Turning left across a median, which route to take?

A topic came up in local Reddit forum today, with an equal split of opinions, both sides being adamant that their approach is correct:

When turning left across a median, is it the red line that drivers should take or the blue? I'm in the red camp because:

  • Its what most "lined" intersections advise, so in my view it is the standard (i.e. 1st ave @ Boundary Rd)
  • Doing so prevents a potential "snake eating itself" paradox where if there are two or 3 cars on each side they could tuck themselves into each other and grid lock the entire intersection.

I would do the red route at this intersection, but I would do the blue route at small through-streets at the median on Boundary Rd.

Perception of Safety

This is really a case of City Engineering making an intersection MORE dangerous under the guise of making it perceived to be safer. The width of Cambie from bike lane separator line to bike lane separator line (the classic automobile travel width) is 18m. The City has now effectively widened the intersection to double its width, measured from the same lane separator point to the far (left) side of the pedestrian crosswalk, past the bike path. If fact, the City has made contributed to the confusion in order to make turns "easier" by NOT making the median bump-outs the same width as 64th, curb to curb. They also have the STOP line AFTER the bike path and crosswalk - wrong!

Imagine a green light for Cambie, pedestrians and cyclists would be free to cross N/S. I'm 100% sure most drivers will not look that far past to see both the pedestrian crossing is clear AND there are no cyclists doing 50kph (40 ft/s) on the path that may enter the intersection before the driver completes his turn, if he can see them approaching (making an unsafe turn)!

Question to DriveSmartBC - would stopping on 64th completing a turn before the cycle path still be "in the intersection" and subject to an infraction? What if you drove to the STOP line WB and stopped at the red light, mowing over a cyclist and pedestrian in the process?

This is all rather subjective, but I can't see the blue path being correct. Imagine if there were no median. Both vehicles would be aligned with the roadway waiting to turn - ahead of each other as normal Turning behind would result in the interlock problem and both would be impeding traffic in an intersection since neither could clear. With a median, they can nose in slightly, parallel to but not at each other (so if you get rear-ended you don't go head on into the other!). When safe, complete the turn. I have drawn a more closely sensible red path (Arrowheads at turn "completion", grey lines extend the curbs).

The problem with Trafalgar / 64 and Boundary/(18th-29th) is the median is sufficiently wide that it is possible to complete a turn into the median and come to a stop without blocking traffic, if in most passenger cars. This would be the case IF the roads were considered separate highways as DriveSmartBC mentions in response (you'd be crossing two intersections (turning in one, straight on the second). I have illustrated how this might look with the purple line. No guidance is provided to drivers on what to do if it is or not and no one know how to identify that on a map. As a result, you see both short and long turns on Boundary all the time. In any case, a second vehicle wanting to turn left CAN not enter the intersection as he'd be blocking it and be subject to infraction.

For example, Keith Rd at St George's (and St. Andrew's) had a wide median which was once configured as exists on Boundary. Engineers addressed this when they added the central bike path by placing a center line and STOP signs at the median, making it clear, much to the annoyance of drivers you now have a double STOP!

Interesting point of view

But I'm not certain that where you've drawn your lines to show the 'intersection' is correct, as though the outside of the bike lane defines it:

"intersection" means the area embraced within the prolongation or connection of the lateral curb lines, or if none, then the lateral boundary lines of the roadways of the 2 highways that join one another at or approximately at right angles, or the area within which vehicles travelling on different highways joining at any other angle may come in conflict;

I find myself leaning more and more toward the idea of there actually being two intersections, in which case the cross street is a two-way (so drivers should stay left of the centre line, real or imagined) and the main road (i.e. the one with the boulevard down the middle) is actually two one-way streets.

 

My wording could have been

My wording could have been better.

