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  1. #1
    Biker chick Cyrrus25's Avatar
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    Cycling near to on/off ramps... Any advice?

    I've long commuted with my bicycle, but thus far I've always had the fortune of cycling along relativly calm roads, many with bike lanes. Now, here's the situation. I live about 5 miles from the grocery store. I've been wanting to cycle there to do my foodshopping for some time. However, I've yet to get up the gumption to take on the last half mile; a four lane, 45 mph road with on/off ramps for a major artery. There's no sidewalk and next to no shoulder. There are also places where the right hand lane becomes an inside lane when the ramp meets the road, which makes the shoulder dissapear. I'm worried I'd get caught between two cars, and that's NOT where I want to be. The second ramp has a stop sign after it and might be do-able, but the first is a merging lane where I've seen many cars almost get nailed.

    To be blunt, I'm rather frightened to take this on. But it seems such a waste to drive there when the majority of the trip is a great bike ride. It's just that last bit that has me chewing my nails off. There's no way to get to the store without taking this road. Does anyone have any advice for dealing with this kind of thing? Or should I just stick to the car?

  2. #2
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    Read the current discussion regarding Kearny Villa Road. Slip roads and free merges, diverges, and right turns are among the most serious challenges every road bicyclist faces. Study the road and the intersection in question. Do there tend to be natural gaps in traffic? If so, you may want to proceed on the right side of the road up to the mouth of the offramp or onramp in question, then patiently wait for a break in traffic before crossing it. Get involved in local cycling and pedestrian advocacy groups, and see whether there is any way to get traffic controls installed. For example, if an offramp merges into your road as a slip lane (merge), see if you can prevail on the city traffic engineer to install a stop sign at the end of the ramp, in the interest of safety. Get in touch with local disabled activists, since improving access for them may enhance your safety through intersections such as this.

    Finally, is there any reasonable, albeit longer or hillier, alternate route? Personally, I will go out of my way to avoid a dangerous high-speed merge or diverge.
    "Early to bed, early to rise. Work like hell, and advertise." -- George Stahlman
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  3. #3
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    When/if the traffic is manageable, I often find that signalling a turn (similar to changing lanes) works. For instance, if I am on the right side of the road and a new "exit lane" appears on the right, I'll signal a left turn and remain on the dotted line, and traffic usually understands that if they go out, they should either wait behind me or pass me on the right.

    Entrances are more of a problem because people tend to look in their back to merge in, and not in front of them where I am.
    Michel Gagnon
    Montréal (Québec, Canada)

  4. #4
    mac
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    They see me rollin' mac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyrrus25
    To be blunt, I'm rather frightened to take this on. But it seems such a waste to drive there when the majority of the trip is a great bike ride. It's just that last bit that has me chewing my nails off. There's no way to get to the store without taking this road. Does anyone have any advice for dealing with this kind of thing? Or should I just stick to the car?
    Here is Los Angeles there's a main street named Wilshire Blvd and the I-405 exits into it as you describe. You're in the righthand lane, but that lane merges to the right with a major freeway offramp (and right after a bridge, as well). What I did was sprint like hell as I approached the merging road/offramp. You'll have enough speed to either pass cars that are slowing down or slowly merge to the right. Try to merge after the solid white lines break because you'll be like another car merging instead of darting over and cutting off traffic.

    There's another exit like that by my office, but this time it's going up a mountain and there's no way in hell I can sprint, much less pedal at a nice speed. Luckily, there's an empty sidewalk on the opposite side of the street so I ride up on it until I get to an intersection with a traffic light.

  5. #5
    Biker chick Cyrrus25's Avatar
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    Thanks for the advice. The signalling, I think, should be especially useful. Now if only I can trust that the drivers know them. x_x You'd be horrified to see how few people know what hand signals mean. I think I'm going to try biking it, but at a very quiet time of day. That should help me avoid the worst of the ramp traffic, and still allow me to use all of your great suggestions.

    Thanks, guys!

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    Quote Originally Posted by mac
    There's another exit like that by my office, but this time it's going up a mountain and there's no way in hell I can sprint, much less pedal at a nice speed.
    I also have a highway exit going up hill on my way home. I find my glasses mount mirror helps because I can watch the traffic over a period of time. Then I move across when I notice a gap (looking over my shoulder and giving a hand signal).

  7. #7
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    Speed and traffic volume are everything in these cases. If traffic is slow enough, I can manage almost anything. Likewise, if there are significant breaks in traffic, I can safely exploit them. When traffic is continuous and fast, however, these merges and diverges are sheer hell.
    "Early to bed, early to rise. Work like hell, and advertise." -- George Stahlman
    Capo [dschaw'-poe]: 1959 Modell Campagnolo, S/N 40324; 1960 Sieger, S/N 42624
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  8. #8
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Freeway on and off ramps present their own particular issues... several of the ramps I routinely cross are of the sweeping type John E mentions... and sadly this is the only through surface road in this area of a multitude of freeways... and even the surface road has a speed of 45MPH, which is often pushed to over 50MPH by motorists... especially those that wish to enter the freeways.

