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Left turn only on Churchill at Alma 7.30 - 8.00 am.

Original post made by Traffic Conscious on Jun 3, 2010

I watched the traffic at this intersection this morning. There was a considerable amount of traffic ignoring the signs and went straight on Churchill rather than turning left. There were large groups of Paly students on bikes swarming across Alma when the light changes to green and with the crossing outside Paly having many pedestrians stopping traffic, the tailback of traffic at the Alma intersection is long. Cars had difficulty turning left because the intersection was blocked with the cars going straight.

On top of this, many cars approaching this intersection northbound on Alma wanting to turn left onto Churchill were also unable to turn due to the tailback from the Paly crosswalk. When the gates came down for trains, many drivers feel it is ok to block the intersection waiting for the gates to raise.

My kids ride bikes everyday and tell me that this happens all the time and even though the police are sometimes there and ticket drivers, it hasn't altered how dangerous this intersection is for bikers crossing Alma and riding the short stretch to Paly.

Is this mandatory turn left between 7.30 - 8.00 pm changing with the change of Paly's bell schedule next year?

Why are drivers ignoring this mandatory turn even though the police are often there ticketing?

Comments (7)

Posted by Regular Driver, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 3, 2010 at 12:36 pm

Well, don't expect the City's motorcycle traffic team to solve your problem it's been disbanded as a budget cutting move.


Posted by Paly Alum, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 3, 2010 at 1:17 pm

The city should have police there to ticket everyday so drivers will get the idea. It's only about 20 min. of time each day where this is an issue.

Most likely, someone will have to get hurt and sue the city or die before any enforcement occurs.


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 4, 2010 at 10:58 am

This configuration really irks me a lot ... and has for years.

I don't get to that light very often, but I do, and I hate, and criticize any traffic situation that makes a driver have to think a lot when they are driving. If you do not have a clock, and while you are driving your need to concentrate on safety, not trying to figure out complex reguirements of a traffic light.

If they want to do something like this they need to automate it. Human factors and ergonomics say this kind of thing is really stupid, and people just ignore it or make mistake about interpreting it.

They should have a traffic light that has a left turn red light or disallow left turns all the time, or redo the whole intersection., or shut off the entire road to through traffic, but making some complex formula about when a driver can make a turn is stupid.

And this is not because I say it is complex, it is because people miss it, ignore it, or do not get it. If it doesn't work, lets take responsibiilty for that at the traffic design level and not blame drivers. I still remember the first time I ever noticed that after never seeing it all the time I've lived in Palo Alto ... and I thought it was stupid and made the turn anyway because I was in a hurry to get somewhere.

We should not implement a traffic configuration that requires a motorcycle team to police, there is something wrong with the design.


Posted by Didn't Know Mom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2010 at 10:42 pm


I am one of those people who have gone straight on the green light during this time, ONCE. I got a ticket. I didn't see the sign (wasn't looking, I guess, and had gone through it many times at other times, it was just random I was going at this time), went straight. In the middle of the intersection, I thought, this is weird, the light must be broken. I followed many cars through, and got pulled over along with MANY other cars.

It is SO unclear and confusing. Is it really reasonable? I didn't think so, but just sucked it up, paid the fine and went to traffic school. Nothing I learned in traffic school would have helped me at that intersection!




Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 5, 2010 at 9:36 am

What is unclear about a sign that says left turn only 7:30 to 8 am?


Posted by Traffic Conscious, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 5, 2010 at 9:55 am

While I do agree that the signs (2 signs I think) are not sufficient to inform drivers of what the rule is, particularly when drivers are watching the pedestrians and bikes primarily at at this busy time, it doesn't alter the fact that the rule is there to protect the kids getting to school and more should be done to enforce this.

Perhaps a green left turn arrow should show instead of the normal green.

However, the majority of traffic going straight at this intersection at this time of day is traffic doing its normal routine commute and these drivers should know. This is a route that people will not be taking unless they know the area and use it often. The occasional car may make a mistake, but the majority should not. I even saw a City owned vehicle driving straight through - not sure what would have happened here if the driver had been stopped and ticketed!!

This rule is intended to protect our kids. We must make sure that next year when school starts later the signs will be changed and we must make sure that drivers obey the rule.

For safety sake, please.


Posted by Traffic Conscious, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 17, 2010 at 8:33 am

Paly has changed its start time for the new school year and first period starts at 8.15. School starts in a week and this sign hasn't been altered.


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