Idea: Improve Traffic Flow With A Larger Right Turn Radius

Another day, another town meeting over spending millions to “improve traffic flow” by building new roads and other expensive nonsense. Looks like someone’s buddy in the construction industry is hungry for tax dollars again. Here’s a series of roads I take every day.  Traffic, while moderate in volume, is awful due to crappy street planning, unsynchronized stoplights, and tiny right turn radii. Welcome to St. Louis.

First, the obvious:


WHY is this turn radius so small?! Why? I have to know. There is no reason why that neighbor’s house can’t sacrifice a tiny little corner of his front yard to pave over and enlarge the radius of the turn. I’m not asking for expensive separate turning lanes. Just wider radius right turns so drivers don’t have to slow down to -5 miles an hour to make a right turn. Crap like this slows down traffic, makes you miss greens. And turns a 5 minute commute into 12 minutes.

Also, don’t let the satellite imagery of this empty road fool you. It’s a busy road. And every day when I come home from work there are 2-3 cars in the right lane who have to make a right turn onto that tiny 1 lane road. We can’t all be in the left lane to avoid the right-turners because the left lane gets clogged and even more so when people have to make left turns.

It’s not just traffic flow, it’s a safety issue:


A little further down is the next annoying small radius right turn. Forcing everyone driving 40 mph to slow down to a near stop just to let the guy in front turn into that tiny 1 lane road. Keep in mind major roads like this have dozens if not hundreds of small radius right turns off the major road and onto smaller roads. Drivers do the obvious, in the last minute they change lanes to avoid slowing down which increases their chances of an accident.

Here’s where it gets crazy. They keep giving the wrong roads a large right turn radius.


That little minor road has barely any traffic flowing out of it. Yet it was designed with a HUGE wide radius right turn (which doesn’t make sense because you have to slow down enough to yield to right-of-way traffic anyway). Yet the major road right turn slows down dozens of cars every time someone makes a right. It should be the other way around.


And even further up the same insanity. And it’s not because there isn’t any space for a larger radius or it’s a pedestrian safety issue or even a speed limit issue. Both roads often have the exact same speed limit. I believe this is a bad traffic planning issue. St. Louis has a lot of them (I’ll write more on St. Louis’ “Stop Sign Mania”, “Cul De Grid Cult”, “Roads to Nowhere and Back”, “Spaghetti Intersections” and “Unsynchronized Traffic Light Dystopia” later).

The Solution:


Just give right turners on major roads a larger turn radius. Most of these turns are so tiny large trucks ride up on the curb and damage it anyway.

Possible problems with this solution:

Possible safety issues? Not sure how. Most traffic accidents caused by these types of intersections are rear-ends from drivers having to slow down so much due to turners. Or due to switching lanes without signaling. It’s extremely rare that drivers would take a turn too fast due to the new larger radius and crash into stopped traffic. I’ve honestly never seen this happen before. Perhaps there’s something in a “best traffic planning practices” guidebook I’m missing.

Either way, I’ll admit defeat if someone from the traffic planning department can explain this to me. I’m just tired of driving. A lot of us are tired of driving.


  1. Russell Romney says:

    This is great for traffic flow, but creates very dangerous situations for pedestrians, cyclists, and any non-car user. The faster the car is going the lower the likelihood its driver sees and avoids any non-car road users.

  2. Tom says:

    Turn radius is especially as small as possible for pedestrian and other non-cars users safety. Also the closer turn is to 90degrees the better it prevent usage of big cars and trucks

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  8. walkability says:

    In a sense you (and others) being tired of driving is the reason for the smaller radii. Many city planners/engineers are trying to make cities safer and more enjoyable to walk. Those wide sweeping radii pose two big problems for pedestrians.

    1) people in vehicles come around those corners FAST and are often looking over their shoulder to merge rather than for pedestrians. Only 1 in 10 people survive a vehicle driving 40mph whil 9 in 10 survive a vehicle driving 20 mph.

    2) The crossing distance greatly increases. This both is much more dangerous for the pedestrian and increases the time dedicated to the pedestrian phase of the traffic signal.

    Obviously there are appropriate and inappropriate places for tightening up corners, but I hope this helps!

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