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Big Intersections -- How does One Handle Them?

Posted in June, 1999, to rec.bicycles.misc

Vaughn wrote:
I've started riding in a rather suburban area and am having trouble at intersections. I'm hoping someone here might help me out or recommend a good technique reference (web or book).

So here's what I'm doing now.

Left turn:
At traffic light controlled intersections, if the road is clear, I'll signal, move to the turning lane or far left, and turn with the lights. If there is too much traffic, I'll cross as a pedestrian off my bike.

Right turns:
I turn exactly like a car. Sometimes, I'll take over the turning lane, so I don't get squished by a car behind me that is turning too. When stopped at lights, some drivers often get upset with me for taking over the lane. I'm not sure if this is the way to go.

Straight throughs:
Where there is a dedicated right turn lane, I ride to the line between the right turn lane and the straight through lane, so cars that need to turn right can, and I can go straight. My biggest problem, though, is when there isn't a dedicated right turn lane, I want to go straight and am stopped because of a red light. I feel uncomfortable waiting too far right to let right turning cars by, since there often is very little space, but I feel even worse taking over the entire lane forcing cars behind me wanting to turn right from doing so. Especially when they start honking at me to move.

ARRGGHH!! What to do?

In the end I usually cycle up onto the sidewalk, let them through, then I cycle back on the street and continue straight.

Generally, I feel as though I'm doing something wrong, but I don't know what to change. What am I doing wrong? Hope someone can help.

Mike Magatagan replied:
This is a great question!

Motorists want cyclists to obey all traffic laws until it becomes "inconvenient." From a legal standpoint the question is easy; follow the same rules as any other motor vehicle (e.g.. take the whole lane and stop at all lights). Realistically, I take a somewhat less aggressive approach; stopping at locations that give motorists ample room to pass. After all, a) they don't see us and b) they don't care.

Take care!

Kirk replied:
I turn like autos every time. I change lanes and move toward the center of my intended lane about 100-200 feet back from the intersection and queue at the light with the cars. If I'm going straight in the right lane with no turn lane, it's usually not hard to move ahead enough for cars to turn right behind me (which is what I generally do when driving, too). If the traffic is so heinous that I'm uncomfortable to do any of this, I'll take another route.

I, personally, NEVER ride on the sidewalk. IMO, this is as wrong for any 2-wheel bike as it is for an automobile. I'd take a different route. If I had to use the sidewalk for a short section, I'd walk the bike. If I'm training and have to use a sidewalk for a distance, I'd carry it cyclocross style at a run.

Karen replied (about the straight-through procedure):
My procedure is to wait out the light in approximately the middle of the lane, so no one squeezes me towards the curb. I check my mirror for a right-turn signal on the car behind me; if yes, I work the bike sideways to the left and do a "be my guest!" gesture to indicate that the driver should make the intended turn. If the driver can't communicate without a horn, I'd do a deadpan stare and wait for some verbals. (Hasn't happened yet.)

Your lane position should reflect the direction you're heading in the intersection, and it's helpful to imagine pavement arrows on all the lanes. Ride over the right-most arrow (virtual or not) that points in the direction you want to go.

Effective Cycling (book, or training course) is what you're seeking.

Pierre wrote:
At really busy, dangerous intersections, I just walk the bike across like a pedestrian. Been doing that for 40 years, and I'm still alive to talk about it.

Ken Lee wrote about right turns:
Taking the lane is fine. If right-turns on red are allowed, you're not going to be there long anyway.

About straight-throughs:
If you're going straight and there's a right turn lane, move to the right side of the next lane (to the left). Do not ride straight through a right turn lane.

If there is no right turn lane and people commonly turn right from the right lane, then move to the left of the lane and let people turn on your right. Do not let them turn right from your left (in front of you).

If there is not enough room for cars to pass to your right, then block the lane and let them wait. If the lane is that narrow, you don't have much choice.




Edited by Ken Kifer


Minor changes have been made in the original text to correct errors, remove off-topic comments, make the thread clearer, reduce the length, and solve other problems. Any words added are in brackets. 


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