Minneapolis looks at lifting no-turn traffic restrictions

Emily Kaiser

No turn on red” signs across campus are meant to prevent accidents, but a five-year study starting in January could remove them.

According to an Oct. 25 memo written by Jon Wertjes, Minneapolis director of traffic and parking services, the city’s more than 500 such signs often do not improve safety in many intersections.

“Past practice has resulted in inconsistency, overuse, disregard by the traveling public, and in numerous cases, no safety improvement,” he wrote in the memo.

Although Wertjes said he did not know how many signs the city would add or remove, he said he thinks there will be fewer signs after the study.

Paul Zerby, 2nd Ward City Council member who represents the Minneapolis campus and surrounding area, said the University is an area where the signs should stay in place.

“They ought to keep some of them because of the way the pedestrians are on the campus,” he said.

Zerby said drivers on campus have to be aware because pedestrians tend to cross the street when they shouldn’t.

But Wertjes said pedestrians are not always the main reason for a sign in a particular intersection.

“High traffic of pedestrians is not in itself a provision to put up “No turn on red’ signs,” he said.

Wertjes said the signs often are useless because pedestrian traffic blocks the intersection during a red light, preventing a turn on red.

“The sign out there does nothing but potentially prohibit turns when pedestrian traffic is extremely low, like in the middle of the night,” he said.

Steve Johnson, University deputy police chief, said the main University intersections with the signs help pedestrians.

“If everybody is obeying the signals, including pedestrians, it controls the intersections,” he said. “It regulates the intersection and makes everyone take their turn.”

Johnson said that in many of the intersections on campus, it is difficult to make a safe turn because of the high traffic volume, and the signs prevent people from turning into moving traffic.

Nursing sophomore Amanda Saari said the signs don’t make sense on campus.

“When the light turns green, there are people in the intersection you have to deal with,” she said.

Saari said the signs don’t improve safety because drivers still have to watch for pedestrians while turning on a green light.

Anthropology junior Renee Schirmer said she also doesn’t see the point in the signs, but they could make the intersections safer for pedestrians.

Wertjes said the review will look at every intersection with traffic signals in Minneapolis and analyze light timing, intersection design and the need for “No turn on red” signs.

The study is meant solely to improve safety in the city, he said.

“If people save time or we reduce some air pollution, that’s not the top priority,” he said. “We are really going to address this according to safety.”