We see green lanes all over our roads now. We get fines for using them too long, or hope those discourteous drivers taking shortcuts up them will get pinged. Yes, we’re talking about bus and transit lanes. Add merging and flush medians to the picture, and you have a sure recipe for road rage amongst impatient drivers.
Designed to alleviate traffic congestion, and encourage us to use public transport, buses and transit lanes can certainly test one’s patience. The main job of course is to separate buses and vehicles carrying more than one occupant from the rest of the mad traffic during peak times. Regularly monitored by the enforcement officers or cameras, these lanes are legally accessible by motorists looking to make a left turn, but only when they are within 50 metres of the intersection. Drivers who don’t follow the rules can expect to receive a ticket.
Transit lanes are the same. T2 and T3, referring to the number of occupants that must be in the vehicle for them to be an option, are usually reserved for passenger service vehicles, cycles, motorcycles and mopeds.
Why have I seen some EVs using these lanes in Auckland?
In Auckland, a 12 month trial is currently underway that allows electric vehicles to use 11 special vehicle lanes, including one bus lane. This was introduced in September 2017 and is designed to be a test case as a proposed incentive for the future. Those with vehicles licensed as an EV or PHEV have been sent information regarding this test and also an EV sticker to let others know the reason why they may be seen using a special vehicle lane. More information about the trial can be found here.
Another potential catalyst for road rage is lane merging. We’ve all heard the term ‘merge like a zip’ - that doesn’t mean push in front, or race ahead. It means allowing a vehicle approaching from the left to pass in front, and then a vehicle from the right, and so forth. Some roads have a merge lane to help vehicles that have turned onto the road join the traffic flow safely. If you are in a merge lane at an intersection, show you want to enter the lane by signalling for at least three seconds, move into a safe gap in the traffic, and adjust your speed and following distance.
Motorway on-ramps are similar to merge lanes. When using an on-ramp to enter a motorway, change your speed to match the speed of the motorway traffic, use the whole length of the on-ramp to adjust your speed, signal right for at least three seconds, move into a safe gap in the traffic, and adjust your speed and following distance. Don’t leave it until you’re among the traffic before you adjust your speed, and don't enter the motorway at a sharp angle.
There has long been some uncertainty around what a median is and what it’s there to do. Identifiable by the diagonal white lines painted in the middle of the road about one-car-width wide, they’re called 'flush' because they are not raised - just painted on the surface of the road. Flush medians are there to provide a wider separation between traffic streams on either side of the road, offer pedestrians a place to pause while crossing two traffic streams, and deliver a refuge for vehicles turning into and out of side roads or driveways. It's acceptable to drive on a flush median for a short distance for this purpose.
You can use them to slow down before making a right-hand turn, or to merge left into a gap in the traffic flow. If you're using the flush median to make a right-hand turn you should indicate, then steer gently onto the median rather than at an abrupt angle or use the median as an area to slow down and brake. That way, the following traffic doesn't have to slow down rapidly to avoid you. Carry out a similar manoeuvre if you're using the flush median as a refuge before merging into traffic on your left. When you're using a flush median, always remember to watch out for pedestrians and other vehicles using the median.
According to the NZTA, in New Zealand there has been a 19 per cent overall reduction in crashes on streets where flush medians have been installed, while rear-end crashes have reduced by 66 per cent and incidents involving pedestrians by 30 per cent. You might not be a fan of transit lanes, but reading these stats alone justifies their existence.