Tag Archives: right turn

What to do when traffic fills the left turn lane

The in basket: At a recent class in East Bremerton for older drivers, sponsored by AARP, the conversation turned to the legality of stopping at the end of a line of vehicles that had filled a left-turn lane, leaving the backside of your car sticking out into the inside through lane.

It then turned to a similar situation, when the drivers behind the last car that fits in the left turn lane occupy an area out of traffic but striped to indicate it’s not a place to drive.

The out basket: Trooper Russ Winger, spokesman for the state patrol here, says that being part of a backup into through traffic is legal, but occupying an area striped as a non-driving area is not.

“It is not an infraction to stop and wait for room to fill the left-turn lane,” he said, “You should have your turn signal on, alerting motorists to your intent, however. Traffic often backs up at certain intersections during heavy traffic and requires vehicles to wait, due to the fact that the turn channels are relatively small. Most commuters are aware of this and if they are not turning left, use the right lane – if (there are) two lanes or more.

“And, no, motorists are not advised to back up into an area not intended for vehicles,” he said.

“They should wait until such time as traffic flow allows proper entry into the left- or right-turn channels, such as at the right-turn channel southbound on SR-303 at the Bentley (in front of Wal-Mart).

“Traffic often backs up at rush hour and vehicles have to wait in the right lane until they can get over to the turn lane. You (also) are not allowed to move over onto the shoulder and proceed – or wait for traffic ahead of you that has done the same thing,” Russ said.

Silverdale right turn lane proposed, but would have to go through process

The in basket: Henry Sicat proposes a change in Silverdale to make travel easier.

“As I’m sure most people have probably noticed,” he said, “the Silverdale area traffic (is) getting worse every year, I wonder if (the county) can maybe
add a right turn lane from Ridgetop Boulevard to Silverdale Way northbound, just like the existing right turn lane coming from the opposite direction.

“This, I believe, would help alleviate the congested traffic at that busy intersection,” Henry said.

The out basket: “There are no plans to improve the intersection as your reader suggests,” replies Doug Bear, spokesman for Kitsap County Public Works. “The costs involved in a project like this would make it a capital project and would need to be considered as part of the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).

“An explanation of the TIP process is available online at http://www.kitsapgov.com/pw/sixyear_tip.htm,” he said. That’s also where you can also see the most recently adopted TIP to see what road projects the county has planned through 2017.

“During the spring,” Doug added, “we actively encourage residents to submit ideas, like the one your reader mentions, for consideration in this process. Suggestions are considered and rated …. Questions about the tip process can be sent to Jim Rogers, transportation planner, at jrogers@co.kitsap.wa.us.



Two Washington Avenue concerns in Bremerton

The in basket: Willadean Howell has a couple of suggestions for making Washington Avenue in Bremerton more driver friendly.

She finds the left turn for those coming off the new Manette Bridge to be uncomfortably tight due to the center barrier that divides the two directions of travel on Washington. If the end of the barrier at the bridge access were cut back a short distance, the turn would a lot easier, she said.

She also echoed a suggestion I got year or so ago about making the southbound outside lane of Washington at Sixth Street a right-turn-only lane. Most drivers make that turn and the inside lane is sufficient to handle those wanting to go straight ahead, she argued. As it is now, drivers who otherwise could make a right on red and be on their way are trapped behind any driver who wants to go straight and must wait for a green light.

When another reader made the same  right-turn-only suggestion, city engineers of the time said they wouldn’t what to make such a change piece-meal but would consider it as part of a larger review of downtown traffic flows.

The out basket: Gunnar Fridriksson, the city street engineer who answers my questions these days, says he agrees with his predecessors about the right turn.

“(There are a) couple of issues here,” he said, “one of which

would be reconfiguring the existing signal and its cabinet – and the costs associated therewith.”

“Further, extending Washington’s widened sidewalk, currently south of Fifth Street, up

to Sixth Street may be affected by such a change and must be considered.”

“I do believe this is an excellent issue to be addressed with a downtown circulation study,” Gunnar added. “I will put a note into the file with your e-mail for when we do pick that back up.”

As for the barrier intruding on left turns, there are no plans to chop it back, he said. The state tested the turn with a Kitsap Transit bus and a tractor-trailer and “were able to have both of them make the movement,” he said.

Of course, state officials said they used a bus in designing the new east-end Manette roundabout and they wound up enlarging it after buses actually started using it.

