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Driving You Crazy: Can I turn right when the red arrow isn't lit but the red round light is on?

Sometimes the light in Boulder on Broadway at Table Mesa has just the round red light lit and sometimes it just has the red arrow lit.
Red arrow light
Posted at 3:27 PM, May 28, 2024

Richard from Boulder writes, “What's driving you crazy? When traveling north bound on Broadway at Table Mesa Drive they have changed the standard stop light to a stop light with a red arrow directly above the round red light. They have added a sign that points at the arrow that says 'No turn on red arrow.' Sometimes this light has just the round red light lit, and sometimes it just has the red arrow lit. When it is just the round red light that is lit (red arrow not lighted), can I turn right on red?”

The short answer Richard is yes. When just the round red light is illuminated, you can turn right on red. You are prohibited from turning right on red only when the red arrow light is on.

I talked to Boulder’s Transportation and Mobility Department. They told me, they have the red arrow light programmed to come on only during times where there is a high number of pedestrians and bicyclists using the crosswalk along north and southbound Broadway. The city said the prohibitive red light arrow is not displayed during the night and early morning hours when there are fewer vehicles and people moving through the intersection.

MORE: Read more traffic issues driving people crazy

Boulder’s Transportation and Mobility Department staff told me the prohibitive red arrow was installed with their Vision Zero Action Plan in mind. They said, the plan “supports focusing crash countermeasures in areas with a demonstrated crash history. It also uses proactive, data-driven analysis to identify locations with the most risk for crashes and to prevent crashes before they occur.”

On page 50 of the Action Plan, it discusses the concerns and issues with right-turn crash patterns. The plan recommended installing seven new "No Right Turn on Red" restrictions around Boulder as part of this proactive approach, including restricting right turns from northbound Broadway to eastbound Table Mesa.

I was told that this no right turn, as well as the other five no right turn locations around Boulder, were selected because of both a high volume of right-turning vehicles and a high volume of pedestrians and bicyclists moving through the intersection. The city also said before any changes were made, a traffic operational analysis was completed at each location to confirm that the right turn prohibition throughout most of the day would not create any operational issues, such as very long vehicle queue lengths.

The other locations where right turn on red has now been prohibited are at Broadway & Arapahoe Avenue (westbound right-turn), Broadway and University Avenue (eastbound right-turn), 30th Street and Valmont Street (northbound right-turn and westbound right-turn), Arapahoe Avenue and Folsom Street (westbound right-turn) and Canyon Boulevard and Folsom Street (eastbound right-turn).

When I was out there looking at the way the signals operated on Broadway at Table Mesa, I saw a good amount of people waking and bike riding mainly on that west side of the intersection where the prohibitive red is in place. I also saw maybe half of the drivers still make the right on the red arrow. I asked the city if this is a concern for the public safety.

They told me the staff in the transportation and mobility department regularly coordinate with the Boulder Police Department to prioritize enforcement locations in response to crash history, reported concerns or observed compliance issues. I was also told that Boulder police focus on enforcement at priority locations as resources allow.

So yes, you are allowed to still go right on the red circle but not on the red arrow.

Denver7 Traffic Expert Jayson Luber says he has been covering Denver-metro traffic since Ben-Hur was driving a chariot. (We believe the actual number is over 25 years.) He's obsessed with letting viewers know what's happening on their drive and the best way to avoid the problems that spring up. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or listen to his award winning Driving You Crazy podcast on any podcast app including iTunes, iHeartRadio, Spotify and Podbean.

Can I turn right when the red arrow isn't lit but the red round light is on?