Cambridge Explores “No Turn on Red” Traffic Policy to Protect Cyclists and Pedestrians

Cambridge is now exploring how to implement “no turn on red” traffic regulations citywide, with a goal of improving safety conditions for cyclists and pedestrians. The Cambridge City Council backed the proposal in a 7-2 vote on Monday, November 7, 2022.

With the City Council’s vote, Cambridge becomes one of the first U.S. cities to explore this step. The city manager will now work with city departments to investigate how to execute the regulations. Turns are already banned at 70 to 75 percent of Cambridge intersections, according to news reports, and some of the others may require state permission.

But supporters say the policy order aligns with other safety efforts, such as the Cambridge Vision Zero Action plan and the ongoing redesign of city streets to protect vulnerable road users.

The Cambridge City Council took a major step toward redesigning safer streets back in 2019, by supporting the development of a 20-mile network of protected bike lanes. To have the most impact, the council called for protected bike lanes to be built with ongoing roadwork, not as a separate project.

U.S. Cities Consider “No Turn on Red” for Safety

If you drive through New York City, expect to see “no turn on red” regulations already in place. But only recently have a few other communities passed similar measures, with an eye on reducing bicycle accidents and pedestrian injuries. Most of these communities have “Vision Zero” plans to create safer roads and eliminate traffic fatalities, similar to Cambridge and Boston.

Washington D.C.

The District of Columbia Council passed the Safer Streets Amendment Act of 2022 in early October. This act will ban right turns on red throughout the city starting in 2025. This is not a new idea for Washington D.C. The district’s transportation studied the impact of “no turn on red” at 100 pilot locations back in 2008, reporting several benefits, including a 92 percent decline in drivers failing to yield for pedestrians.

Ann Arbor, Michigan

The Ann Arbor City Council voted to ban turns on red at 50 downtown intersections in early October 2022.

San Francisco and Berkley, California

In San Francisco, city councilors have not acted. But SFMTA – the city’s transportation department – has reported “no turn on red” has improved safety in San Francisco, where 20 percent of all pedestrian and bicycle-related crashes involve drivers at signalized intersections.

In 2021, SFMTA posted “no turn on red” signs at more than 50 intersections.

  • Close calls between pedestrians and vehicle interactions fell 20 percent.
  • More than 90 percent of vehicles complied with the regulation.
  • There was a 70+ percent reduction in vehicles blocking or encroaching on crosswalks at red lights.

SMFTA has called for a larger rollout of “no turn on red,” calling this a low-cost safety measure.

Nearby, in Berkley, California, the city council will also consider posting “no turn on red” signs at all 135 of the city’s intersections in coming weeks, according to the San Francisco Gate newspaper. This proposal has a $135,000 price tag.

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