Royal Ave and McBride in Beautiful New Westminster, BC
A friend of mine recently witnessed the aftermath of a left turn collision at this intersection of E. Royal Ave and McBride Blvd in New West. And it reminded me that when I have been driving (turning left) there, there does seem to be an optical illusion of some sorts.
This can easily turn dangerous for drivers who may be unaware of this slightly uncommon intersection design. In this article we’ll discuss why there appears to be an optical illusion and how to make sure your left turns here are as safe as they can be.
Proximity to Puttullo Bridge
Due to its proximity to the notoriously sketchy Pattullo Bridge, which connects New Westminster with Surrey, there are many large trucks passing through this intersection daily. But this doesn’t make much of a difference in terms of the “optical illusion.” It is just as difficult to turn left here when large trucks are coming compared to just regular sized vehicles.
Left Turn Onto Royal Avenue – Driver’s View
This is the driver’s view when turning left for this turn. The thing is, it doesn’t look that strange compared to a typical left turn at an intersection. But I think that’s what part of the problem is. Drivers – if they aren’t from around this area especially – likely don’t realize that they need to be extra cautious here.
Royal Ave and McBride – Oncoming Traffic View
This area looks peculiarly different from the opposite angle. Indeed there is a “fork in the road” but a fork located in the middle of the curve. This is not very obvious from the opposing angle.
This turn is already automatically more difficult because left turning drivers are unable to “look far ahead” as usual to view the oncoming traffic. The oncoming traffic is perpetually on a curve where you can’t really see them coming in the same way as usual.
The Danger of the Fork
It can be frankly impossible to know where the oncoming cars will go. This is not the type of place that you can rely on people’s signals or lack of signals (not that you ever can).
Will they proceed straight through the intersection, or take the right lane, which would render them a definite non-danger?
The danger here is threefold
- This traffic has come straight from the Pattullo Bridge and no where else. This might not sound dramatic, but let’s face the reality: many of these vehicles will be speeding. This is the case even though the speed limit is still 50 km/hr before the intersection.
- The “optical illusion” as I’m calling it is a real thing here. There are two options for where these cars can go, and it is not obvious where they are planning to go.
- If you wrongly assume that a car will take the right-lane option and it goes straight, you are not left with a lot of space or time (read: precisely not enough) to readjust your decision, speed up, slow down, get out of the way, etc. especially when the car may be speeding.
I’m not sure how that particular crashed happened, but it’s not hard to imagine a left-turning driver mistakenly assuming that the vehicles (or a vehicle) will be taking the right turning lane option, when it fact it is speeding straight towards you.
This can be particularly dangerous when it seems that most of the traffic is indeed going to take the right turning chute, and then one rogue vehicle doesn’t. This happens and is to be expected.
How to Keep It Safe
I’ve said it about a trillion times and I’ll say it a few trillion more: if you aren’t 1000% sure it’s a safe time to turn or not, simply wait until:
- You are sure, or;
- The light changes to yellow/red and then proceed to complete your turn carefully as usual
Take your time because there is no rush. If you feel rushed, work on telling yourself that there is no rush. This is not genetics-dependant; it’s a decision that you make.
If the driver behind honks or somehow doesn’t approve of your decision to safely wait, ignore them.
The decision to make a safe turn at this dangerous spot is yours, not theirs. The consequences of that turn will be 100% yours, not theirs. Amen.
I know there is construction around that area as they make improvements to the bridge and its approach. So hopefully, perhaps this intersection will become better in the future.
But as drivers we must deal with dangerous intersection turns like this as they are simply part of life. Sometimes you can plan your route to avoid such things, but not necessarily always.
Do you know of another dangerous intersection you’d like to see featured here? Email me. Drive safe everyone.
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