An objection to ‘Right on Red’ in downtown area

BRATTLEBORO — Right on red for downtown seems penny wise and pound foolish to me.

The three affected intersections are High, Elliot, and Flat streets. With no right on red, those wishing to turn right onto Main from High or Elliot have two phases where they can do so.

• The right-arrow phase (when northbound Main Street cars also have a left-turn arrow).

• The green-light phase.

The other two phases are when traffic has the green light going southbound on Main, and when pedestrians have the exclusive right to cross.

At Flat Street, drivers wishing to turn right have only one phase, the green light.

Unless there is a Main Street backup, this pattern has always worked pretty well, and usually results in one only having to wait for the next permissible phase in order to turn right.

It is arguable that the Flat Street scenario is different from the other intersections because of only having one phase, and the more predictable backup caused by the occasional Malfunction Junction gridlock.

Adding the right-on-red permission, whereby all drivers are expected to be extra careful, may lead to the following scenario: competition.

Say you are driving down High Street and plan to turn right onto Main. You are in a hurry and perhaps just a bit impatient. You notice, as you near the intersection, that the phase is in the pedestrian-crossing mode and you realize that if you can make it to the corner in time, perhaps in advance of a crossing pedestrian, you can make the turn before the light changes. Otherwise, you will have to wait for the southbound Main Street flow and likely the next phase.

This may well create a tension or urgency in drivers who would be looking for an opportunity to save a minute or two.

For pedestrians, the risk of an accident increases with this competition.

How confident will you, as a pedestrian, feel crossing the street with an anxious driver waiting to turn as you make your way to the sidewalk?

Or, even worse, the driver gets to the corner with just enough time to stop, look, and turn at the same time that you, the pedestrian, are in the middle of the street trying to beat the countdown clock, perhaps causing you to be delayed a few seconds, or worse, if both parties are in a hurry.

Turning right on red is new here. The original plan maintained our dedicated pedestrian crossing phase. Most feedback over the years has favored keeping our downtown pedestrian friendly. The decision to have the permission to turn right on red is in the hands of our Selectboard and does not require a VTrans engineer to implement.

If the plan is modified to prohibit right on red during the pedestrian phase, and allow it at all other times, I believe that some drivers would simply not differentiate between the two, regardless of how big, how well lit, or how tall our signs are.

The cost of the extra waiting time seems far less expensive to me than the savings of patience, of order, of safety, of quality of life, or even of a life itself.

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