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Background

The intersection in question:

satellite image of the intersection

In case anyone can't see it: we have a major six-lane thoroughfare running (kinda) N/S, with a raised median, called Hesperian Blvd. This is teed into from the east by a small side street called Chabot Ct. There is a median break here, allowing people to turn left from Chabot westbound onto Hesperian southbound, and from Hesperian southbound onto Chabot eastbound. There is a turn lane on Hesperian southbound to facilitate the latter. There is no turn lane northbound. There are no signs regarding any turns.

The legal jurisdiction is state of California, county of Alameda, city of Hayward.

Question

Is it legal to make a U-turn from northbound Hesperian Blvd to southbound using this median break?

Why do I ask?

The presence of a turn lane southbound but the absence of one northbound makes me feel like it should be allowed in the former case but not in the latter — as does the likelihood of blocking the left lane (or hoping no one clips you while you sit jammed into the median break) while waiting for oncoming traffic to clear. In short, attempting this U-turn other than in the dead of night seems disruptive and/or dangerous. However, I can't seem to find anything that looks like it says this kind of U-turn is legally prohibited. If you go north on Hesperian a couple of blocks, you'll see an analogous situation at La Playa Dr, but in this case there is a northbound turn lane that does nothing but allow a U-turn, which further makes me feel the way I do.

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  • Is it a controlled intersection? Light or stop sign? Commented Jan 12 at 15:41
  • 1
    The turn lane is for turning onto Chabot. The lack of a turn lane the other direction is simply because Chabot doesn't continue that direction.
    – Tashus
    Commented Jan 12 at 21:41
  • Totally OT but: I just love parking lots the size of entire neighborhoods! Commented Jan 13 at 4:50
  • @GeorgeWhite You can poke around in those Google Maps links (esp. Street View) to see, but tl;dc: uncontrolled
    – Atario
    Commented Jan 13 at 7:05
  • @Tashus The La Playa situation has the turn lane even though La Playa also doesn't continue that direction.
    – Atario
    Commented Jan 13 at 7:14

3 Answers 3

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From California Driver’s Handbook, Section 6: Navigating the Roads:

U-Turns

A U-turn is when you turn your vehicle around to go back in the direction you came. To make a U-turn, signal and use the left turn lane or far-left lane. You may make a U-turn:

  • Across a double yellow line.
  • In a residential district if no vehicles are approaching you within 200 feet.
  • At an intersection on a green traffic light or green arrow, unless a No U-turn sign is posted.
  • On a divided highway if a center divider opening is provided.

Never make a U-turn:

  • Where a No U-turn sign is posted.
  • At or on a railroad crossing.
  • On a divided highway by crossing a dividing section, curb, strip of land, or two sets of double yellow lines.
  • When you cannot see clearly for 200 feet in each direction.
  • On a one-way street.
  • In front of a fire station. Never use a fire station driveway to turn around.
  • In business districts (the part of a city or town where most offices and businesses are).

So, unless one of the points in the second list applies (it's not at all clear to me whether this is a "business district" for this purpose, but I suspect not), it seems the U-turn is legal. If people making U-turns there are threatening safety, your best course of action is probably to apply to have a No U-turn sign posted there.

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  • 1
    The no for business districts coverers the case of not in a residential area and not at an intersection. With the 200 yard caveat, you can U turn in the middle of a block in a residential area. Commented Jan 12 at 15:32
  • 1
    Interesting: "Never make a U-turn... On a one-way street." That makes sense, but if you've already made an error and are facing the wrong way, you have to reverse with the traffic flow ?
    – Criggie
    Commented Jan 12 at 21:02
  • 2
    @Criggie you have to commit and drive to the end of the street. Quitters never win.
    – Tashus
    Commented Jan 12 at 21:38
  • 3
    @Criggie You should ideally reverse direction by pulling into a driveway. If nothing is available, I guess you should just back up rather than try to turn around.
    – Barmar
    Commented Jan 12 at 22:08
  • 3
    "Never make a U-turn in a business district" is oversimplifying things. Section 22102 of the vehicle code (no U-turns in business districts) has an exemption for divided highways
    – Mark
    Commented Jan 12 at 23:19
0

Yes

You must not make a U-turn:

  • at intersections without traffic lights where there’s a ‘No U-turn’ sign
  • at intersections with traffic lights, unless there’s a ‘U-turn permitted’ sign
  • across a single unbroken dividing line or double unbroken dividing line
  • across double dividing lines with an unbroken line closer to you
  • on motorways and freeways.

Unless there is a ’No U-turn’ sign, everyone can make a U-turn at that intersection.

-3

I don't think that would be legal, but I'd also expect a sign on the median explicitly saying so.

A driver attempting a U-turn would block the left lane of the major thoroughfare while waiting for a gap in the oncoming traffic. California Vehicle Code 24000(a):

(a) ...

No person shall bring a vehicle to a complete stop upon a highway so as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic unless the stop is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.

Could someone argue that stopping is necessary to safely perform the U-turn? I dunno.

If, in an attempt to avoid blocking traffic, the driver were to move forward and left into the gap, then they arguably would have begun the "turning movement," before it was safe to do so per California Vehicle Code 21801:

(a) The driver of a vehicle intending to turn to the left or to complete a U-turn upon a highway ... shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles approaching from the opposite direction which are close enough to constitute a hazard at any time during the turning movement....

Could somebody argue that scooting over into the middle of the intersection is not part of the turning movement? I dunno.

Furthermore, that's not just a gap in the median, it's an intersection. The Anti-Gridlock Act of 1987 generally prohibits entering an intersection until there's space on the other side:

22526‌. (a) ... [A] driver of a vehicle shall not enter an intersection or marked crosswalk unless there is sufficient space on the other side of the intersection or marked crosswalk to accommodate the vehicle driven without obstructing the through passage of vehicles from either side.

Admittedly, that's written in terms of proceeding (straight?) through an intersection and about blocking vehicles (but not pedestrians?!) from the sides also proceeding through. We're talking about a turn, and the "vehicles from either side" must also turn. So does this apply? I dunno.

The next bit covers turns made in an intersection but is specifically in terms of signalized intersection, so I'm guessing it doesn't apply.

(b) A driver of a vehicle which is making a turn at an intersection who is facing a steady circular yellow or yellow arrow signal shall not enter the intersection or marked crosswalk unless there is sufficient space on the other side of the intersection or marked crosswalk to accommodate the vehicle driven without obstructing the through passage of vehicles from either side.

I don't know how these rules would be or have been applied in situations like the one depicted, but the fact that the southbound direction through the intersection has explicitly been marked KEEP CLEAR suggests that the traffic engineers intended for drivers to avoid gridlock at this intersection. The Anti-Gridlock Act allows any local authority to post signs about the anti-gridlock prohibitions.

(e) A local authority may post appropriate signs at the entrance to intersections indicating the prohibition in subdivisions (a), (b), and (c).

Do markings on the pavement constitute signs? I dunno.

But it seems pretty clear that the traffic engineers would like to reduce blocking of this intersection, so it would seem reasonable to petition the local authority to install a sign to prohibit U-turns explicitly.

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