Left turns

I read with interest your article in the May 18 SE Examiner. I was ‘with’ you until your comments about left turns in intersections, as your ‘instruction’ about staying out of the intersection is contrary to how I learned to drive. So, I did a bit of research. Clearly an intersection is to be kept clear by drivers intending to proceed through – Oregon Revised Statute is clear on this. It is not on left turns. As is the case with most statutes, those related to driving tend to focus on what one cannot do (as is the case above), not what  one can do. I’ve found nothing that would support your statement about unprotected left turns. Most of the articles in my Google search indicate left turning drivers should enter the intersection IF the light is green and wait for traffic to pass through and then turn. Of course entering during a yellow is prohibited.

I would really be interested in reading your source on this – I am a little concerned that readers of the SE Examiner have been given information that isn’t legally accurate.

Ms. Tannler – if the statement about left turns at intersections isn’t truly accurate, I would hope the SE Examiner could clarify by following up with PPB or the DMV and letting its readers know.

Thank you both!

Left turn Response:

Thanks for reading my article on Vision Zero. I appreciate that you’ve carefully thought about the issue of unprotected left turns. It’s clear you care about good driving.

In your email, you astutely observe that they do things a little differently in California! In that state, it’s legal to idle in the middle of an intersection while waiting to make an unprotected left turn.

If you’ll notice, though, the Oregon code is not so clear. ORS 811.260 states that a “driver shall yield the right of way to other vehicles within the intersection at the time the green light is shown.” The wording suggests that it’s the “other vehicles” that are within the intersection, not the driver’s vehicle. The driver is waiting behind the legal stop.

Last year, I spoke with a state trooper from Boardman about the issue of unprotected left turns. He said that waiting in the intersection is technically not illegal, but not good driving practice. Due to the ambiguity in the code, though, enforcing the rule is at the discretion of the officer who observes the driving behavior.

Yes, if a driver idles in an intersection waiting to make an unprotected left turn, an officer probably won’t cite the driver, unless, as a result of the driver’s decision-making, the circumstances become especially dangerous. Accordingly, note that I write in the article that “you might get a citation,” not that you will.

As I also write in the article, a better alternative is to simply find a different route—one where you’re not put in the position of feeling like you have to idle in an intersection to make an unprotected left turn. Consider the situation as a whole. It’s just inherently risky to sit in an intersection. By their nature, intersections are one of the most volatile, therefore riskiest features of our roadways.

So I suggest that, rather than begrudge those drivers who wait behind the legal stop before making an unprotected left turn, you applaud them! They’re practicing safe driving.

Thanks again for your thoughtful email,

Sean Miller

Dear Editor,

There is an old saw that “a conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged.” Well, if the Portland City Council, BPS and their developer buddies have their way, Portlanders are about to get mugged again by their own city government when the so-called Residential Infill Project (R.I.P.) is implemented.

Tens of thousands of Portlanders will be affected by this Charlie Hales-engineered giveaway to developers who have duped the well-meaning but suggestible “affordable housing” zealots into thinking that any property owner or renter who doesn’t want a cheaply built triplex or, more likely a McMansion, towering over their single family bungalow must be demonized as a NIMBY. The R.I.P. won’t even touch the problem it falsely promises to solve.

The fix is in, but with any luck there will be lawsuits filed against this planned ruination of Portland’s character.  As far as bone-toss of public testimony goes, it’s like have a conversation with a great white shark.  They’ve already made up their minds. The only fair and accurate public testimony for an issue this important is in the ballot box.

Frank DiMarco

To the Editor

I am a retired planner and have been observing with great interest Portland’s planning efforts and problems with housing availability and affordability.  Others have also been watching and commenting as well.  My primary observation is that Portland has lost track of the need to plan comprehensively and to view planning issues holistically.  This has resulted in many separate projects which are addressing problems in a piecemeal fashion.  In such a situation, problems (more often than not) do not get resolved and have the tendency to worsen. In support of my observations, I attended a major planning conference last October where speakers from Portland Planning freely admitted that the Portland Plan was lacking in how it addressed housing needs in light of State Planning Goal 10 (Housing).  The plan did not adequately address the need for a variety of housing types to fit a variety of income levels and needs.  This is likely one reason why there is a “missing middle” in terms of available housing and a housing affordability crisis in Portland today.

The Infill Project attempts to cram density increases into single family residential areas predominantly on Portland’s east side with little impact on the west side.  This biased approach to planning has the potential to substantially impact the livability and character of many older established neighborhoods in East Portland while still not adequately addressing the “missing middle”.

Thousands of single family ownerships in East Portland will be impacted by the Infill Project and its zone changes.  And ultimately it will be investment/rental and home building companies who benefit as older houses get bought up, demoded, and replaced by smaller but new and unaffordable houses, duplexes or triplexes; or, older homes get bought up as rentals with ADU’s added to the site for more rentals (which may or may not be affordable).   And with all the new apartment buildings going up with little to no parking of their own, parking on neighborhood streets will be a challenge.

I resent that East Portland appears to be singled out for densification while the west side gets to keep its character and integrity.  This type of activity has the potential to create not only a new type of gentrification within our older east side neighborhoods, but to also change the character and livability of those neighborhoods in a negative way.  What is the justification for this?  And why are Metro and DLCD letting Portland get away with avoiding “missing middle” planning?  Portland’s growth needs to be accommodated holistically and gotten right the first time, otherwise we will all suffer in the future from today’s mistakes.

The Infill Project has not been adequately publicized and most people are just starting to hear about its impacts.  But it’s not too late to voice concerns to the City Council.  Email them all.  And be sure to tell them, if they’re going to turn our east side neighborhoods into crowded ant farms, they also need to fix the streets, provide for parking problems, and add more neighborhood parks to accommodate the thousands of anticipated new residents.  Stop with the piecemeal planning already!

David Krogh, Retired Planner in SE

Dear Editor,

Thanks for publishing Rep. Rob Nosse’s column in May. It was a rare case of a politician researching, then actually speaking out about an issue. However, he’s too hopeful that New Seasons’ owners will suddenly end their connection with hate. If they respond at all, they will likely say that they’d like to do good, but are required by law to put profits first. No one with a conscience should shop there anymore. I’ll be spending my money at Southeast’s own People’s Co-op.

Bruce Silverman