Councilmen ask about BI right turn signs and Highway 305 ferry signs

No Right Turn sign hard to see on wire above intersection
No Right Turn on Red signis on wire above the intersection

The in basket: A couple of city councilmen from Kitsap County’s north end recently asked the Road Warrior for help with problems they had spotted in the area, and I was happy to oblige.

Bill Knobloch of Bainbridge Island was the first, appealing for help in February for a situation in which he’d found the state intransigent. Citizen Paul Sanders had brought it to his attention.

“I am writing you as a result of a lost-in-translation communication with WSDOT concerning a continuing problem that directly affects the pocket book of many of my constituents,” Bill said. Right turns on red are prohibited from Highway 305 heading away from downtown onto Madison Avenue, but only by a small sign hanging from the wire that supports the traffic signal heads on 305, he said. Meanwhile, a more obvious sign on the roadside limits the right lane to right turns.

“Considering the existing signs at the side of the highway just prior to the right hand turn, it appears to be a setup for the ordinary driver who will follow the ‘right turn only’ while not having the average scan to see the little white sign saying ‘no turn on red,’ Bill said.

The state had refused to add to the signage due to “current sign congestion.”

This summer Ed Stern of the Poulsbo council sent me the following: “I notice on Highway 3, the signs for the Bremerton Ferry in the vicinity of Bremerton, all read ‘Seattle Ferry’ — very helpful and illustrative, especially for our out-of-town travelers of which we have more than a few, especially in the summer.

“However, when approaching the Poulsbo/Kingston exits on Highway 3, it reads ‘Bainbridge Ferry’ and not the more informative ‘Seattle Ferry’. I have to ask why?”

The out basket: Steve Bennett, traffic operations engineer for the Olympic Region of WSDOT, sent me an e-mail on Aug. 19 saying, “I wanted you to know that we will be ordering a second No Turn On Red sign to be placed on the side of the highway (305)….  I would expect that the sign will be installed next month.” Perhaps it already has been.

Steve more or less concedes Ed’s point, but says it doesn’t rate high on the list of problems his department hopes to address quickly “We can look at a sign redesign when the sign is up for replacement,” he said. “We don’t want to spend the money now as the sign is relatively new and we have not had any other complaints.

“Also,” he said. “we do have ‘Seattle Ferry’ signs on the beginning of (Highway) 305.”

What’s holding up right lane extension on Warren?

The in basket: Whenever I get stuck behind traffic stopped at at a red light on Warren Avenue  in Bremerton at 11th street, unable to reach the right turn lane that would allow me to proceed up 11th instead of waiting, I wonder what’s holding up the city’s plan to make that right turn lane longer.

The work is to allow more cars to reach 11th in the outside lane and turn right, greatly reducing the lines of vehicles waiting on Warren.

Last I heard they planned to have it done this year, but the construction season is getting on toward rainy months. On the other hand, traffic in the city is about to be altered greatly by the months between the closure of the Manette Bridge and opening of its replacement.

I asked if the two things have something to do with one another.

The out basket: Indeed they do, says Gunnar Fridriksson of the city engineering staff.

“We are anticipating going to ad (for bids) late this year and delaying

construction until next spring,” he said. “Our acquisitions (of right of way) went fairly well and we were planning on going

out this year.  But with workload and then WSDOT announcing the Manette

bridge closure starting in July, we let the construction date slide to accommodate.”


Right turn lane on Sedgwick at 16 still a no-go

The in basket: Bill Slach says, “On westbound Sedgwick (Road) at the light where you turn right onto Highway 16, there is a lot of room on the right side and folks repeatedly make illegal right turns by crossing the fog line. Isn’t there enough room there for a turn lane?

“The shoulder areas vary widely in width,” he said. “The south side could be made narrower as well as the north side to give enough room to make a turn lane,” he proposed.

“This wouldn’t be a costly fix – some paint ought to do it.

The middle area of the road created by the center merge lane could be narrowed by a foot or so and give enough room to create a turn lane,” he said. “As it is, folks now cross the line on the right by only a little when cars stopped at the light give them room.

“Foot traffic and pedestrians?” he asked, recalling the state’s reason a right turn lane couldn’t just be carved out of the shoulder. “Where are they? The ones I see are on the south side of the highway since they are going to the gas station or McDonalds.

