Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Intersection Puzzler: Founders Bridge Edition

This is a thought-exercise I think of just about every time I pass through this intersection. The above Microsoft Spy Satellite photo shows a quirky intersection at the end of the Pitkin St. exit ramp in East Hartford. The 2 roads at the bottom of the pic are the ramps to/from I-84. Pitkin St. is labeled, and the road at the top is an entrance to the Founders Plaza business park parking lot. All four arms of the intersection are controlled by a standard traffic light. (Click the photo for a larger version.)

Now the path that hits Pitkin on the right hand side of the photo is the pedestrian/bicycle path coming off the Founders Bridge which I use on my daily peregrination to my place of business. Cruising off the hill from the bridge, I get a pretty clear view of all four streets as well as the traffic light since it's elevated. Generally, I can time my speed and judge by the state of the traffic light and the pace of the traffic in all four directions to make my left onto Pitkin without losing my momentum off the bridge.

My query: I can make an argument that I correctly obeyed the traffic law by zooming through my left turn without stopping for either one of the traffic light's two states. If the green light is in the ramp/parking lot direction, I can say that the bridge path is in the same direction in its intersection with Pitkin and I therefore have the green light. However, if the Pitkin St. traffic has the green, I can argue that when I actually get on Pitkin, I have not yet entered the intersection that the light controls due to the entry point of the bridge access path, so I therefore can claim the green as I proceed on Pitkin.

Which interpretation do you fine readers think is the correct one?

I only pose this because last week, I made my usual left turn and had to dodge a car careening out of the opposite parking lot at about 20 mph, making a right on red. Had we collided, I'm certain the driver of the car would've been at fault since he wasn't even close to coming to a complete stop before making the right on red. But I wanted to know if my argument "I was on Pitkin proceeding through a green light" is legally kosher.

We also had some confusion with this exact traffic light on a Critical Mass this past summer as some people stopped at the bottom of the path for the light and others proceeded unfettered.

Here's one more photo of the same intersection from the opposite angle only because the "birdseye view" feature of Microsoft Live Maps is both scary and cool, kinda like Google Maps StreetView.


El Presidente de China said...

When you make the left onto Pitken, you are not part of the flow of Pitken's traffic until you are on the far side of the street, so you can't claim Pitken's green light till you get to that side. But to get to that side, you have to cross, and while you are crossing, you are either (a) a pedestrian who is jaywalking or (b) traveling in the opposite direction on Pitken then executing an immediate U-turn. The latter may be legal, but I doubt you could convince a peace officer that him seeing you go straight across a street was actually you going one way, then making a U turn to go the other way.

Mangold DW said...

I often go through the same intersection on my commute, and I agree that you're right either way :) You either are crossing over Pitkin with the green and then taking a left turn with green or you are crossing over pitkin as a pedestrian against the traffic like you are supposed to and then becoming a pitkin vehicle :)

Either way, getting hit by a car would be a bad thing!

Brendan said...

I think you have to yield no matter what. You're entering from something that isn't a public road. In fact, bicycles are supposed to be walked on the Founders Bridge and constitution plaza. Therefore, until you're back on the road, you're breaking the rules just riding your bike.

As you know, those are rules I always follow.

El Presidente de China said...

Whatever you elect to do, you should subject it to the one question that best evaluates all choices: Is it good for the Jews?

Mark said...

I think The Man would say that path goes in the same direction as the ramp, so you are required to observe that traffic light. Granted, if it's view is obscured then I would say something to the City but none-the-less, I bet the off ramp light would be your signal to follow. Of course that presents a problem for traffic exiting the ramp if there is no sign warning them of the possibility of bikes crossing their path as they turn on to Pitkin. Compounded by the fact there is no crosswalk. I believe in CT you are allowed to ride in Crosswalks so you should, at the very least complain to EH Gubmint that one is needed there.

Brendan said...

It's probably not that great for the Jews who are hoping for safe travel to and from East Hartford. I recommend that they journey to the land of milk and honey via the Charter Oak Bridge.

Rich said...

Thanks for the input. I tend to agree with the prevailing opinion that the ramp light is the operative one. No question to me now that there's some design thought that is completely lacking in that intersection, as that light is poorly angled and positioned to the ped/bike traffic coming off the bridge path and no cues as to what to do.

Brendan: That's an interesting point you raise about walking bikes on the bridge and constitution plaza. The little sawhorse sign that they put up at the entrance to the bridge path to block auto traffic basically says "peds & bikes only" which strongly suggests that bikes are allowed on the bridge part. On Constitution Plaza, I think that you are supposed to be walking bikes, but 1) there is only one posted sign I have found, and it's barely visible, tucked in a hard to see corner near the ranger office facing the bridge and 2) they only put up large "dismount bikes" signs during events on the plaza, and there seems to be tacit approval of riding if no event is going on. However, there is that really mean building official lady who really yells at you if you're riding by the fountain in front of Spris.

Brendan said...

there's another dismount bicycle sign if you use the other ramp that takes you down to east river drive. it also is against skateboarding.