Tricks of the Trade – The Lanes
By Fred Flintstone
One of the keys to navigating Bedrock traffic is proper choice of lane. Many drivers are lane lurkers, straddling lane markers, waiting to strike when one clears more quickly.
Surprisingly, the right lane is often the best place to be in traffic, even if it’s a right turn only lane. Drivers have a natural tendency to the left lanes and you will often find several car lengths of free space to the right, and right turning cars leave space in the lane. A few car lengths can mean the difference in clearing a stoplight. Also, when a stoplight turns green, the cross traffic from the right will free up the right lane first.
The right lane is also a passing lane. For instance, if an illegally parked car blocks the lane, there may be a dozen or so car lengths in front, providing enough room to swing in to the right, pass a few cars and butt back in to the left.
The right lane sometimes offers extraordinary (though counterintuitive) opportunities, and one of the best occurs westbound on the Garden Ring at the tunnel under Tverskaya where seven westbound lanes narrow to three. Even if you don’t drive, it might be worth a look eastward from the bridge to see how this next suggestion works. The three innermost westbound lanes run straight under the bridge, and the outer four must eventually merge down into the inner third lane. The traffic here can back up for kilometers, and drivers naturally want to be in the inner lanes, so they begin to jockey in well back from the bridge slowing those lanes down to a crawl. The trick here is to absolutely hug the right-hand curb in the far outer lane all the way to the final entrance, and slip-in as the lanes merge down. Something about the physics of it allows you to cut right in with a minimum of conflict. I can tell you from regular experience that this trick can cut a 15-minute wait into a 2-minute transit.
It’s something about the curbside; even though the cars you pass on the right see you coming, someone will let you merge in, even though they wouldn’t give you a centimeter if you wanted to change lanes in front of them. The right lane trick works even where there is traffic merging in from the right, for instance at the outbound MKAD underpass on Leningradskoye Shosse heading towards the airport.
The right lane is also useful at a stoplight with a right turn arrow. Even if you are planning to go straight, hop into this lane as it clears on the green arrow. You will find yourself at the poll position, and if right-turning drivers behind get pissed and start honking, just pull left in front of the lead car to let them through.
The left lane also has its place. Not far from home, the two eastbound lanes widen to three to accommodate a left turn lane. The trick is about the same; follow the left turning traffic towards the light and before the light switches, ease over to the right ever so slightly to poke into a gap where you can cut somebody off in the second lane when the light becomes green. If there is still left turning traffic behind you, don’t worry, they will just swing out into oncoming traffic to get around you, and it will give them an excuse for turning left even after the left green arrow switches off.
By the way, if you observe carefully, you will see that a stoplight will blink ever so slightly a moment or two before it changes, providing a pre-start signal.
There are other places where your only choice is the far left lane, for instance at the traffic exits off the southbound lanes of the Garden Ring near Taganskaya. Vehicles that are exiting to the right back up into all lanes, even through lanes, blocking traffic. You can see the clear road ahead, but the entire Garden Ring is backed up behind exiting traffic.
The left lane is also useful for ambulance chasing. These days, cars actually merge right to make way for a screaming ambulance, a sign that city drivers are becoming just a little more polite. The trick is to slip back in right behind the ambulance and hang about 30 centimeters off his rear. There is a lot of competition for this slot, and this can really piss off other drivers. Others will try to squeeze in on you, but with luck you might gain a few blocks before someone more aggressive than you butts in.
Bedrock driving lessons continue with more Tricks of the Trade next month.