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Monday, August 04, 2008

Lineuppers vs. Sidezoomers

I quite enjoyed this little article in yesterday's New York Times Magazine on the age-old debate: when entering an exit lane on the freeway, are you a polite but angrily norm-enforcing "lineupper," or one of those damned "sidezoomers" who takes advantage of the empty line to cut in at the last minute? I could have done without the extremely annoying writing style, which takes far too much advantage of the vertical pronoun, but the subject itself is terrific.

For the record: I am a lineupper, and the dents on the side of my car attest to my willingness to defend my line against latecomers. Give me an uncrowded straightaway and I am more than happy to go extremely fast; but come exit time, my Canadian nature emerges fully fledged, with a bit of bite. Thus are our norms enforced.

Posted by Paul Horwitz on August 4, 2008 at 09:17 AM in Paul Horwitz | Permalink


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I can't be the only one who doesn't fall neatly into a single category! I am equal parts lineupper and sideswooper, and, depending on the flow of traffic prior to the merge, how far back we were warned of the merge, and my mood in general, what's funny to me is that though I am often the sideswooper, I am also quite judgmental about when to let fellow sideswoopers in!

I will say this, though: if I am sitting in line and a sideswooper makes a pretty good move, I'll let him in out of respect for the move.

I also tend to play the "I live here" game -- if the bottleneck is on my home turf, I tend to be the sideswooper as if I have some entitlement to the roads. Wrong, I know ...

On another note, as a math teacher who is now a law student, THANK YOU, James Grimmelmann, for your comment about the equation. I couldn't agree more.

Posted by: JM | Aug 4, 2008 11:03:05 PM

Wrong link. Here's the right one: http://stuartbuck.blogspot.com/2003/05/youre-driving-on-three-lane-freeway.html

Posted by: Stuart Buck | Aug 4, 2008 4:41:40 PM

I was going to comment, but something rang a bell, and I remembered blogging about this 5 years ago: http://stuartbuck.blogspot.com/2007/04/driving-etiquette.html

Posted by: Stuart Buck | Aug 4, 2008 4:41:01 PM

1) Traffic flow is fascinating. It's an example of a complex dynamic system formed by autonomous agents that is possible to observe close-up in everyday life, unlike (say) the economy. Marquette's new building will overlook a major highway interchange, and I'm hoping for an office facing the freeway.

2) I'm a lineupper, but like the police officer in the article I usually let people cut in. (That's the true Canadian attitude, I would think, unless you're from Montreal.) The only time I play vigilante is if I'm certain the merger is a "sideswooper."

Posted by: Bruce Boyden | Aug 4, 2008 1:35:43 PM

I was also bothered by the article's tone, and by its flippant attitude towards math. If an equation is important enough to make fun of, it's important enough to explain.

Posted by: James Grimmelmann | Aug 4, 2008 10:19:25 AM

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