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May Forum: East Bay Traffic


In this month's May issue, we explore the etiquette of getting through the East Bay's infamous Caldecott Tunnel. Whether you're a Sidezoomer or a Lineupper (and Sidezoomers are clearly in the right, in my personal opinion), we want to hear your thoughts, whether it's on the story or anything else that drives you nuts on the road.


CLICK HERE to share your thoughts, or scroll down to see other readers' comments. 

 There's another little spot in the East Bay which "drives" me nuts on a daily basis. It happens to be the intersection of Crow Canyon Road and Alcosta Blvd in San Ramon. Going east up the hill after Alcosta, the far right lane becomes a dedicated turn lane onto the next right hand street. Invariably, red cars and/or BMWs will position themselves in the third-from-the-left lane before the intersection, then, when the light changes, zoom up this turning lane, and, because they don't need to turn right at all, rudely and speedily cut into the lane to their left so they can be "first!" up the hill. Just like my sister's kindergarten class, "I have to be FIRST in line." "I am more important than you and have to be home before you do." There's been many a horn blared and many a close call when the turn lane runs out, but the driver who must be FIRST tries it anyway.
Sure ruins an otherwise good day.
--Steamed in San Ramon

The answer of course is that lamentably we are not grains of flour, all of life would be more efficient if we were, but of course one of the great dilemmas of human existence is that we are both matter and spirit and how the hell do we integrate those two, slavery was efficient too as an agricultural and economic system but there was a small problem with the spirit end of things.

Having served in the US Army some years ago, I learned that there is an orderly way of doing things and one of them is to line up and wait your turn. I do not like other people thinking that their time is more important than others and that they have a "right" to squeeze in at the last moment. For many years I traveled though the Caldecott Tunnel twice a day. It was another part of the obstacle course I had to go through each day driving from Eastern Contra Costa County to San Francisco and back. I am glad I no longer have to face that challenge on a daily basis.
-Anonymous ex-commuter

I have become a resolutely mellow caldecott driver...i now piss off the lineuppers behind me by always leaving the big space in front of me to encourage the sidezoomers to come on in.  it seems to work.

I read the book Traffic a while ago and it helped re-calibrate my moral compass between what seems fair and what seems like a viable option staring each clenched-jawed driver in the face. Maybe it helps to consider that side zooming & zippering achieve their efficiency benefits through the technique of funneling. Tilt the Caledcott tunnel vertically in the air and it forces you to consider the difference between a funnel and a tube. The most efficient way to pour a lot of anything into a relatively small opening is to take advantage of the sloping sides (and increased volume) of a funnel. Poured matter doesn't bother to form a moral queue, it just works with gravity and gets the job done. Now, imagine asking a cup of flour to be considerate of it's powdery neighbors and form a relatively narrow straight line before you pour it into the bowl. You'd need something like a 3 foot straight tube to accomplish the same feat as a funnel. As Traffic author Tom Vanderbilt points out, the quicker everyone conforms into a 2 lane line by "doing the right thing", the quicker the traffic jam deepens. Our ingrained sense of fairness disregards what the laws of physics and traffic engineering tells us what's really in the best interest of us all. The experts and law officials seem aligned on this one; everybody just get along better and chill out.

Dear Diablo,

        While I  enjoyed Ms. Gorey's article, I found it to be somewhat lacking in "man on the street" research.  I am a polite driver, I let others in, I stop for crosswalks, I recycle, I compost, I give to the rainforest,  I always BART into the city, I carry cloth bags at all times, I tip lavishly, I love dogs, I'm Canadian (I say "excuse me" far too often and apologize for things that are not my fault), I never miss a curtain or break a promise and I drive a VERY small car but,  alas, I am a sidezoomer and proud of it and so is everyone I know. I would even go so far as to say that I inadvertently choose my friends based on wether they are lineuppers or sidezoomers (read: sheep or opportunists, although I've never discussed the difference at length with anyone I know). I suspect that we sidezoomers all feel the same. As long as there is any open road, we'll  take it. Does that make us BAD people? NO, Ms. Gorey, it does not.

Y. Prinz

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