A curious phenomenon in Michigan. For some reason, in the 1960's it was decided that no one should turn left off of a divided highway onto a crossroad. So, highways were modified in order to provide little exit ramps on the left side of the lane just past the intersection. You then go past your desired turn, merge left and drive across the median, turn left onto the opposing direction of the highway, cut across traffic, and then finally turn right onto your desired road.

In addition, say you are coming on a crossroad to the highway and you want to turn left onto the highway. What you have to do is turn right onto the highway, cut across trafic to exit onto the median crossover, and then turn left onto the highway in your desired direction.

Now, perhaps there's a good reason for all of this, but I don't know... Here in Ohio, where there's a problem with left turns off of a highway we just put in an exit lane on the highway for left turns at the intersection. Why they think it's safer to make people merge across freeway traffic in an attempt to make a left turn is beyond me...

Being a michigander myself, I have to go through these things every day. For those of you who have never been to Michigan before, I'll try to do some ASCII art:

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Near the top is an intersection of a street and a 2 lane highway. Shortly after the intersection, the southbound lane of the highway widens. This lane eventually becomes a left turn, leading to the northbound lane.

In reality, there would be another one of these that would allow people to go from the northbound lane to the southbound lane, but I'm too lazy to "draw" it.

Anyway, if you were going east and wanted to go north, you would turn south at the intersection, then get in the turn lane and follow the turn into the northbound lane.

Despite the fact that some people seem to have low opinions of this strategy, I use it regularly. The intersection between the nearest 7-11 and Burger King is on the main street (a divided street with 3 lanes on each side). When I'm coming home from 7-11, I have to turn left across this street. On the near side, there's a traffic light a few blocks down, and on the far side it's about 10 blocks to the nearest traffic light (in the direction opposite of the oncoming traffic), which means a break in traffic on both sides is rare (but this is only from my experience - I dont sit there and record the traffic patterns)

Before I learned this move (from someone in real life), I would wait there, sometimes seemingly for 5 minutes and more, to be able to safely turn (even stopping at the center was difficult, as there were two other lanes of traffic that could, and frequently did, do left turns through this intersection). However, doing a Michigan Left is much faster: it's usually not long until traffic opens up enough for me to do a right turn, then I just do a U-turn and i've saved myself a few minutes.

So, although this move seems stupid, remember it for the next time you're stuck trying to do a left turn (this move is actually more useful in the city).

The Michigan system of turnarounds facilitating left turns on divided highways is to speed traffic patterns. Most traffic on divided highways is going to be going straight at intersections, so having to stop traffic in both directions in order for a few people to make left turns in one direction makes very little sense. Instead, the few that have to make left turns are slightly inconvenienced by having to go beyond the intersection and loop back around.

While there is a major road every mile in the Detroit Metro area, relatively few of them are divided in any given area. I routinely am coming north on a 5 lane road, and will need to go east 2 miles. I skip the 4 or 6 lane divided east/west road, and make a right one mile north onto a 2 lane road with a similar speed limit and traffic pattern. I then am able to make a normal left at the traffic light 2 miles west in order to continue going north.

If you're going to take divided roads such that you need to make a left to get on or off them, try to plan your route so that you stay on it for all of your trip in the direction it's headed. The traffic signals are timed preferentially for such roads since they are the main throughfares; barring heavy traffic one should go for many miles without needing to stop for a red light.

However useful Michigan lefts are to car traffic, they are quite a pain to bus and semi traffic. Many intersections allow for buses to make regular lefts at divided highways since their construction makes it impossible to take the turnaround without impeding the rest of the traffic that is turning around.

However, most large trucks would block traffic even more if they had to make lefts at the light, so an additional convenience was added. Most divided highways have a curb with a raised grass shoulder except in the most urbanized areas; across from turnarounds the road for which is only 2 lanes, the pavement tends to extend up onto the curb. This allows for the fact that long trucks are not able to make the turn tight enough to stay on the road and need the extra traction pavement provides when their front goes off the road.

Michigan lefts are just byproduct of the fact that every single person in the Detroit area is expected to have a car, and thus the road system needs to be designed to handle a very heavy load for commuters.

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