That's one of the problems with bike lanes (as shown on Cambie) in my opinion... without the bike lanes, the "roadway" as in, the width of the ashphalt cars could occupy was curb to curb. Cars are not supposed to travel in the bike lanes and that effectively reduces the roadway to bike lane curb to bike lane curb, or " the lateral boundary lines of the roadways". What are "the lateral curb lines" when there are curb bump-outs and does it change if it's a longitudinally extended bump-out?  If the city had placed white lane pylons delineating the bike path then it would be off-limits. N

In retrofitting existing streets to accomodate bike lanes, municipalities have made a total mess of things with bad and inconsistent design. Just look at the STOP line AFTER the pedestrian crosswalk and bike path here! The distance from the NB road/bike path separator line to where the STOP line should be - prior to the crosswalk - is over 20m! How could you even tell it's safe to proceed into the intersection from that far back ?

One intersection or two, it's a terrible design either way.

Definitions vs Perceptions, maybe?

That's one of the problems with bike lanes (as shown on Cambie) in my opinion... without the bike lanes, the "roadway" as in, the width of the ashphalt cars could occupy was curb to curb. Cars are not supposed to travel in the bike lanes and that effectively reduces the roadway to bike lane curb to bike lane curb, or the lateral boundary lines of the roadways".

I'm going to disagree with the way you're choosing to define the term 'roadway', which is, admittedly, a bit ambiguous. Let's see what the MVA has to say.

"roadway" means the portion of the highway that is improved, designed or ordinarily used for vehicular traffic, but does not include the shoulder, and if a highway includes 2 or more separate roadways, the term "roadway" refers to any one roadway separately and not to all of them collectively;

Just because cars are not supposed to travel in the bike lanes does not reduce the width of the roadway. Cars park on the roadway, too, in that part of town, in between the right hand curb and the adjacent bicycle lane. When cars turn right from one street to another, they oftentimes cross the bicycle lane, as well as the pedestrian crosswalks - but don't try to tell me that, at any time, they are leaving the roadway! Look at it another way - if you're a motorist, and you leave the roadway, then you're either on the shoulder, or maybe somebody's front lawn, or possibly your own driveway.

Another way that I would express this, in reference to cyclists travelling north/south in the vicinity of that intersection, would be with this analogy: if cyclists are on the Bikeway just east of Cambie, they are on a bikeway. It isn't a roadway by any stretch of the imagination, vehicles were never intended to be on it and drivers aren't invited, there. It may cross roads, but it isn't part of any intersection.

Cambie - as in, the asphalt portion of that arterial which cars may in fact travel or park on - is a roadway. By definition.

Given this, even when they add on pedestrian bulges at the intersection, the definition of the intersection (even if it's two intersections of a 2-way and a couple of 1-ways) does not change the fact that cyclists in the bike lanes on Cambie (not the Bikeway adjacent) are on the roadway.

In retrofitting existing streets to accomodate bike lanes, municipalities have made a total mess of things with bad and inconsistent design.

Well, let's think about this. First off, consistency is impossible, in terms of how they retro-engineer these things into an existing system, to better accommodate cyclists. It's entirely unreasonable to expect identical bike lanes at 64th & Cambie, on the Burrard Street Bridge, or along Hornby Street. They do their best, and in the downtown core this is usually at the expense of vehicle drivers as it usually results in fewer available traffic lanes, more difficult parking, more restricted turns, and excessive idling at lights.

For sure, some cycle lanes are easier for the cyclist to navigate than others (this thread is worth a look) but that's inevitable.

Just look at the STOP line AFTER the pedestrian crosswalk and bike path here! The distance from the NB road/bike path separator line to where the STOP line should be - prior to the crosswalk - is over 20m! How could you even tell it's safe to proceed into the intersection from that far back ?

It took me a while to figure out what you were referring to here, but in fact that Bikeway is an adjacent route to Cambie Street, legally it's mid-block and not part of the intersection. Plus which, it's very well marked, freshly painted with a green box adjacent to the clearly marked zebra stripe pedestrian crosswalk. It doesn't need an additional stop line beforehand.

Looking at the overview of that intersection, you can see that there's been a lot of work done in the last while, and those stop lines painted on West 64th are reinforcing the Stop signs at Cambie. They're designed to ensure that drivers stop before the unmarked crosswalk on the west side (a similar one probably existed on the east side) at a place where they can see and be seen by the Cambie street traffic - including the cyclists in the Cambie street bike lanes, the first point of conflict after pedestrians.

