Friday, July 17, 2009

The Great Right Lane Debate

My husband and I rarely disagree but there is something that happens in The Heights that we are currently at odds about. I think The Heights Life readers can help end the debate in a "majority rules" kind of way. We have differing opinions about the etiquette governing the right turn only lane on Studewood at White Oak. I don’t want to color your opinion, so I won’t tell you who thinks what. I just have to hear some other opinions on this and see where the majority lies.

I was unable to get a good picture of the intersection. Thankfully Google makes everything in life easier and you can click here to see the street view and refresh your memory if needed:
Studewood at White Oak, travelling North

Background- Three kinds of drivers:

With no hard numbers we can't say for sure, but for the sake of argument (and from driving the route daily) we will say most people who drive north on Studewood know that after this intersection, the right lane ends and becomes a right turn only lane. They approach the intersection in the left lane on Studewood and either proceed through the intersection or wait at the light. The majority of drivers will remain in the right lane if they intend to turn right on to White Oak at the intersection.

Occasionally, there are drivers who don’t know that the lane ends or becomes right turn only after you cross White Oak. These people will wait in the turn only lane until they can get back in the main lane and continue north on Studewood.

The third group of drivers is people who know that the lane ends after the intersection but will stay in the right lane to beat the traffic waiting in the left lane, cutting in to the left/main lane after the intersection. There may not be a lot of cars waiting at the light and drivers may opt to stay in the right lane to jump the light and be the 1st through the intersection, moving back in to the main/left lane after the intersection.

The Debate:

The debate between the husband and me is regarding this 3rd type of driver- one who knows the lane will end.

Viewpoint 1:

The right lane does not end at the intersection. The right lane on Studewood before White Oak is not right turn only, so people can choose to go forward from that lane. If they beat the traffic, good for them. They are not breaking any traffic law. Everyone who drives north on Studewood hasthe option to use the right lane or the left lane. If you choose to stay in the left lane and someone else drives in the right lane, you really shouldn't be annoyed. You could easily do the same thing.

Viewpoint 2:

People know the lane is going to end and using the short lane on the north side of the intersection is rude even if it doesn't break the law. Being a courteous driver means not intentionally speeding through the intersection to cut off people who did the right thing and waited. It's annoying when they zip through and then cut off drivers who are simply going forward like they were supposed to. They knew the lane was going to end and should have stayed in the left lane if they wanted to continue north.

So, lovely readers, it’s as simple as that. What do you think when you see people go straight through in the right lane, obviously knowing it's going to end, and then cut in to the main/left lane?

The curiosity is overwhelming me! I can’t wait to read your answers!


  1. Totally agree with Viewpoint #2. Can't stand it when people race you from the White Oak light so they can get in front of you.

  2. People in the right lane should only be making right turns. Last time I checked, merging into the left lane is not turning right. Once the lane is marked right turn only, that is the only permitted action.

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  4. This could be solved entirely by formally making the right lane a right turn only lane south of the light.


    Yes, the right lane continues, and you are totally free to use it to go through the light, which puts you into a clearly marked right turn only lane.

    If you do that, you must slow down, signal a lane change to the left, and wait for a break in traffic. And no one in the travel lane is under the slightest obligation to let you in unless they are feeling very charitable.

    That's how you can tell the truly confused from the jerk-offs who think they are more important than the rest of us - they say "uh-oh" and slow down and try to get into the main lane. The jerk-offs floor it and try to cut you off.

    But as I noted, it's a stupid design; the problem could be solved by making the lane turn-only at White Oak. Better yet, turn only with a green arrow while the main light is red (so that ignoring the turn-only rule would lead to honking and anger and pressure to turn anyway, which discourages people from deciding to pretend the turn-only signs aren't there.)

  5. It's not a solid white line between lanes until a few feet from the end of the block, so traffic in the right lane has until then to merge. If the car is able to do that without inconveniencing either the traffic in the left lane or traffic behind them in the right lane, I don't see a problem. It's a way to get more cars through the light during each cycle.

    Having lived (and driven) in Brazil for the last 10 years, I find this debate touchingly quaint. Just be thankful people aren't turning left onto White Oak from the right lane.

  6. "Just be thankful people aren't turning left onto White Oak from the right lane."

    I've seen that!

    (But you're right, not often.)

