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Charleston's frequent mergers dangerous

Original post made by padriver, Barron Park, on May 24, 2012

Today I was on Charleston heading from 101 to Middlefield and wanted to turn left into the Charleson Meadows shopping center. There is a turn lane for just that. Problem was traffic was heavy and getting packed, so a truck stopped in front of me and waved me to go ahead and make my turn. Just as I was past him another car comes whizzing by and nearly clips me. I braked in time but even another car followed suit. The truck was blocking the one lane there but these cars were using the bike lane to squish by.

What I think is confusing is that these drivers know that very soon this one lane goes to two and the truck was blocking their view (at least for that first car whizzing by but the second plainly could see me stuck in front of the truck trying to complete my turn into the shopping center).

I wonder how many accidents and near accidents are caused by this confusing one lane going into two only to merge right back into one all along the Charleston- Arasterdero corridor.

This configuration is not safer.

Comments (10)

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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 25, 2012 at 12:39 pm

I agree with you the section of East Charleston between Middlefield Road and Nelson Drive is a mess given all the vehicles that must enter and exit the Charleston Shopping Center.

At commute times vehicles traveling west on East Charleston, stacking at Nelson Drive, back up right onto Middlefield Road and block the traffic on Middlefield from either turning onto East Charleston or attempting to go south down Middlefield Road.

I drew this mess to the attention of our new Transportation Manager, Jaime Rodriguez. He told me nothing will be done until it's time to resurface that section of East Charleston.


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Posted by undented
a resident of College Terrace
on May 25, 2012 at 1:21 pm

The traffic rules are pretty clear: you should not try to make a left turn unless you have a clear view of oncoming traffic and know that you can execute the turn safely.I have heard of so many similar accidents (or close calls) in which the dangerous maneuver was provoked by a driver of a big vehicle (SUV or truck) who was insisting that another driver expose him/herself to danger. "I'm stopping, so it's okay for you to go." No, it is not ok.

Try to ignore the "generosity" of such drivers (after all, they are not putting themselves in harm's way!). Remember that other drivers cannot see around the large vehicle. Don't make the turn until it is safe to do so. Especially on a street with so many dangerous spots.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 25, 2012 at 2:11 pm

The re-work of Charleston/Arastradero into one-lane each direction, then two-lanes, then squeezing back down has not made any sense to me and has caused delays, in my experience. The city should have kept the road with way it was before.


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Posted by padriver
a resident of Barron Park
on May 25, 2012 at 2:15 pm

@undented -- normally I think you are right but not in this situation. First of all, traffic was stacking up. The truck in front of me stopped and waved me to ahead with my turn because cars should not be able to get around him.

Second, the cars that kept coming were not in a lane.

I believe the cars that squeezed into the bike lane there were wrong.

It bothers me because the configuration of all these lane mergers on Charleston are dangerous by design. I would be interested to hear a traffic policeman's view on who is at fault in the above situation when it is a single lane of traffic, and that lane is blocked by a stopped car.


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Posted by driving in bike lanes
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 25, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Driving in bike lanes is normally illegal, except if the car merges into the bike lane in order to make a right turn into a driveway or cross street. Cars turning right must signal a right turn and merge into the bike lane no more than 200 feet before the right turn.


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Posted by undented
a resident of College Terrace
on May 25, 2012 at 2:58 pm

No quibbles there. The people driving in the bike lane are violating the law and if a cop were there, they'd get tickets. Meanwhile, a cop is not there, and you are making a left turn where you don't have visibility but can only hope that no one is going to come barreling through the bike lane...even though anyone who's driven around here knows that drivers slip into the bike lane ALL THE TIME to pass cars.

I know three people who have gotten into accidents with similar scenarios. Don't make the turn just because the guy in the big truck waves you on. He doesn't have the authority and it's not his neck on the line. He, not you, will be getting the ticket for an illegal turn, and paying to have your car fixed.


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Posted by undented
a resident of College Terrace
on May 25, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Oops, "you, not he"


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Posted by driving in bike lanes
a resident of College Terrace
on May 25, 2012 at 3:45 pm

I guess I agree with @undented. Making a left turn when you don't have good visibility of oncoming traffic is a very bad idea. Even if there are no cars driving illegally in the bike lane, there is always a good chance there will be bicyclists approaching as well as pedestrians on the sidewalk. If you zip across the street without visibility, you may not be able to stop before nailing a bicyclist or pedestrian. These blind "left hook" turns are one of the most common causes of injuries and fatalities to bicyclists and pedestrians.


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Posted by VoxPop
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 25, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Perhaps it would have been more prudent to make the left turn at the signal at Middlefield and Charleston where there is a dedicated left turn lane and a left turn signal. No hassle there.


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Posted by padriver
a resident of Barron Park
on May 25, 2012 at 6:49 pm

@VoxPop -- yes, but my point is that the new configuration of Charleston with its merges is a big part of the problem. And, if people follow your advice, then the current left turn lane should never have been painted in. So, with a dedicated left turn lane there, which is what I was using, and the traffic stacking up, it is common that a car will stop to allow you to go ahead and make the turn. It should have been safe to do so while still watching for oncoming bikes.

@driving in bike lanes -- agree with your comments which is why I proceeded to make my turn slowly. Unfortunately, those cars thought that gave them the right to whoosh right past me. If I had been going a tad faster there would have been an accident.

The merging the lanes/then the opening up of a new lane so often is part of the problem on Charleston and leads to near-misses as people try to mesh with traffic or get ahead of someone else.


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