Sep 13, 2023 - News

Denver could ban right turns on red

Illustration of a traffic light with the red light lit up and surrounded by letters spelling out NOPE.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

A push to ban right turns on red is gaining speed in Denver and across the country.

Driving the news: In a recent report, Mayor Mike Johnston's transition committee on transportation recommended ending right on red in areas where crashes with pedestrians and cyclists are more common.

  • Those "high-injury" corridors include East Colfax, South Federal, Lincoln, Broadway and downtown.
  • Johnston is now "evaluating these recommendations and taking them into consideration," his spokesperson Jordan Fuja tells us.

By the numbers: Last year, Denver recorded 27 pedestrian fatalities — the highest number in over a decade, city data shows.

What they're saying: Wesley Marshall, a civil engineering professor at the University of Colorado Denver, told 9News that a ban would have little effect on traffic flow.

  • "We can all sit around and wait a few more seconds, and everyone can get through there safely. We'd all be better off," he said.

Context: The decades-old practice of allowing right-on-red turns at intersections originated during the oil embargo of the 1970s.

  • It was believed at the time that the measure could conserve fuel, and states were required to adopt the policy to receive federal highway funding.

Yes, but: The little research that's available shows that restricting the practice reduced close calls on city streets and most drivers complied with the ban.

What's next: Johnston is weighing whether to pursue the ban as he develops his policy priorities, says Fuja. How soon his decision will land remains unclear.

  • The policy change would require approval from the Denver City Council.

Flashback: The council voted in 2021 to lower residential speed limits from 25 mph to 20 mph in the name of public safety.


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