Stop signs, and Stop lines, are not primarily placed so that the driver can see cross-traffic, it's usually necessary to move forwards carefully before you can see enough to make a decision about proceeding at the intersection, once you've given pedestrians the right of way. And it's important to recognize that the majority of pedestrian crosswalks are not painted on the roadway, but they're just as real as real can be.

One intersection or two, it's a terrible design either way.

Well, I'm of the opposite point of view. I think that both the boulevard intersection of Cambie and West 64th Street, and the adjacent Bikeway on the east side of Cambie are excellent, and reflect modern thinking on intersection design. Study the overview, you can clearly see that they've spent a lot of money there - pedestrian bulges with new concrete sidewalks make it safe for pedestrians to see and be seen, while both northbound and southbound cyclists have a clearly defined cycle lane, whilst motorists still have two travelling lanes and sight lines are excellent for all. Meanwhile, parked cars are still accommodated where practical between the bulges.

Looking at the ICBC Crash Maps, I think you'll agree; it isn't the safest intersection on Cambie, but it only has 1/10th of the intersection collisions along that corridor compared to the most signficant spot, at SW Marine Drive. Those crash maps have cyclist specific information, too, and are worth reviewing.

Meanwhile, that Canada Line Bikeway is another alternative route for cyclists who want to avoid the Cambie Street traffic. What more can you ask? How would you improve any of it, even further?

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Apologies to Outrageous about how this gets off topic, but I think we've done a good job of keeping it to one reply string amongst the rest of your boulevard turn questions ... 

 

Red line

What about a Semi making this turn.If you use the blue line it would be chaos,for the simple reason that the oncoming left turn vehicles would now block the area needed for a large vehicle to turn,and the semi would block their access to turn left.Cant have two sets of rules, for different vehicles.

But what about off-track?

Actually, you should try making a left turn pulling a 53' trailer, following the 'red route'.

Your trailer wheels would end up across the boulevard!

Semi drivers never take the

Semi drivers never take the same path as a vehicle, so let's not confuse the two. If you watch them do a right turn, then will either move into the 2nd lane to initiate the turn or end up turning into the @nd lane, precisely because of the rear-wheel tracking. Also, if you saw a semi intendeing to turn left and decided to "turn behind him (blue line)", well, you should've known better (as you file your ICDBC claim).

btw: one of my "there's a profressional driver" experiences was watching a semi-driver SB on Boundary at Moscrop in the center lane, when he discovered the road South was closed due to a collision, stepped out of his cab, asked the driver in the left turn to wait on the left green and let him go ahead instead. He pulled into the intersection and in one smooth motion, pulled a U-turn without even slowing, clearing the NE curb by a foot and got back to head towards Joyce!

The 'same path' is simply impracticable, for a semi-driver.

Heck, apart from reversing maneuvers and turns at intersections, even something as simple as driving through curves such as on Canada Way, you place the front end of your tractor unit differently in the lane in order to avoid having your trailer wheels getting onto the centre line, or clipping curbs, or worse.

Krusty604 identified the difficulty (two opposing semis using the 'blue' path would inevitably meet in the middle of their trailers). But the red path cuts off the corner and you can't be putting your wheels over the curb; so typically one or the other will give priority, the professionals understand the real estate needed by both. I've often seen a left-turning semi driver at 1st & Boundary wait on the green, just with the front axle of his cab across the inner crosswalk line (so 'in' the intersection, and out of the control of the traffic light) then once the light changes, allowing all the facing left turners to exit before proceeding with a blue path turn and getting out of the intersection that way.

Red versus blue

I thought that changing lanes in an intersection was a no-no. If so, the best route would be the one where you don't have to change lanes in the intersection that is crossed between the median area and the exit street. In most cases this means the blue route. Changing lanes in the intersection turning from northbound Boundary to westbound 1 Ave is different because the marked lane corresponds to the red route, and its geometry does not require you to change lanes in the intersection. Unfortunately the difference of opinions leads to confusion and increases the risk of collisions, worsened if a two wheeled vehicle is involved e.g. gasoline, electric, or human powered bicycle.