    In the first pic, there are three ramps for the same freeway... all shown centered in the pic. The first two are on ramps, and the last big loop is an off ramp where motorists cannot even see back up on to the surface street until they have nearly entered it.

    While these are all within about 500 feet of each other I have to ride very cautiously through the area in slightly different ways: The first ramp I simply look back, and then take the right most through lane and hold it past the ramp, while still in that right most lane, I look and study carefully for any movement from vehicles preparing to turn left toward me across my "bow" to also enter the freeway. Fortunately this is a downhill ride, so I focus on my speed and position, and not my pedaling.

    The third ramp is an off ramp, and I yield to motorists... as I know they do not see any approaching traffic until it is too late. I then become invisible as we all go under a bridge... at that point I am as far to the right, in the bike lane as possible.

    I put a yellow line on the pic to show about where I travel... but it is not that accurate.

    The second pic is a freeway offramp that I typically travel... this is the only connection to a valley where I work and bicycles are permitted on the freeway at this location. The fear factor comes in as I leave the freeway and have to cross the right turn off ramp near the top to make my left turn. This is all shown in yellow. The crossing area I emphasized in red. BTW I am doing about 10MPH here as this is an uphill grade. The only way I am convinced that this can be done safely is for me to signal for a long time and get the attention of at least one vehicle using that exit. When I have their attention, and know that they have seen me by slowing way down, I use that car as a shield to cross the ramp to make the left turn.

  9. #9
    Huachuca Rider webist's Avatar
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    I think it is OK not to use a bicycle should you feel that circumstances warrant. I wouldn't want to encourage behavior or risk which might result in avoidable injury or worse. You didn't say so, but I have a vision of a similarly dangerous return trip while loaded down with your purchases. Be careful please - whatever your decision.
    Just Peddlin' Around

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    Member Velo_Seth's Avatar
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    My advice is drive. [I wonder if I'll be flogged for posting that here]. I've had to make similar decisions with some roads. There are some roads that I just don't feel safe cycling on. If I'm not comfortable navigating a particular roadway on a bicycle, then I usually choose to drive it. Better safe than sorry - and I believe that there are some roads and intersections where a car is safer than a cycle.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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    If you are comfortable taking a lane, then go ahead and ride it just like you would in a car. Make sure you watch and take the lane before a car has the chance to cross in front of you. In other words, merge early. This helps if you are able to raise your speed to 20-25 mph to be better on par with those driving around you.

    Try it once at 7:00am on a Saturday (or whenever traffic is lightest). Take the lane like you would if there were significant traffic. Determine what lanes you need to be in to travely through in the straightest line. Then in traffic, take this same path. Keep an eye out for cars trying to invade your space, and be assertive in keeping your lane position (which should be right in the middle of the lane as you pass the on-off ramps).

    The biggest thing... be assertive. Get out into the lane where people can see you as they try to merge on and off the ramps. This is not the situation where you want cars sharing the lane with you. You are best off if you keep all the cars in your lane ahead or behind you.
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  12. #12
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    Brian, you have more faith in motorists than I do. I frequently and confidently take the line on 25 or 30mph/50kph streets, but even with 100k miles/160k km cumulative experience in the saddle, I hate doing so on 50mph/80kph or faster streets. There are simply too many clueless, distracted, inattentive, or aggressive motorists out there.

    Having said that, I do like Gene's trick of trying to enlist one motorist as a moving shield. Short of stopping and waiting for a big break in traffic, this is the only way I have found to survive s/b Gilman Dr. @ the s/b I-5 onramp.

    The real solutions are traffic calming and/or (dare I say it?) bypass ramps for bicyclists and/or pedestrians. I see no safe way to mix bicycle and motor vehicle traffic on fast sweeping free merges and diverges, except where traffic flow has comfortably large, relatively frequent gaps. I welcome "separate but equal" "discriminatory" facilities under these severe conditions.
    "Early to bed, early to rise. Work like hell, and advertise." -- George Stahlman
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    Banned. Helmet Head's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff
    If you are comfortable taking a lane, then go ahead and ride it just like you would in a car. Make sure you watch and take the lane before a car has the chance to cross in front of you. In other words, merge early. This helps if you are able to raise your speed to 20-25 mph to be better on par with those driving around you.

    Try it once at 7:00am on a Saturday (or whenever traffic is lightest). Take the lane like you would if there were significant traffic. Determine what lanes you need to be in to travely through in the straightest line. Then in traffic, take this same path. Keep an eye out for cars trying to invade your space, and be assertive in keeping your lane position (which should be right in the middle of the lane as you pass the on-off ramps).

    The biggest thing... be assertive. Get out into the lane where people can see you as they try to merge on and off the ramps. This is not the situation where you want cars sharing the lane with you. You are best off if you keep all the cars in your lane ahead or behind you.
    Outstanding advice! Good job, Brian.

  14. #14
    Dominatrikes sbhikes's Avatar
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    Curious: how do pedestrians get to this grocery store?

