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Traffic braiding gets the merging done

I recently accepted a new job, that I happen to love.

Itís not very close to home, however. My previous job was one that I could work from my house, so in essence, I went from a work travel distance of zero miles to a round-trip commute of 60 miles a day.

Thatís a lot of driving. And the majority of my trip is on the Thruway and various extensions of that.

There are some things Iíve noticed since Iíve been spending so much time ďon the road.Ē

I never knew how short our merging lanes are, until now. A few of them are so short that drivers literally have to fling themselves into traffic immediately or risk slamming into guardrails. Most dramatic of these is the entrance ramp onto the Skyway from the 190 south. Others include the entrance ramps onto the 190 from various streets and of course, the Scajaguada expressway.

Add a little ice and snow, and we have the makings of a really interesting merging experience.

And then, of course, thereís the Thruway itself. Morning traffic slows to a stop around all the major entrances as everyone pours onto it during rush hour. It can take a really long time to make it to my downtown exit from the 219.

But there is one other phenomenon that Iíve observed on my far-reaching commute.

The majority of drivers are courteous and even amicable, as hundreds of people come down those on-ramps and need a place to fit in the traffic pattern. Itís a curious thing that I like to call ďtraffic braiding,Ē because thatís exactly what it looks like.

As each car enters the merging lane, it seems that the cars already in the main lane, adjust their speeds so that the car can merge in seamlessly and keep everything moving. Car by car, everyone is merging in an orderly, alternating fashion.

Thatís another reason why I love this area. What could be a high-stress, vindictive, anger-inducing ride to work, is actually not that bad. And Iíve picked up the rhythm of the braiding techinique. If Iím in the main lane, I watch for those merging cars and let one, sometimes two, in ahead of me, like everyone else seems to do. When Iím on one of those incredibly short merging lanes, Iím always gratified to experience that graciousness of someone allowing me to merge.

Traffic braiding. Itís another unique and totally unexpected way that Western New Yorkers look out for each other.

If I have to drive 60 miles a day, Iím glad I get to do it here.


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