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XKCD 207 shows a driver turning right on a red light, making a U-turn, then turning right again, in order to bypass a red light. Is this actually legal in Oregon?

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  • XKCD writes "questionably legal." But as drawn, there seems to be a lane specifically for the U-turn which has no other possible function.
    – o.m.
    May 7, 2022 at 12:36
  • @o.m. so in that particular case, it is legal? What if there is not a lane for the U-turn, but U-turns are legal on that road?
    – Someone
    May 7, 2022 at 14:51
  • This is the Michigan left intersection design. A practical implementation would disallow left turns at the light, forcing cars wanting to go left to turn right, make a U-turn, and go straight. This maneuver must be legal for it to work as the engineers intended. There's also the Superstreet design, which actually forces cars wanting to go straight on the side road to turn right, turn left (or U-turn), and turn right, since the side road cannot go straight directly.
    – Victor
    Jun 3, 2022 at 3:07
  • Also, an issue with this maneuver is that if you're on a busy main road, you might be better off waiting for a green light. The side street might have less traffic and have a short traffic light phase, so by the time you've finished the manuever, the light has already changed, and you'll have to wait extra time for the light to turn green, since it's too busy for right on red. If you're on the side road, and there is little traffic, it might be beneficial in some cases, since the small road has to wait a long time for a green light.
    – Victor
    Jun 3, 2022 at 3:33

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One issue is whether that left-turn (that's what it's normally for, not a u-turn) has a sign that allows u-turns. If it isn't marked, then I think these rules would control:

U-turns are prohibited in these locations (from Oregon's DMV):

  • Intersections controlled by a traffic signal, unless a sign permits the turn.
  • Between intersections in a city.
  • Any location within city limits where your vehicle cannot be seen by traffic coming from either direction within 500 feet.
  • Any location outside city limits where your vehicle cannot be seen by traffic coming from either direction within 1,000 feet.
  • At or on a railroad crossing.
  • Any location where U-turns are prohibited by official signs or markings.

I find them a little contradictory, but that may be because my state, California, is more permissive with u-turns. I also live in an area that's too crowded so it's easier to get the space and time to make a u-turn 'between intersections.'

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    Looks like it as long as you've got 1,000 feet clearance in both directions.
    – mkennedy
    May 7, 2022 at 19:15
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    Note that as drawn in the comic there is no street to turn left onto, so it seems to be a specifically U-turn lame, not a left turn lane. May 7, 2022 at 19:53
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    @DavidSiegel Good point! Munroe is very specific in his drawings.
    – mkennedy
    May 7, 2022 at 19:56
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    @Someone It can be legal in a city too. If there is a street for traffic to turn to (such as a T intersection where you can U-turn, go straight, or turn right), then it would be an interesction.
    – Victor
    Jun 3, 2022 at 3:21
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    Alberta has U-turn prohibitions similar to the ones listed, but U-turns in urban areas at some intersections such as 4-way stops are legal. In Alberta, "traffic control signal" means traffic lights, and excludes other "traffic control devices" such as stop signs. In Oregon, "traffic signal" means traffic lights.
    – Victor
    Jun 3, 2022 at 3:28
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Unless a sign is posted to the contrary, right turn on red is legal in Oregon.

Assuming a u-turn is legal at the second spot, the maneuver is 100% legal.

What's actually probably illegal is going through a parking lot to dodge a red light.

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  • That last is called something like "using private property to avoid a traffic control device." Usually done in a gas station with entrances/exits on both streets. Mar 1 at 21:14

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