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Unfortunately, intersection design is confusing

Please clarify the situation at Crater Lake Highway and Poplar Drive. People going east often make a right turn there, although no right turn lane is indicated. The intersection is not marked "no right-turn on red" so it must be OK to do so.

— Beth G.

I live in the west foothills and travel east to town many times a week. I am going to present a scenario that I encounter quite often:

I am eastbound at the intersection of Rossanley Drive and Sage Road. I am first in line, in the far-right- hand lane, on a red light, with my right turn signal flashing. Very often, the car behind me will turn into the bike lane, beside me, with the intent of making a right turn of their own. I do not go into that bike path because I don't think I should be there with a car. When a car cuts in beside me, I consider that dangerous enough for a fender bender.

Can you please tell me if any automobile making a right hand turn there, south, onto Sage Road, has a right to use the widened bike lane?

— Duke A.

I'm running both your questions because they really have the same answer, just at two different locations. These intersections both get complaints about the problem you describe. I've watched the intersection of Rossanley (aka Highway 238) and Sage Road because it's more in my jurisdiction than Highway 62 and Poplar. I even wrote a few citations for the illegal pass on the right that you are both writing about, but to tell the truth, I dismissed one in court the other day because I felt that while a violation took place and I could write tickets for them all day and often, I feel the fault lies somewhat with the design of the intersection.

Both intersections, when headed eastbound, have a left-turn-only lane and then two straight-ahead lanes (three on Highway 62) with the right-most lane allowing either straight ahead movement or a right turn.

There is a bike lane next to the right-most lane, which creates some problems of its own. The bike lane is very generous there, allowing for larger vehicles such as semis to make right-hand turns without their trailer riding up on the sidewalk. This wide flaring of the corner tempts drivers who want to make right turns to pull up alongside vehicles that are either going straight ahead or waiting patiently to make a turn in what would be the legal way.

The problem is that this is not a turn lane or area. The turn has to be made from the designated turn lane, which also is the straight-ahead lane. But with all that room, drivers don't want to wait for the whole light to cycle while waiting for the vehicle in front of them that wants to go straight ahead. Another problem is that the arrows in the road showing which way drivers can go are up near the crosswalk and thus if the first vehicle there stops and wants to go straight, then he is sitting over the painted arrow in the street and drivers from behind can't see it.

So, in lieu of writing tickets there to get compliance, I've opted for this forum to do some education, and I've also met with John Vial from the Oregon Department of Transportation. He understands the problem and agrees that maybe the intersection needs to have the directional arrows painted farther back from the intersection, that way they aren't covered by cars waiting in line.

We're also trying to come up with a solution to drivers thinking that wide area is okay to move into and turn from, either by way of signs or by striping or painting the area to give a clue that vehicles shouldn't be in that area.

Until things get corrected, I'll bide my time on enforcing this particular law at these intersections.

Dace Cochran, a patrol sergeant with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, writes a weekly Q&A column on police issues for the Mail Tribune. Have a question for him? Write to Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501, or e-mail cochradc@jacksoncounty.org.