Avoiding a Traffic Signal

Question

Evan asked: May a cyclist conduct a lawful right on red and then a u-turn and then a right hand turn to expedite travel through a red light?  I have reviewed your posts on motorists crossing double yellows to pass cyclists or other obstructions and I have reviewed the statutes on traffic control devices and u-turns. I can’t find anything that would prohibit the above.

Answer

Your proposed action to avoid a traffic signal is not lawful.

s. 316.074Obedience to and Required Traffic Control Devices

(2) No person shall drive any vehicle from a roadway to another roadway to avoid obeying the indicated traffic control indicated by such traffic control device.

Posted in Ask Geo, Making Turns, Stop Signs & Red Lights
8 comments on “Avoiding a Traffic Signal
  1. Apart from its redundant wording (“indicated…indicated”), this provision of chapter 316 (which has no equivalent in the Uniform Vehicle Code) seems impractical to apply except in a situation where a driver’s intent to “avoid obeying the indicated traffic control…” was obvious. The most plausible interpretation would seem to be that the provision was intended to prohibit an obviously irregular path of travel a driver might take so as to reduce delay at a red light, in particular one that involved leaving the roadway on the approach to a signal displaying a red light, traveling across some non-roadway area (such as the paved area of a corner business), then entering a second roadway.

    If an operator reached a signalized intersection when the signal displayed a red indication, made a legal right turn on red after stopping (i.e., after yielding to any conflicting traffic, at a location where no sign prohibited making a right turn on red), and made a U-turn on the second roadway at a location and at a time legal for doing so (i.e., where “such movement can be made in safety and without interfering with other traffic and…such movement is not prohibited by posted traffic control signs”–s. 316.1515), then returned to the intersection, made another right turn and continued on the original roadway, an intent to “avoid obeying…” might not be unarguably obvious (e.g., operator might conceivably have simply changed their mind about the way to go).

    If, however, the operator traveled only some noticeably very short distance on the second roadway before executing the U-turn, the safety of the movement might well be questionable, and intent to “avoid obeying the indicated traffic control” could more plausibly be inferred.

  2. randall tomlinson says:

    i used to do this in a car when i first started driving as a teenager in the mid 70’s. then, it was questionable. now, the law has caught up to this maneuver. it is illegal, no matter how you look at it. changing your mind in mid execution of the turn is like going down the road and changing your mind to either get on or off a ramp at the last second or stopping and backing up to make that turn you were unsure of or turning left or right at the last second in an intersection when in a non turn lane. if cyclists were allowed to do this, then, this gives them an edge in the applied law and could be dangerous to even pedestrians when the driver of an automobile swerves to avoid the cyclist. this would be a bad way if automobiles began to do this all of the time too. i have seen it done in the past year by and several times since i was a kid. it’s wrong period. i don’t think that a cyclist, motorized or not should do what they are calling lane splitting or traffic filtering should be allowed anywhere. it’s dangerous to the cyclist and is the fault in most cases of the cyclist if an accident occurs. when in traffic, a motorist does not expect someone to suddenly be cutting through, mirrors or not, when a cyclist is going much too fast and weaving in and out, a motorist may not see that cyclist at that split second when they do look in the mirror and the cyclist moves from side to side, lane to lane, or so fast upon approach and a lane change occurs or a possible drift to the side making it too narrow to pass. when lane splitting, the cyclist is not exactly staying in a straight line either, thus, the constant swerving of the cyclist. this is dangerous and should not be allowed. if law says a cyclist has the responsibility of any motorist, then, that’s the way it should be, traffic and all. no short cuts or laws that give advantages. a cyclist should be cited if they cut through a parking lot to make the way shorter, just as any motorist would be.

  3. Nathan Edgars II says:

    Wouldn’t the same argument make it illegal to ride up onto a sidewalk before a light (T intersection to the left) and back onto the road after the light?

    I don’t see how it can be illegal to make a legal right turn, a legal U-turn, and another legal right turn. One method I’ve seen recommended of turning left for cyclists is to turn right and U-turn (and if left turns are prohibited at the intersection this is the way everyone must go – look up Michigan Lefts or J-turns). As long as all movements are made safely and legally, without entering private property, there is no reason it’s any less legal than cutting through a neighborhood to avoid a busy intersection.

  4. Geo says:

    Nathan,

    The method you describe for a bicyclist making a left turn is perfectly legal.

    s. 316.151 Required position and method of turning at intersections.—
    (1) The driver of a vehicle intending to turn at an intersection shall do so as follows:
    (b) Left turn.—The driver of a vehicle intending to turn left at any intersection shall approach the intersection in the extreme left-hand lane lawfully available to traffic moving in the direction of travel of such vehicle, and, after entering the intersection, the left turn shall be made so as to leave the intersection in a lane lawfully available to traffic moving in such direction upon the roadway being entered. A person riding a bicycle and intending to turn left in accordance with this section is entitled to the full use of the lane from which the turn may legally be made. Whenever practicable the left turn shall be made in that portion of the intersection to the left of the center of the intersection.
    (c) Left turn by bicycle.—In addition to the method of making a left turn described in paragraph (b), a person riding a bicycle and intending to turn left has the option of following the course described hereafter: The rider shall approach the turn as close as practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway; after proceeding across the intersecting roadway, the turn shall be made as close as practicable to the curb or edge of the roadway on the far side of the intersection; and, before proceeding, the bicyclist shall comply with any official traffic control device or police officer regulating traffic on the highway along which the bicyclist intends to proceed.

    • Nathan Edgars II says:

      I’m talking about turning right and proceeding down the side road away from the intersection, then U-turning.

  5. Geo says:

    Nathan,

    If it is done ” to avoid obeying the indicated traffic control” then it is not lawful. However, as Dwight pointed out above, how are we to determine intent?

  6. Geo says:

    Nathan,

    This is the turn in question.

    “The Jug-handle
    This is my primary choice when merging isn’t possible (or I just don’t feel like it). The advantages to this turn are that it’s entirely vehicular—it doesn’t require unclipping both feet or dismounting—and it places m e in the queue of traffic. If U-turns are not practical, or not allowed, option 2 might be useful — pass the intersection and turn right into a corner lot that can be used to connect back to the cross-street. Always be cautious in parking lots!”

    This is not one of the alternative methods of making a left turn described in the statutes. However, unless an action is specifically prohibited by statutes or local ordinance, it is lawful. I can find no reason that the above method is unlawful if it satisfies the statute in the original post above.

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