This has nothing to do with changing lanes, though

I thought that changing lanes in an intersection was a no-no.

Well first off, the idea that it's illegal to change lanes is a common misconception. All of this covered under Section 151. I'll just paste it, here:

Driving on laned roadway

151  A driver who is driving a vehicle on a laned roadway

(a)must not drive it from one lane to another when a broken line only exists between the lanes, unless the driver has ascertained that movement can be made with safety and will in no way affect the travel of another vehicle,

(b)must not drive it from one lane to another if that action necessitates crossing a solid line,

(c)must not drive it from one lane to another without first signalling his or her intention to do so by hand and arm or approved mechanical device in the manner prescribed by sections 171 and 172,

(d)when approaching an intersection intending to turn left must drive the vehicle in the centre lane or in the lane nearest the centre of the roadway on the right hand half of the highway,

(e)when approaching an intersection intending to turn right must drive the vehicle in the lane nearest to the right hand side of the roadway,

(f)must not pass a vehicle on the left if that action necessitates driving on that part of the highway designated for travel in the opposite direction, and

(g)if a traffic control device directs slow moving traffic to use a designated lane, must when driving slowly drive the vehicle in that lane only.

Doesn't mean changing lanes in an intersection is a good idea, it all has to do with the circumstances. Oftentimes (particularly with a facing/oncoming left-turner) then changing lanes left when closely approaching, or in the intersection, is fundamentally stupid as it's so easy for other drivers or pedestrians to misunderstand your intentions. However, changing lanes left as you leave an intersection (particularly if there's a waiting vehicle in the intersection waiting to complete their left turn) is without possible conflict if you think about it.

That said, changing lanes to the right on close approach to the intersection, (as when suddenly avoiding a left-turner ahead of you) is a really bad idea, there are so many potential conflicts that could result.

If so, the best route would be the one where you don't have to change lanes in the intersection that is crossed between the median area and the exit street.

I'm trying to understand your meaning, here. In the visual examples above, only Cambie is a multi-lane street; so there ain't no lane changing occurring, it's impossible. West 64th is single lane in each direction. And neither Trafalgar nor West King Edward are multi-lane unless you count the bits nearby where they've painted bike lanes. (Incidentally, you Google Earth types who are into it, try Street View to make the right turn southbound on MacDonald into West King Edward and figure out, quickly, where you're supposed to end up ha ha!)

Changing lanes in the intersection turning from northbound Boundary to westbound 1 Ave is different because the marked lane corresponds to the red route, and its geometry does not require you to change lanes in the intersection.

No, I don't agree, because I don't see this as a lane change. This is a turn I make often, with the intention of accesssing Hwy 1 westbound; so naturally, I finish my left turn in the right hand lane, ensuring that any driver facing who may be thinking about turning right on the red has seen me coming. This is also legal, under Section 165, as discussed in other threads. It's also practicable, particularly for large vehicles. There are no lane markings in the intersection, it's not a double lane-turn or like that.

So as long as others are cooperating, I'll use the blue route for that left turn, legally and safely.

Sometimes red, sometimes blue!

The relevant law on this can be found under Section 165(2)(d):

(d) when practicable, turn the vehicle in the portion of the intersection to the left of the centre of the intersection.

Which is why at most intersections, most of the time, left-turning vehicles take the 'red' route. It works, both practicably and legally.

But it ain't the only way to do this. Suppose you're Southbound on Trafalgar, about to turn East. Meanwhile, there's a facing vehicle that's Northbound on Trafalgar, about to turn West. It's no good having a meeting in the middle that commences with a crunch.

(I'm hoping this link works, but this stuff is a bit hit and miss for me so I may have to ask our site host to edit the image in properly.)

In that instance, attempting the 'red' route would be lunacy. Not practicable, neither. So a driver has to analyze the situation, and respond appropriately. 

Maybe Neither One...

I had a look at the City of Vancouver Street and Traffic Bylaw #2849. It seems to make any U-turn at this intersection illegal.

