The driving regulations in Palo Alto are needlessly paternalistic. The best example of this tendency is the inability to make a left turn at intersections without an arrow. In every other city in which I have driven, a green light permits cars to go straight through the intersection or, if the opportunity permits, make a left turn. Not so in overprotective Palo Alto and the surrounding communities, where motorists are forced to wait until a green arrow releases us from driver's purgatory.
Is anyone else frustrated by this regulation? While helpful during rush hour, the regulation is ludicrous during the early morning and late evening hours. Normally, the light on El Camino will be green, and there will be no other cars anywhere in sight (literally, I could crawl across the street on my hands and knees, and oncoming traffic would not reach me), yet I am unable to make a simple turn.
I'm not advocating a complete expulsion of the arrow. As I said, turn protection is imperative during heavy traffic hours. I simply think the cycle should go as follows: green light for North/South (N/S cars can make left turns if appropriate), then green arrows for N/S (allowing protected turns), then green light for East/West, then green arrows for E/W.
If licensed drivers are trusted to drive sixty (or more) miles per hour on the highway, then I cannot fathom why we are not trusted to determine if oncoming traffic is at a sufficient distance to permit a left hand turn. The safety risk of such a regulation change should be negligible, since risk aversion would prevent us from making an unprotected turn unless absolutely certain that oncoming traffic poses no threat.
The benefits of such a change are numerous. First, congestion at intersections would decrease. Second, drivers would save precious time. Third, automobiles would be idling less, which would slightly reduce fuel consumption and environmental externalities.
I'm curious to hear everyone's thoughts on this issue. Thanks for reading!