zippering is absolutely the way to go in this case. Yes its lanes that go in two opposite directions, but where do people that oppose the zipper merge believe the start of the line begins? 100 feet back, 500ft, a mile?? There is no sign that says “no right turn ” which would be the only acceptable case for lining up so far back.

    If people would use all available lanes up until the point of turning the traffic would go much smoother and efficiently. There is no traffic law against merging over to make a turn. Setting up police to enforce this courtesy “rule” is insane and a huge waste of their time and tax payers dollars.

    • I could not agree more!! It’s a zipper merge people, and it is great! I drive on this road every day and I am one of these so-called line cutters. Why would I wait a mile back and for 20 mins when I can simply drive up the left lane and merge with the cars in the right lane. I personally, do not rush in front of other drives, I sit with a smile and turn signal to indicate that I intend to move right. OP is correct, some people rush in front of others causing accidents or near misses.

      If everyone would use BOTH lanes, and zipper merge at the appropriate point, the line would be significantly shorter, move much faster, and last-minute merge accidents would be avoided. In fact, I think the NPS should use merging signs to encourage drives to ZIPPER MERGE! It’s a win-win.

    • Do you know what a solid white line means on the road? Because it doesn’t mean what you think it means.

      This isn’t a zipper merge situation. The solid white line negates your entire line of “reasoning”.

      • if you read it again ,you will note that the person is suggesting that the solid white line not be there, giving the drivers to opportunity to merge at the choke point.

        that’s the “reasoning”.

  • one way to fix this would be to make the choke point just past mass avenue and not allow 2 lanes of traffic all the way through. Sometimes you get conn. avenue folks going up that side too. Make them stay to their side and make everyone use one lane…………

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