[Originally posted at EcoGeek. I’m mostly a bus commuter, but there have been times when I’ve seen the benefits of the Michigan Left. Increased safety, increased efficiency – it should be a no-brainer to see this design implemented more widely. The downside would be all the disruptive construction needed to tear up existing intersections and reconfigure them like this; that will be the biggest obstacle beyond simple inertia and political xenophobia over foreign ideas.

On an only tangentially related note, yesterday, while I was waiting for an opening to cross the street (as a pedestrian), an oncoming car on the opposite side of the street stopped before the crosswalk where I was going to cross, and thus stopped a line of 4 or 5 other cars behind her, despite the fact there were several oncoming vehicles on my side of the street that I had to wait for. So she sat there with the other cars stacked behind her. I thought she had stopped to make a left turn at that intersection, so once the other traffic cleared, I waited for her to make her left, and then, after a few seconds, I darted across the street.

I appreciate courteous driving and consideration for pedestrians, but its false courtesy to inconvenience a half-dozen other people to try to be sanctimoniously courteous to one.]

A recent study carried out by traffic engineering researchers at North Carolina State University found that the use of roads without left turns (known as “Michigan left” or “superstreet” design) makes for roads with “significantly faster travel times, and leads to a drastic reduction in automobile collisions and injuries.” While the Michigan left has been around since the 1960s, the design is not widely used except in Michigan and to some extent in North Carolina. This study is the first significant examination of the benefits of this kind of intersection.

Drivers, especially those unfamiliar with the concept, may find the Michigan left to be frustrating in practice, because making a left turn in such an intersection often requires a stop, then driving a short distance and having to stop again before being able to join the flow of traffic in the desired direction. However, the wait times are actually less than if the intersection was configured with all the needed delays necessary to implement four-way left turns (which usually stop all other traffic to allow the lefts).

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