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Newport Beach hosts many instances of one of the most dangerous, car-centric, traffic hazards around: the “free right turn”. Normally, at an intersection of two roads, there are traffic controls requiring a right turning driver to stop at STOP signs or red lights and slow and proceed carefully at green lights. Intersections are, of course, where we are trained to cross safely as even when there is no marked crosswalk, at an intersection where streets with crosswalks meet, the sidewalks “extend” through the intersection legally implying crosswalks.

But Newport Beach has chosen to allow right turning drivers the ability to turn right without slowing to a speed that would safely accommodate people trying to cross.

In one instance, at San Joaquin Hills Drive and MacArthur Blvd, there is at least a crosswalk:

This free right turn from San Joaquin Hills Drive onto Macarthur is scary, but at least it has a crosswalk.

But it is still a scary proposition to think that kids have to negotiate this intersection with motorists hurrying through the turn on their way to the freeway.

It gets worse down at San Joaquin Hills Drive and Jamboree, where there is a virtual freeway on-ramp draining the first street to allow motorists on to the second without slowing whatsoever.

And, to make matters worse, there is no crosswalk here! Go figure! And the approach is around what amounts to a blind curve at the 50MPH+ the cars are traveling. Anyone attempting to cross here must, literally, listen for cars around the corner:

This free right turn from San Joaquin Hills Drive onto Jamboree is practically a freeway by itself — the City hasn’t even provided a crosswalk.

Here’s the view looking back up the hill from the point of view of a pedestrian or cyclist contemplating crossing:

The view from the handicapped curb access back up the free right turn at San Joaquin Hills Drive and Jamboree. A car coming around that corner at the posted speed limit is on you in seconds… and they are usually traveling a little faster.

And here’s what the cars look like as they stream past, speeding to Jamboree…

So, why do we have free right turns?  

Intersections should be passable by all, not just motorists, and pedestrians and cyclists should not be put at risk just so cars can pass through rapidly. It just doesn’t make any sense. The roads through Newport Beach should support the community, not the commute…




David Huntsman

Husband, father, cyclist, lawyer

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