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Committee recommends mayor ban right turns on red lights in Denver

Committee recommends mayor ban right turns on red lights in Denver
Posted at 9:55 PM, Sep 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-15 08:37:06-04

DENVER — Mayor Mike Johnston is considering a ban of right-hand turns on red lights throughout the city, following a recommendation from one of his transition committees.

Jill Locantore is part of the transition committee for the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure. The group was tasked with determining overall priorities for the city, and one of them was re-committing to Denver Vision Zero which aims to eliminate traffic fatalities. Plus, the committee developed short-term actions the mayor could take during his first 100 days in office.

“Banning turns on red was something that the committee identified as something that is very quick and low-cost that the mayor could do immediately to make our streets safer for everybody," said Locantore, who is the executive director of the Denver Streets Partnership. “The recommendation from the transition committee is just to simply ban turns on red city-wide. That makes it super simple for people to understand what the rules are, and to follow them rather than having to think about does it apply here, but not there.”

Locantore said the city's Zero Vision action plan recommends starting with streets where the majority of serious crashes occur, like Downtown Denver, East Colfax, South Federal Boulevard, and the Lincoln and Broadway corridors.

“Turning on red lights was mostly illegal in the United States until the 1970s. And then, when the oil crisis was happening, there was this idea that by allowing drivers to turn on red lights, that would save on idling and gas," Locantore explained. “It turns out the data shows there's no real impact on gas consumption or travel time or any of that. But it does increase crashes, particularly between drivers and people walking, or on bikes.”

The suggested ban would apply to all streets in Denver, whether they are managed by the state or the city. It would also ban left turns on red lights when going from one one-way street to another, which is currently allowed in Denver. When asked about enforcement, Locantore said one option would be to utilize red light cameras at intersections.

"This absolutely is something he could do within the first 100 days," Locantore said. "If he does it on day 120, we will still be cheering then, too."

In a statement, the mayor's office said he is evaluating the recommendation like the other ones he received.

As with recommendations and suggestions in all the transition memos, this recommendation is one piece of feedback from the community. Mayor Johnston is evaluating these recommendations and taking them into consideration as he develops his policy priorities.
Spokesperson, Mayor Mike Johnston's office

Bradley Abeyta has lived in Colorado his entire life, and 25 of those years have been spent in the Denver metro. He likes to use his bicycle to get around the city, but said he is always cautious when on the roads.

“I have nearly almost been hit multiple times," Abeyta said. “I don't think that asking people to wait an extra 10, 15 seconds to help keep people safe at the end of the day, you know, I don't think it's that big of an ask. It's a minor inconvenience.”

Abeyta said he would undoubtedly support a ban of right-hand turns at red lights in Denver.

“When you're driving, those are split second decisions. If you have oncoming traffic to your left, and you feel pressured to go within the next three seconds, you're not pausing to consider whether somebody is in the crosswalk," Abeyta said. "It's simplifying it. So, it's a safer process... Anything we can do to make sure that people can safely enjoy everything the city has to offer, I support.”

Denver Vision Zero data shows 2022 was the deadliest year on Denver roads in more than 20 years. Last year, almost 30 pedestrians were killed in the city, which was the highest number of pedestrian fatalities in over a decade.

Washington D.C., San Francisco, Seattle, Indianapolis, and New York City have passed legislation banning or limiting right turns at red lights.

Committee recommends mayor ban right turns on red lights in Denver

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