Burwell & Pacific, signs and buses

The in basket: Melani Williams thinks the city of Bremerton should post a sign on westbound Burwell Street at Pacific Avenue saying that left turners must yield to oncoming traffic when the light is green.

She regularly makes that turn to go down to Kitsap Credit Union, she said.

The out basket: Yielding to oncoming traffic in making a left turn at a green ball light is what’s called a rule of the road, of which drivers are expected to be knowledgable.

Street engineer sometimes have signs put up to emphasize rules of the road, but usually don’t want to incur the expense.

Gunnar Fridriksson of the city street engineers says, “You are correct, that is the rule of the road so no sign is actually

needed.  However, one can be added if there starts to be an accident history where a reminder may be helpful to prevent them.”

I last wrote about turning left there back in August of 2011, when I took the opportunity to once again publicize a little known law permitting vehicles to turn left against a red light, whether a solid ball or an arrow, but only onto a one-way street and only after coming to a complete stop and yielding to any traffic with the right of way.

There are not many such locations in our county, mostly signal-controlled freeway on-ramps, but Burwell and Pacific is another one.

That column was about having to wait behind buses when the light is green, but it mentioned that transit officials didn’t know about the red light law. John Clauson, since named transit’s executive director, said then he’d look into the law’s applicability to buses. I neglected until now to find out what they decided.

Jack Freer, Transit’s operations manager, says that though it’s legal, it’s not something the bus drivers should do.

“I don’t think this would be a safe practice for transit…at that intersection specifically” he said, “because there is a fair amount of eastbound traffic on Burwell intending to make a right turn into one of those (Pacific Avenue) lanes…plus there is a fair amount of traffic southbound on Pacific that may be intending to continue on down Pacific or turn left on to Burwell, in front of the bus.

“If an operator misjudged the intentions of any of those other vehicles, an accident would most likely occur. For the most part, most of us are not aware that a left turn on a red light, after coming to a stop, is allowed…and confusion, and consternation, would most likely ensue. Frankly, I don’t think the few seconds this maneuver might save is worth the risk of an accident.”

Since I don’t want to be contributing to accidents, and Jack doesn’t say it specifically, I want to emphasize one more time that left turns against a red light are allowed ONLY ONTO A ONE-WAY STREET. And that probably isn’t legal in other states. I’ve never heard an explanation as to why it’s permitted here.


2 thoughts on “Burwell & Pacific, signs and buses

  1. Travis,
    I grew up in Battle Creek, Michigan. A Left turn against a red light onto a one way street is allowed there too, following the same rules you outlined. Since I am used to it, it makes perfect sense to me. It is just another way to keep the traffic flowing.

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