  7. The same thing goes on at the annoying I-45 ramp from 288, actually where 288 ends and you merge onto I-45 going north. There is a lane that disappears and merges into one lane which then merges onto 45. My husband chooses to stay in the lane which disappears as it goes quicker than the lane where I choose patiently to wait, the lane that doesn't disappear. Is this confusing....well my point is, viewpoint number 1 is probably a male and viewpoint 2 is probably a female. I have guessed this whole thing is viewed as sport by the male of the species and it is a matter of courtesy for the female. I have assuaged my sensibilities by offering to drive. My husband doesn't seem to mind too much.

  8. I agree with what I'm guessing is your opinion, Viula. The way to maximize the number of people who make it north through that light is for cars to go through the light in the lane that continues north after the intersection. A car that intentionally gets in the right lane to better its position on Studewood past the light or make sure it makes it through the light is being rude - at best, it's cutting in line and slowing traffic behind it. It may also be stopping 1-3 cars who stopped at the intersection before it from making the light, and blocking cars that want to turn right on red on White Oak while it waits at the light. It may not be illegal, but it's as rude/dangerous as going around the line of cars on I-10 east waiting to get on 45 south and cutting into the line at the very last moment.

    I think it's also rude to cut in line from the right at Heights at I-10, but at least there the car has the argument that there's a short merge lane and traffic rules/custom suggest you take turns when merging. On Studewood, you're changing lanes to get back to the left and must follow traffic rules regarding changing lanes - you have no right to change lanes unless there's an adequate opening (which there usually isn't if there's a line of cars heading north) or someone slows to let you in (which they often won't because they know cars behind them are trying to get through the intersection, and so it's a bad/discourteous time to be waving in lane-changers who can easily wait for an opening).

  9. There's a fascinating book called "Traffic" by Tom Vanderbilt which is about why we drive the way we do. There's a section in it on the "merge right away" / "merge later" debate when a lane is disappearing (which doesn't really apply to White Oak & Studewood, in my opinion, because of the short distance) but the net is, it's better on a freeway if everyone stays in their lane up to the merge point and takes turns politely (better use of the road space).

    What really gets me is when people pull into the lane that continues, emptying out the disappearing lane.. and then someone pulls into the disappearing lane to get a few car lengths ahead & cut everyone off!

    I will generally let people in if they are (a) signalling, so I know that's what they want and (b) not being obviously jerky (racing at the light, etc.). On the Studewood intersection, I will assume that anybody in the right lane is pulling into the gas station or turning right if they're not signalling left... because hello, that's the purpose of signals!

  10. I happen to go through this intersection quite often. I am the person who lives on Ridge aka 6 1/2. If the light is green I go straight if it is red I go right. What drives me nuts is the person who slams on the brakes in the right lane as the person in the left lane speeds up almost as if to cause an accident or teach the person in the right lane a lesson.

  11. We live near there, and I agree with Viewpoint #1. I usually stay in the right lane if it's shorter. If I can conveniently move over before the lane ends, I do. It's often very easy to do. If not, I just turn on 6 1/2 St. and wind my way home.

  12. I think the key is you look. I can't tell you how many times I've nearly been sideswiped by someone who just decides it's time to change lanes, and doesn't even look to see if someone's there.

    And of course, you don't know if they are going to veer left into your lane, or turn right, because god forbid they should use their signals.

  13. I drive through this intersection everyday. What bothers me is the people in the LEFT lane who slam on their brakes to accomodate mergers from the right/short lane. This holds everyone up behind this person and the person who knew the right lane ended is perfectly accomodated and goes on their merry way. I say put the right lane squeezers in the ditch.

    The issues at this intersections are much less worrying/annoying/unsafe compared Studewood in general on the stretch north of White Oak. Varoom!

  14. ^ i agree there are issues with Studewood in general. i am sure i am not alone when i silently wish the street was back under construction. the whole neighborhood was more pleasant when people couldn't use The Heights as a route from downtown/midtown to the mess we call 290.

    still, i find myself being a hypocrite behind the wheel, speeding down the center lane at 5 o'clock just to get away from all the other drivers and back to my own quiet neighborhood. quiet, that is, until someone does 40mph down temple, cutting over to main.

  15. I agree with Viewpoint 1. Just remember always wave thank you.