Ausmax recently commented:
I recently moved to LA myself. My question on this whole left turn is why aren’t there more left turn arrows? I can’t figure it out. If an intersection is busy enough to need a left turn lane, then it is busy enough to need a left turn arrow. I really think some of the gridlock in LA is just stoplight design.
I wish I knew, Ausmax. I wish I knew. Where I’m from, just about every intersection with anything more than a stop sign has a turn arrow.
The Los Angeles Department of Transportation doesn’t have much of an explanation, either:
Unnecessary left-turn arrows degrade overall traffic flow. Other motorists at an intersection must wait for longer periods during red signals in order to accommodate the left-turn arrow.
Of course, this is only true for “protected” left-turns (the ones with red arrows). These seem to be, for no reason I can tell, the most common types of turn arrows I see in Los Angeles. (Particularly Culver City, which is already its own special brand of traffic hell before you add the stupid lights.)
Drive through the left turn red arrows. I do it every single fucking day of my life. It’s the greatest thing that ever happened to me.
To a certain extent, he’s right. Unless you can’t see oncoming traffic, or if the lights in the opposite direction aren’t synchronized, red light arrows are incredibly stupid.
Which is why most or all turn signals should be “permissive.” Basically, these are lights that sometimes have a green arrow (depending on how many cars are in the turn lane), but they also allow you to turn even if oncoming traffic has a green light. There’s a lot of ways of doing this, like “Dallas phasing” (which uses five lights) or the blinking red utilized in Michigan.
When I tell Californians about this concept, they often react in horror: “If people can turn whenever they want, what stops them from crashing into cars coming the opposite way?”
In answer to your question, Ausmax, the reason we can’t turn when we want to is because we live in a state where people don’t trust themselves.
Don’t forget to vote next Tuesday!