38(1) No driver of any vehicle shall turn such vehicle so as to proceed in the opposite direction:

(b) Within an intersection at any corner of which a "Stop" sign has been placed, or where a traffic control signal has been installed.

You bring up an interesting point, there.

Indeed, the Vancouver Street and Traffic Bylaws are many and quite restrictive.

The way that ICBC create their Road Test routes and maneuvers is designed to be as much the same as possible, around the province, for each license class. But, they have to ensure they're in compliance with all regulations. So far as I recall, the Class 5 Applicants in the City of Vancouver won't be asked to perform any sort of Reverse Turn, not even a 3-point turn in the middle of the block.

Separately (and thanks for fixing the image), if you think about it, the actual signage on that big intersection is minimal: a Stop sign for traffic approaching on Trafalgar, north or south. Nothing else. Yet many municipalities, in similar situations, can't seem to find enough stuff to say about what you have to do, or not do - unneccesary Yield signs, Do Not Enter signs, etc. Take a look at West & East Keith Road in North Vancouver some time.

Those 'Boulevard Intersections' are a bit out of the ordinary, but I don't think they're high crash locations as a rule, and the boulevard streets and avenues sure improve our city.

Clarify

Thank you CompetentDrivingBC for providing the relevant legislation showing that it is legal to be on the left off the center of the intersection (the standard left turn)

I agree with your position in general, I stated the same to that effect - for when turning left off Boundary Rd in to the side streets - I'd take the Blue route.

But what about this specific intersection? What is your opinion? Red or Blue?

The split in the discourse seems to be 50/50 - which indicates that half of the drivers expect something that anotther half of the drivers wouldn't do. And vice versa.

Its a crucial break down of the convention of predictability. I would bet some of the accidents that have happened at that intersection are because of that.

DriveSmartBC, we're talking left turns, not U-turns. Specifically which path drivers should take at this intersection of Cambie St and 64th Ave in Vancouver. What is your opinion? Red or Blue?

And also this seems to highlight a vagueness that results in accidents.

Purple, maybe ...

But what about this specific intersection? What is your opinion? Red or Blue?

I can't give you a firm answer!

In these sort of ambiguous boulevard situations, if there's a facing/oncomng vehicle turning left, I'll see which path they seem to want to follow and work with that.

My tendency would be toward choosing the blue path, for maybe diverse reasons; if you're the only person making the left turn from the street you're leaving, then it gives you a better chance to get your butt out of the way of the traffic behind you so they can continue. Conversely (I think that's the word), if there are other left turners behind you, it may allow more of them to occupy the intersection and get out of the control of the traffic light, which is also more efficient.

But if there's an opposing driver who's clearly determined to make a 'conventional' left turn, left of intersection centre, then there's not a whole lot of choice except to do-si-do with them.

Another factor always in my mind, as I spend a lot of time driving Senior's Buses and similar size vehicles, is that it can make more sense, in terms of occupying the physical space - the blue route is more practicable, and helps others to see past your vision-blocking vehicle.

Thank You

Yes, after reading for comprehension, I see that now.

I'm really going to make an attempt at putting my foot in my mouth. Cambie may actually be considered two separate highways here, and if so, there are actually two intersections present.

I will do some research and get back to this. Stand by...

How many highways, eh?

Cambie may actually be considered two separate highways here, and if so, there are actually two intersections present.

Yup, this has been a head scratcher for me. At one time, I'm quite certain that the MVA and/or Regs specified that any roadway more than 5 metres wide is a 'highway'. That would include some back alleys in some parts of town, I reckon.

But it would also mean that those big boulevard intersections are comprised of two highways (said highways being one-way streets, of course) and it's my belief that this is why the City of Vancouver traffic engineers are happy to leave the area between the two halfs of Trafalgar and West King Edward without signage (it's an uncontrolled intersection, there, except for any oncoming/facing drivers who are controlled by their stop sign). Weird concept? Maybe, but it seems to work, just like painting that yellow stripe adjacent to the boulevard seems to be all that's necessary to prevent drivers choosing to turn into the uh wrong half of the boulevarded highway.

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