Town Square

Right turn only onto Miranda

Original post made by 100% bicycle commuter, Los Altos, on Oct 17, 2012

I commute by bicycle every day from Los Altos to my job on Stanford campus. Most days I make a right turn from Arastradero onto Foothill. The stop light is actually at Miranda, and there is a right-turn-only lane onto Miranda. About once or twice a week, I see that a motorist is stopped in the right-turn-only lane, then proceeds straight to merge onto Foothill when the light turns green. The car to my left is also usually turning onto Foothill. This sandwiches me, as a cyclist, between two cars, only one of which should be there.

I actually don't mind. As a cyclist who has never owned a car, I cherish my own independence and ability to handle any situation. Only occasionally do things become at all a bit close. Rather, this problem far more greatly affects motorists who want to turn right onto Miranda: they're stuck at a (long) red light instead of getting to turn, just because the motorist up front has it wrong!

It occurred to me this morning that as a cyclist, I'm in a unique position to observe what's going on, while the motorists who are stuck behind the stopped car actually can't see what's happening. So today I'm advocating for those motorists: we need to do something about that lane. The four or so signs are not enough or are too ambiguous. There needs to be two completely over-the-top, ridiculously obvious signs that the lane does not turn onto Foothill: one at the beginning of the turn lane (so that a motorist doesn't enter to the right of two columns of stopped cars, only to find out later, when the motorist is locked in, what the true situation is) and one at the turn itself. One possible approach would be to add signs that say what the lane is *not* for: for example, "NO TURN onto Foothill".

Thanks for reading.


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Posted by Right Turn on Miranda
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 17, 2012 at 10:37 pm

I totally understand what you are saying. I need to make a right turn on Miranda every afternoon, but a lot of time I was stuck behind those drivers who are waiting for the green light to go onto Foothill. My guess is they don't want to wait in the long line and by waiting in the right turn only lane instead, they actually get into Foothill earlier because the cars who are following the signs normally have to "yield" to these drivers. I don't think they did not see the multiple signs; hey just ignore them.

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Posted by 100% bicycle commuter
a resident of Los Altos
on Oct 18, 2012 at 2:19 am

@Right Turn

Thanks for your thoughts! I totally agree with you: there certainly are some drivers who knowingly take advantage of that lane. There's not much we can do about them.

But I also believe that the majority of drivers are not completely aware of what they are doing. I think the most dishonest thing that most of the drivers do is get in the right lane without realizing what it means; then when they're stuck, they just hope for the best and plow ahead. So a big, obvious sign at the beginning of the lane saying "NO TURN onto Foothill; no, really, we mean it!" would solve that problem.

And a big, obvious sign at the end that everyone can see might at least make those who are doing what they're doing in full knowledge blush a little.

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Posted by Avoiding those cars on my way onto Foothill
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 18, 2012 at 4:55 pm

I feel your pain from the other lane...I regularly turn right from Arastradero onto Foothill and must keep a sharp eye out for both bicyclists and cars that drive ahead from the right-turn-only-onto-Miranda lane. I suspect a lot of these cars are completely oblivious to the signs, especially those unfamiliar with this complicated heavy traffic, cars must enter the right-turn lane well before the signs are easily visible (esp if large vehicles obscure the view ahead). Even when the signs are visible, I suspect the unique flavor of this intersection confuses drivers.

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Posted by Xagit
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 9, 2013 at 11:09 pm

To echo the sentiments expressed on this forum, I also feel this intersection, in its present form, is indeed a serious issue for both cyclist and cars.

I almost got into an accident from a driver who wanted to merge onto Foothill from the right-turn-only-onto-Miranda lane today. What's worse, that young driver honked and shouted obscenities at me, probably not realizing that he couldn't drive straight on a right-turn-only lane, followed by road rage at me with numerous aggressive sudden stops on Foothill (on an otherwise open road). Definitely not a very pleasant feeling to be targeted like that.

I would like to propose that, in addition to the clearer signage, the existing curved dotted white line from the "right-turn-only-onto-Miranda lane" to Miranda Ave needs to be painted solid white line, so that there's no ambiguity that you cannot drive straight on a right-turn-only lane to merge onto Foothill.

Thank you.

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Posted by Frustrated driver
a resident of Stanford
on Jun 10, 2013 at 3:16 pm

I would like to add another data point here. This intersection is highly unusual and needs better signage. Something that clearly denotes "No Turn to Foothills" on the right-turn-only lane to Miranda Ave would be warranted.

It's frustrating to have to watch out from drivers that want to plow ahead full-speed to merge onto Foothill from the "right-turn-to-Miranda-only" lane. Perhaps install a traffic camera? More policing in this area?

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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 11, 2013 at 6:26 am

Or perhaps some re-striping if there is some room?

Note the striping that is done at the Foothill/Page Mill intersection heading towards the dish. An obvious bike lane is painted in between the right turn lane and the traffic lane that continues towards Junipero Serra.

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Posted by Innocent
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 23, 2014 at 9:10 am

I got pulled over after turning into foothill this morning and that is .5 miles away from the intersection. The police said her colleague reported one XXX car (same make as mine) stayed in the right-only lane to Miranda and turned directly to foothill.
I took some time to explain and said there could be another similar car violating the rule, and she let me go in the end and said it's my lucky day (really? don't think so).

Then I realize, not only to worry about the cars and bikes, but also need to worry about this kind of surprise.

I believe those "right turn only" signs are not reliable in the end.
A better way is to install some kind of poles or obstacles on the ground (in the right turn corner) to separate the lanes between Miranda and foothill.

I don't know where we can send this idea. to DMV website? or any email box?

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Posted by Careful driver
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 23, 2014 at 10:34 am

I would like to echo the sentiments of how confusing that situation is. I still remember the first time I needed to turn right onto Foothill there and being utterly confused as other motorists honked. I did not know the area then and really didn't understand what I was doing wrong. They improved the sign there -- actually, I want to know what they did with the old one, it had the phrase "Miranda right" on it in a hilarious double meaning and I never got around to taking it's photo before they changed it -- but they didn't improve the clarity of the intersection in advance of people getting locked in.

If people don't know the area, they're not going to want to turn onto Miranda because they won't know where it goes, and they'll just stick it out to go right onto Foothill. I can't imagine that people who knew better would do that because if you are going right very far, it actually sometimes saves time to take Miranda rather than Foothill.