To merge or not to merge? It's a question that many local conversations often turn to when the topic of driving in Brandon comes up thanks to the alignment of the city's busy 18th Street on the Northbound approach to the Daly Overpass bridge.
On Monday the Brandon Police Service conducted an informal online poll featuring the topic of the required merge on 18th as two lanes become one in the approach to the bridge. The poll set out to compare whether respondents preferred to patiently line up in the single meridian lane that eventually continues over the bridge or to take advantage of merging as advised by signage posted.
With approximately 2200 votes across multiple social media outlets, the results have had 33% choosing the poll’s optional reply of “Get in line!” and 67% or almost exactly 2/3 replying “merge all day.” Those results might seem to contradict the eye test on an average day where lineups as much as multiple blocks long are not unusual in particular at busier times, with folks who choose to make use of the right lane and later merge generally being rewarded by clearing the Daly bridge meaningfully sooner.
That contradiction might seem to be reason for a debate of its own in while an overwhelming amount of people are in favour of merging yet so few proportionately seem to take advantage of the opportunity. Is it a sign that in line with the “Friendly Manitoba” on the license plate many who queue up prefer not to merge but don’t begrudge those who do? Are there many that truly want to merge but don't generally feel comfortable doing so under the circumstances? Was the question inadvertently worded in a way that perhaps led more folks to answer a certain way? Were some respondents answering what they felt Police wanted them to answer? Was there some variance between the poll’s audience and the wider motoring public? Is my eye test out to lunch to the point where it’s time to get tested for glasses? :)
I’ll leave it to folks with a better grasp on driver psychology than I to decide but I’d feel comfortable in saying that the results and number of respondents are enough to call into doubt some of the assumptions about local drivers that seem all too common in online dialogue.
Police used the poll as an opportunity to spread awareness on the topic, offering as part of accompanying text that “When motorists don’t use both lanes, the gap in speed between the two lanes decreases safety for everyone. If you prefer to wait in line in the median lane, please be courteous and allow others to use the zipper merge. The merge sign isn’t just for decoration. “
Where the magic happens
The Daly approach has long been a topic of local conversation when it comes to driving in the city, arguably moreso since signage was installed in 2015 encouraging drivers to make use of an alternating "zipper" merge at the location.
The great debate appears to be on borrowed time with the Daly Overpass scheduled to be replaced in the years ahead. According to information presented at a public consultation late last year on the Overpass’ future, construction could begin next Spring that when complete would see two lanes of traffic flow in each direction over the crossing and its approaches.