The out basket: Though there are places all over the county where drivers routinely commit the violation of crossing the edge line in their right turns, this is the only place I’ve been asked about it. In 2007, a suggestion was made that the edge line be erased for a distance to make those right turns legal. The answer then was no, that would jeopardize bicyclists and pedestrians.

The answer is still no, says Steve Bennett, the traffic operations engineer for this region. “We continue to believe that it is necessary to widen Highway 160 (Sedgwick) in order to safely provide the space for the right-turn lane.

“Without widening we would have to remove the acceleration pocket used by traffic turning onto the highway from Bravo Terrace. We feel that collisions may increase at the intersection of Bravo Terrace without this refuge/acceleration pocket.”

Well, that’s a sure bet. Getting onto westbound Sedgwick from Bravo Terrace, which serves a motel, McDonalds, Shari’s, Dairy Queen and others, is scary enough without losing the refuge lane a left turner can use.

Don’t swing wide in making your turns

The in basket:  Brian O’Kelley asked me to settle a bet he had going with a friend.

“My buddy says that people turning left into multi-lanes must select the inboard left lane,” he said. “Thus people across the intersection wanting to turn right on a red light can do so freely, regardless of the crowding and honking of horns.

“I say I don’t think I’m required to take the inboard lane, but even if I am, right-on-red turners have to wait for the intersection to be clear before they can proceed” Brian said. .

“Can you help us out?”

The out basket: Well, I could help out his buddy. Brian lost the bet.

State law requires left turns to be made into the closest available lane in the highway being entered. It’s another of those state laws that seem willfully obscure, yet remain unchanged year after year. It reads:

“The driver of a vehicle intending to turn left shall approach the turn in the extreme left-hand lane lawfully available to traffic moving in the direction of travel of the vehicle. Whenever practicable the left turn shall be made to the left of the center of the intersection and so as to leave the intersection or other location in the extreme left-hand lane lawfully available to traffic moving in the same direction as the vehicle on the roadway being entered.”

Lt. Pete Fisher of the Bremerton police traffic division and Trooper Krista Hedstrom of the State Patrol office here confirmed my belief that is interpreted to forbid swinging wide into any other lane but the inside through lane of the highway being entered.

It would be unusual for a driver to be cited for swinging wide, but I told Brian that should a left turner and a right turner collide in that outside lane, the left turner would be held responsible.

The right turner can do some things that might get him cited, too, like not coming to a complete stop at the red light or swinging wide himself into other than the outside lane if there were more than two lanes moving in that direction. But that wouldn’t  excuse the left turner’s mistake.

Krista did go on to say, “Even though the left turner would be at fault if a collision were to occur, we always remind drivers making those right turns to make sure the intersection is clear prior to entering.”

Clearing up red arrow signal confusion

The in basket: judy Kaylor asks in an e-mail, “Will you inform your readers, including me, about the rules of the road for a red or green arrow light governing a right turn at an intersection? We’ve understood in the past that a red light at an intersection permits us to make a free right turn, traffic permitting.  However, I’ve been instructed that a red arrow on a specific right turn at an intersection means ‘stop where you are until the arrow turns green.’

“In Silverdale, at least, I’ve seen many drivers continue to take a free right turn on a red arrow light.  And if I’m at the head of the line waiting for the green arrow light, I’ve been honked at and waved at to get moving.

“Clarification of the rules of the road on this situation would be helpful for all of us,” she said.

The out basket: If Judy was informed of the above as regards this state, she was misinformed. A driver facing a red arrow light is as entitled to make a right turn as one facing a red ball light, under the same restrictions: the driver must come to a complete stop before turning, must yield to any conflicting traffic with the right of way, and there can be no sign forbidding the turn, such as the signs you will see in Bremerton on Callow Avenue at 11th Street and on Montgomery Avenue at Sixth.

And as noted here previously, that is also true of both lanes with the double red arrow lights such as on 11th Street at Kitsap Way.

I used to call those free rights, too, but my sources finally broke me of the practice. They are rights on red. A free right requires no stop before turning. The southbound Waaga Way (Highway 303) off-ramp at Ridgetop Boulevard is a free right.

If you have a taste for legalese, you can read the relevant state law, RCW 46,61.055. That’s the same one that permits that oddest of deviations from driving practice, the left turn against a red arrow signal, but only onto a one-way street, such as a freeway on-ramp.

