07 September 2010

Right Turns For Bicycles

No Right Turn Except for Bicycles
Turning right at red lights is not permitted in Denmark, like it is in many other countries, including Germany. I don't actually know why or when this law was put into place (hint: please tell me if you know).

On occasion there are vague mumbles from the Danish bicycle advocacy wilderness about making it possible for bicycles to turn right at lights but little comes of it.

Everytime I ride past this sign on Borups Allé I get a warm, fuzzy feeling. It reads No Right Turn (except bicycles). The warm, fuzzy feeling is often followed by a dismayed shake of the head, wondering why this isn't standard for bicycles throughout the Danish kingdom.

21 comments:

Green Idea Factory said...

Under Continental, N. American, S. American (right side), driving rules right turns on red can threaten pedestrians who have the green, especially those coming from the right, and walking to the left: Drivers turning right often barely slow down and if they stop it's only to check out traffic coming from the left, and to see this they need to be in the zebra or crosswalk. So pedestrians are crossing with the green (and should have no need to look to see what is coming) and what is coming are cars with drivers mainly focused on looking to the left for other traffic.

Right turns on red are the legal default in California but are strictly illegal in places like NYC.

Cyclists simply present much less risk to pedestrians, and, if they are turning right onto a separated path, no conflict with traffic coming from the left.

SteveL said...

As Green Idea Factory says, allowing turn-right-on-red is very bad for pedestrians. Drivers start to expect that they can always turn right on red, don't give way to pedestrians, the pedestrians lose.

Two other side effects, based on some years living in the US

-driving routes end up biased towards right turns over left. You take a longer route if its faster.

-vehicles turning right don't give always way to bicycles who have the right of way. In denmark (or the UK) if you have green, you can go through, but in the US you have to worry about that pickup on the right, worry about its driver being on the phone, whether it believes bicycles should be there.

-creates conflict between bicycles in the right hand lane -waiting to go straight on on a green light and cars in that lane who want to turn right, plus risk of right-hooks.

Overall, helps motor vehicles, bad for bicycles and pedestrians.

-vehicles turning right also pull out in front of cars. Not fun either.

Jacob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jacob said...

Where does the sign say that bicycles can drive to the right on red light?

It only says that is is forbidden for cars but not bikes to turn right. I would say that you need to wait for the green light.

But one thing are rules. When there is little traffic I just carefully look and drive to the right.

Green Idea Factory said...

I like the law in NYC and even though a lot or most cyclists do not respect it it would be good for an official blanket exemption starting with a pilot where, e.g., some crossroads (intersections) are monitored etc.

Green Idea Factory said...

I like the law in NYC and even though a lot or most cyclists do not respect it it would be good for an official blanket exemption starting with a pilot where, e.g., some crossroads (intersections) are monitored etc.

Michael Hammel said...

Both the Police and the Danish Cyclist Federation, DCF, have been turned down by the ministry of justice when asked to change the law. They argue pedestrian safety will be at risk.

Green Idea Factory said...

Michael: Clearly, pedestrian groups (?) need to ask for it.. or DCF could propose pedestrian helmets.

christhebull said...

London has a lot of turning restrictions at junctions, even when the roads involved are 2 way. And yet it would not be hazardous in many places to exempt cyclists.

For example, a crossroads may have a no right turn ban (we're riding on the left here). You may think that this is to protect pedestrians, but because oncoming traffic can turn left into the road you want to use, the pedestrians have a red man. The real reason for banning right turns is to prevent queues of traffic from forming. However, as there may be a traffic island wider than you are in the middle of the road, cars can pass to either side of you while you wait to turn right. This is particularly stupid when buses are exempt but bicycles are not.

Spip said...

Just for your information, it isn't forbidden in Germany entirely.

Still, traffic lights are signposted if it's allowed to do so.

David Hembrow said...

It's generally possible for bicycles to make a right turn on read here in the Netherlands. Heres a video showing how it is achieved at a traffic light junction.

Cars don't get to make right turns at red lights.

Neil said...

Two things:
- Right turns on red applied generally causes problems between cyclists and cars. A lot of cars feel entitled to pull around bikes heading straight through, even though they'd think nothing of sitting behind a straight-through car.

- Right on red seems to bring out idiot cyclist logic. I frequently see morons pull slightly right, then "u-turn" and go straight through the light. This does nothing to advance road safety for anyone.

- I get concerned about having too many special rules for bikes. I feel like the more special bike rules there are, the harder it is to make non-cyclists understand our generally applicable right to use the road the same as any other vehicle. I feel like if we want equal treatment, this needs to go both ways.

Neil said...

Apparently my two things turned into three...

Robert P, Dublin said...

As Jacob said (above), there is a critical distinction between allowing a right turn on red (or left turn in IRL/UK), and permitting certain modes (i.e. bikes) but not others (i.e. motorised traffic) to make that turn on green.

I support the latter; I have strong reservations about the former, for the reasons outlined by Green Ideas Factory and others in these comments.

(The picture in this post seems to show only that cyclists can turn right where general traffic can not; it doesn't seem to suggest anything about turning on red- isn't the cyclist stopped in the photo?)

Anonymous said...

For the history of the right turn on red, see:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right_turn_on_red

Oldfool said...

I fear all motor vehicles but the right turning vehicles I fear most since being knocked off my bike by one.

Frits B said...

As already mentioned by Robert P, Dublin I feel that the photo doesn't actually match the text. The exception here is not the cyclist but the general traffic which is not allowed to make a right turn, whatever the color of the light; the cyclist only has a sign exempting him from the general sign. I suppose the same sign is to be found on the other side of the crossing, simply to avoid complicated situations on this busy road (crossing with Malevej?). Cars on the secondary road may only cross the six lanes on the main route, whereas cyclists can turn right onto a cycle path before reaching the actual red light.

Anonymous said...

Right turn on red is the ultimate motorist-first traffic law. Why are motorists deemed more capable than pedestrians of determining when the cross street is clear for turning/crossing?

That being said, my recollection is that right turn on red was (re)introduced in the US during the 70's oil embargos; it was advertised as a way to save fuel (turn and go if the way is clear, rather than waste gas idling waiting for the light to change).

Yokota Fritz said...

Following up on Anon's post: The US Federal government actually mandated (under United States Code Title 42 §6322) right turn on red laws in the 70s because of the 70s oil crisis.

Mikael said...

Fair enough, this sign says that no right turns for cars are permitted, but they are for cyclists.

It's the best photo I have to illustrate my point.

Daniel Sparing said...

@Neil

the U-turn, if done a bit further from the intersection (and allowed), is completely legal an reasonable. You then do not have to watch out for pedestrians and turning traffic anymore, just two lanes. If someone wants to ignore rules they will go straight anyway.

We do not want equal treatment, we want priority for cycling as it takes up less space etc etc.