Q: Can I turn right on a red light at this intersection? (Shell Road and 91 East-West Connector)
Can I go through the first red light after I stop and drive to the second white line/red light or do I have to stay stopped at the first line?

RightOnRedTrainTracks

Answer: Let’s review the basics. You can go right on a red light, after you stop and make sure it’s safe, as long as there’s no turning restriction sign. Simple.

In this case, there is no sign restricting the turn, therefore, you can turn right after you stop. The purpose of the two red lights is to give drivers sufficient warning so that they have enough time to stop their vehicles either behind the first white line (closest to the intersection and crosswalk) or the second one if necessary once the light goes yellow; in other words to encourage them not to block the tracks, in case they didn’t notice them! If there was only the second light, and a driver could not stop in time once the light went yellow due to speed or traffic conditions behind, then that would be an incredibly long (and dangerous) drive to the other side of the intersection during which time oncoming left turns would be trying to exit. If there was only the first red light, drivers may or may not be trusted (it seems the latter) to stop their vehicles at a sufficient distance from the train tracks. So I guess you’re supposed to stop behind the white line, but if for some reason you can’t do that in time, then you can stop before the crosswalk without anything bad happening.

The train tracks in this case have their own signal. It is always a wise idea to scan train tracks before driving over them, but if the lights and bars are not activated, then you would normally scan and then simply make sure if you’re stopping you don’t stop on the tracks or too close to the tracks, just as you would if you were proceeding through that intersection while the light was green (i.e. in a traffic jam).

FYI, the motor vehicle act says that red means stop, and continues to say that if the red light is located at an intersection, a driver may then turn right as long as it’s safe and legal (no turning restriction sign.) It also says a driver may then turn left if turning onto a one way street, and it’s safe and legal.

What most people probably don’t know, is the other thing the motor vehicle act indicates: if a red light is located at somewhere other than an intersection, then drivers are legally required to stop. Then, they may proceed as long as they’ve yielded to pedestrians and other road users.

Where is there a red light without an intersection? They are not too common, but they do exist, mostly at pedestrian-controlled crosswalks located mid-block:

Esplanade Avenue (near Chesterfield Avenue) North Vancouver is one example.

Esplanade

 

In this case, red means Stop, yield to pedestrians, and then go. Did I just say that you can drive through a red light (after you stop)? Yes, yes I did.

In the case of Shell Road and East-West Connector, the rules seem to blur. There is a sign indicating “Stop here on Red.” Those are pretty clear instructions. So, in terms of driving through that light up to the crosswalk area, I would think it would be not recommended (maybe because not everyone is good at judging the size of their vehicles, knowing the size of the train that may come, and how much room is required behind them). Keep in mind, if you’re at a place facing 2 red lights, you’re still facing 2 red lights, which means you are not going to get very far (unless you’re trying to turn right). I know it looks weird to see a huge chunk of space in front of you. In terms of turning right there on the red, there is no reason why you can’t. Just make sure not to block the train tracks. I thought that was common sense & obvious, but judging by the number of times I’ve seen vehicles stuck on tracks, I thought I’d mention it.

Something similar happens in Vancouver, where there used to be a train. But the train has not been seen for many years. Yet the red lights and stop signs along the tracks running north and south remain. (I wonder how long it’s going to stay like that?)

This is Broadway, near Arbutus in Vancouver. In my personal experience here, drivers basically laugh at this red light and drive up to the intersection, or they don’t even show any indication whatsoever that they’ve even seen it, and drive up to the intersection! The only people I see actually stopping for this red light are tourists. Most people seem to know there is no train, no crosswalk, no intersection, and otherwise absolutely no reason to stop here aside from the fact that, well, it is a red light. However, technically red means stop so legally you are required to stop here; although I would be interested to hear from what the enforcement thinks about it. I guess they can’t tell the world to drive through red lights. That might be somewhat frowned upon. It’s a good question though. What exactly is the point of stopping for this red light? Seriously this light would make a great backyard or garage ornament.

BroadwayandArbutus