You almost never see it done, because it’s rare that the first person in line at such a place (westbound Burwell Street and Pacific Street in Bremerton, for example) knows it’s legal.

About bike lanes with dotted lines

The in basket: Mike McDermott of Poulsbo wrote in late July saying, “Driving north on Silverdale Way, coming down the hill towards the intersection where it turns into Viking Way (at Luoto Road), the shoulder (bike lane) curves to the right to make way for a right-turn lane near the gas station.

“A cyclist was in the bike lane, and if he wants to continue straight through the intersection he has to cross the solid shoulder line to enter the lane going straight, while I, in a car wanting to turn right at the intersection, simply follow the road as it curves to the right, without crossing any lines to be in the right-turn lane.

“The cyclist was just in front of me in the bike lane, and I saw the potential for an accident should he want to continue going straight, so I stayed behind him until I knew what he was going to do. Sure enough, without any indication he was changing lanes, he crossed the solid shoulder line to continue straight. Had I not considered the potential for an accident, we would have collided.

“Who would have been at fault and why?” Mike asked. “He crossed a solid line, while I crossed none.”

The out basket: It’s a helpful question, as a new kind of bike lane alignment has shown up here, on Viking Way at Finn Hill Road in Poulsbo and on Sheridan Road at Wheaton Way in Bremerton. There may be other places I haven’t noticed.

In those two places, a passage marked by a dotted line provides a path for bicyclists on the shoulder to reach a narrow lane between the through lane and the right turn lane.

But that’s not the alignment where Mike had his experience, and the answer to his question is pretty straight forward.

Deputy Scott Wilson, spokesman for Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, says, “The motor vehicle has the right of way in this scenario. The bicyclist would have to yield to all other traffic, traveling in same direction/lane of travel, prior to entering the roadway to cross the intersection.

“It’s the same as if a car was stopped on the shoulder and the driver wanted to re-enter back onto the roadway,” Scott said. “The driver has to wait until traffic is clear and it’s safe to enter back onto the roadway before proceeding.

“If there had been a collision between Mr. McDermott and the bicyclist, the bicyclist would have been found at fault for causing the collision,” said Scott.

But what about those two spots and any others where a dotted lines indicates a path for bicyclists to get from the shoulder to inside the right turn lane.

The answer is different there.

Sgt. Andy Pate of Poulsbo Police says, “The bike lane you are referring (to) is a designated bike lane by the city. Due to the right-turn-only lane on northbound Viking, the city positioned the bicycle lane across the right-turn-only lane for through bicycle traffic.

“This ‘crossing’ of the bicycle lane is treated similar to a crosswalk or a lane change. Motorists must yield to bicyclist that has entered their lane of travel using the bicycle lane to cross, just as they would a pedestrian or bicycle crossing at a crosswalk.

“However, there is a ‘due care and caution’ (duty) that must be exercised by the operator of the bicycle. They are not allowed to enter/cross the right-turn-only lane of travel suddenly or in such a way that an overtaking vehicle could not safely slow or stop for them to cross.

“The bicycle lane does not give either motorist or bicyclist exclusive right of way, both must yield to the lead vehicle to end in an orderly flow of traffic,” Andy said.

Lt. Pete Fisher, head of Bremerton police traffic division, says the rules are the same at the Sheridan-Wheaton alignment.

Bond Road right turners might get a green arrow light


The in basket: Val Tangen of Hansville thinks right turn traffic from Bond Road to northbound Highway 3 in Poulsbo could be made to clear more quickly. 

“As you come to the light on Bond Road and want to turn right and go up the hill to (Highway) 3, there is a right turn lane,” she noted. 

“Why can’t there be a right-turn arrow when the traffic going towards Poulsbo/Bainbridge is making left turns on their arrow?”

Each car now must come to a stop before proceeding with that turn though no conflicting traffic can be coming.

The out basket: It might be done, says Don Anders of the Olympic Region signal shop for state highways here.

But there is a crosswalk there from one side of Highway 305 to the other. Pedestrians can be endangered by a right turn arrow if drivers make the turn carelessly, emboldened by the green arrow. 

Chances are there are very few pedestrians who cross there, as there is no development on the north side of Bond Road on either side of the highway. The crosswalk on the south side of that intersection would be more useful to most people on foot. That may be a deciding factor.

They’ve been approved to spend the money if the pedestrian issue can be resolved, Don said.