Berkeley may ban cars from making right turns on red lights

To protect pedestrians and cyclists, drivers in Berkeley could soon be banned from turning right at a red light.

The city council last week voted to accept a first proposal that would ban the practice by putting up signs with a light at every junction in the small town to inform drivers of the rule. The vote was first reported by the Berkeleyside news site.

“Policies like eliminating Right on Red are smart and simple ways to begin the process of deprioritizing Berkeley’s car use and placing lives [above] Ride comfort,” Council members Terry Taplin and Susan Wengraf wrote in the proposal.

They proposed putting up four signs at each intersection as part of the ban to comply with state laws.

Council members passed the proposal as a “budget transfer,” meaning they would still have to vote to approve funding in their next annual budget.

It would cost the government about $135,000 to install the signs with lights at all 135 intersections, Taplin and Wengraf predicted.

“I expect backlash, but I am 100% committed to making our roads safer and our cities more climate resilient,” Taplin said in a statement.

Right on red was called the “California rule” for many years, but the rule was expanded to other states during the 1970s gas crisis, and the federal government legalized the practice in 1976.

“The impact on pedestrians and cyclists was almost immediate. In the 1980s, it was found that allowing Right on Red resulted in a 60% increase in pedestrian accidents and a 100% increase in bicycle accidents,” the two councilors wrote.

Some municipalities have developed their own rules for the right to red. In New York City, it is illegal to turn right on red unless a sign permits it. Washington, DC plans to ban the practice by 2025.

In the Tenderloin district of San Francisco, 50 intersections prohibit right turns on red.

“Berkeley can join these cities in taking a fresh approach to achieving its Vision Zero goals,” the council members wrote, citing a global initiative to eliminate road deaths. Berkeley may ban cars from making right turns on red lights

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