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Monday, November 25, 2013

Let's Discuss Oregon Traffic Law!

Posted by Erik Henriksen on Mon, Nov 25, 2013 at 12:14 PM

SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT This image is a vain attempt to sex up a super boring post.
  • This image: a futile attempt to sex up a post that—let's face it—is going to be super boring.

Okay, inner Portland. God knows your pothole-ridden streets crammed full of halfwit tall-bikers more or less suck to use if you're in an automobile. That said, and to Portlanders' credit, we generally figure out how to drive and bike on them—even if it's accompanied by a whole lot of inept flailing and glaring at each other passive aggressively.

HOWEVER. As far as I can tell, no one in the whole goddamn city knows what to do at the intersection of E Burnside and NE 14th, where that weird, crappy little island splits Burnside—letting some of Burnside's eastbound traffic continue on Burnside, and letting some of Burnside's eastbound traffic turn north, onto Sandy Boulevard. Click this to make the battleground bigger:

trafficmystery.jpeg

Panic seems to set in for drivers on Burnside who, at 14th, want to turn north and head up onto Sandy. It should be noted that east of NE 14th, Burnside functions as a one-way, four-lane, eastbound street; west of NE 14th, Burnside functions as a two-way street, with both eastbound and westbound traffic having two lanes.

pov2.png

In order for Burnside's eastbound drivers to turn left onto NE 14th, and thus onto Sandy, they need to merge with Burnside's westbound traffic (and vice versa). To facilitate this merging, drivers turning onto NE 14th are greeted with an arrow traffic signal. Which does absolutely no one any good at all because whenever there's a red arrow, everybody at this fucking intersection seems to kick into fight or flight mode and do whatever it is that first occurs to them. Some people sit at the red arrow, patiently waiting for god knows how long, even when there's no oncoming traffic that would prevent them from turning onto 14th. Some people blast right through it, regardless of anything. Some people ease out into the intersection, swiveling their heads like lost toddlers in a supermarket—then stop, then ease a bit forward some more, until eventually the light just turns green and they decide they can go. People honk a lot! And my fellow Portlanders, I share your confusion: I generally stop at the red arrow on NE 14th, see if there's oncoming traffic coming, and if there isn't, I'll turn—but is that the right thing to do? Fuck if I know!

So let's figure this shit out. Can we turn onto NE 14th when there's a red arrow? Let's break this down... § 811.260 style.

At first it seems pretty clear: Hell no you can't, son! Or so the "law" would seem to say.

Except as provided in ORS 811.265... a driver is in violation of ORS 811.265 (Driver failure to obey traffic control device) if the driver makes a response to traffic control devices that is not permitted under the following...

Steady red arrow signal. A driver facing a steady red arrow signal, alone or in combination with other signal indications, may not enter the intersection to make the movement indicated by the red arrow signal. Unless entering the intersection to make some other movement which is permitted by another signal, a driver facing a steady red arrow signal shall stop at a clearly marked stop line, but if none, before entering the marked crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or if there is no marked crosswalk, then before entering the intersection. The vehicle shall remain stopped until a green light is shown except when the driver is permitted to make a turn under ORS 811.360 (When vehicle turn permitted at stop light). (Via.)

So red arrow means stop your filthy car and be patient for once in your life, right? Okay, cool, so—wait, what's this "ORS 811.360" shit? Oh, right. Because Oregon has weirdness about turning on reds. Alright. Let's break this down... § 811.360 style.

The driver of a vehicle... who is intending to turn at an intersection where there is a traffic control device showing a steady circular red signal, a steady red bicycle signal or a steady red arrow signal may do any of the following without violating ORS 811.260 (Appropriate driver responses to traffic control devices) and 811.265 (Driver failure to obey traffic control device):

(a) Make a right turn into a two-way street.
(b) Make a right or left turn into a one-way street in the direction of traffic upon the one-way street. (Via.)

So—if I'm interpreting that right, and I don't doubt you jerks will tell me if I'm not—you can turn at NE 14th on a red arrow, so long as you stop first to make sure there aren't any cars coming. This is because just before NE 14th, on both sides of the intersection, E Burnside splits—making the parts of Burnside that concern us, for all intents and purposes, one-way streets. Since the parts of Burnside that flank the signal at NE 14th are both one-way, that means you should be able to left on a red arrow, so long as you've stopped and made sure there's no oncoming traffic.

Here's why I'm guessing everyone's confused and 100 percent unpredictable at this spot: (1) Oregon's confusing, goofy-ass left-turn-on-red laws are bewildering to everyone who didn't learn how to drive here (which, in inner Portland, is just about everyone), and (2) it's weird for Burnside's eastbound drivers to think of the part of Burnside that's immediately east of the NE 14th signal is "one-way," considering they can see the two-way part of the street right fucking there, just beyond the part that matters to them. It can be tricky right there to say whether or not Burnside is a one-way or a two-way street, because it's kind of both. For our concerns, though, and if I'm reading these §s right, if you're at the intersection on NE 14th, you can treat the lanes of Burnside you're merging into as a one-way.

So that settles it, right? We can start doing the same thing now? Turning on that red arrow at NE 14th, so long as we've stopped and there isn't any oncoming traffic? Because jesus, people. We're like lemmings trying to have an orgy at that goddamn light.

And now, because this was possibly the most boring blog post ever written, and because I love Smokey and the Bandit, and because typing "eastbound" about 400 times put it in my head:

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