    I have found that occasionally when traffic is less than polite or law abiding that getting off my bike and walking helps. Most drivers do not know that a cyclist is allowed to take the lane and thus can have the right of way. They DO know that pedestrians have the right of way, however. So when they seem especially rude, I'll trump their rudeness with my pedestrian status.

    The other reason I ask is that perhaps there is a pedestrian over/under pass that you are not aware of.
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    If I'm coming up on a ramp, I'll signal and move over one lane, and I'll take the lane until after I've passed the ramp. So far, so good.

    Koffee

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    The 405 /Culver in Irvine merge is the crossing of death. I know of many car accidents, but I do not know of any cycllist be injured or killed there. But it will happen again, if it hasn't happened already.
    The Bike trail drops you off right at the end of an off ramp. there is a light but that doesn't but the aggressive "right on redders" seem to ignore it. I've learned to assert myself into the road to prevent getting clocked. Helps some what, buyt two weeks ago I got bumped by some moron in a porsche carerra , and I think I broke his driver side window after he gave me the finger.

    On top of that, when you cross culver, it drops you off on an "island" that separated the main road from on ramp onto the Northbound 405. It has a crosswalk which cars are required to stop at. But only half usually do. And when they do the traffic behind them his moving so fast, you always hear the brakes beeing slammed on. yesterday, There was almost caused a 4car pile up: Nice lady in Honda stops, three other cars tailgating her were forced to slam on theri breakes and skid all over the place

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    Quote Originally Posted by koffee brown
    If I'm coming up on a ramp, I'll signal and move over one lane, and I'll take the lane until after I've passed the ramp. So far, so good.
    Hopefully you meant: I'll signal, make sure I have the right-of-way to move over with a shoulder check (and, if I don't, wait until there is a gap or someone grants me the right-of-way), and move over one lane...

  18. #18
    Biker chick Cyrrus25's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sbhikes
    Curious: how do pedestrians get to this grocery store?
    I haven't found any pedestrian crossings yet. This whole area isn't terribly pedestrian friendly. The grocery store is located kind of between two major city areas. Rather urban sprawl-esque. The road it's on has sidewalks for 90% of its length, but near the ramps those dissapear. I haven't spotted any way for a pedestrian to get to the place from the direction I'm coming. It seems odd to me, but our area is so car-oriented, I'm sure most people don't notice.

    I think if I head over there at an early hour, preferably before morning rush, I could probably do this without too much trouble. There isn't much else along the road except for the grocery store, so I would think it would be relativly quite in the morning.

    I don't know if I'd feel comfortable taking the lane. I've done that for slower roads, but this one is a bit beyond me. I know it's a LOT safer to do so, and perhaps in the future when I have more experience I'll try it, but right now I think that might do more harm than good. I'd also likely infuriate a lot of drivers. The speed limit says 45mph, but people drive like that's just a suggestion, and there aren't many cyclists around. Drivers assume there won't be things like that to get in the way and drive accordingly.

  19. #19
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    I have to make it past This Monster: http://maps.google.com/maps?q=shelby...5871&t=k&hl=en

    I normally standup on the bike, push real hard, and take the lane. If someone wants to merge i wave them in, otherwise I stare them right in the eye, and keep my finer on the brakes just in case they do something stupid. If I need to merge, I signal until someone gives me a gap, and take it. Sometimes I feel like a 4 lane road is a better place for a cyclist because people have plenty of room to pass you. I find I'm met with the most hosility on narrow roads w/ no shoulder.
    go more faster

  20. #20
    Biker chick Cyrrus25's Avatar
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    That is a beastly highway. O.o;; Whoa.

    Have you ever had problems with drivers adjusting to you being in the lane? The thought of taking the lane sounds like suicide to me, even though I've seen a lot of evidence to the opposite.

  21. #21
    Banned. Helmet Head's Avatar
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    Jeez, even Kentucky wants to be L.A.


    The thought of taking the lane sounds like suicide to me, even though I've seen a lot of evidence to the opposite.
    Yeah, it's about 50% skill/experience and 50% attitude.

  22. #22
    Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Helmet Head
    Jeez, even Kentucky wants to be L.A.



    Yeah, it's about 50% skill/experience and 50% attitude.

    Louisville Metro is pretty big.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louisville
    go more faster

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyrrus25
    That is a beastly highway. O.o;; Whoa.

    Have you ever had problems with drivers adjusting to you being in the lane? The thought of taking the lane sounds like suicide to me, even though I've seen a lot of evidence to the opposite.
    Sometimes peolple freak out when i signal to change lanes. I guess they think i'm going to dart in front of them. I always wait for people to yield, then just move on over.

    I take the lane to protect myself, I think it is safer than riding on the right in some situations. A few of these for me would include:

    1. A blind curve on a slow 2 lane road (I actually ride a little left of the middle on these) This puts me in an approaching driver's line of sight much sooner as they round the turn.

    2. Any time I approach an intersection or right turn (no right hooks for me)

    3. Riding next to cars parked on street (This is a no-brainer)

    4. 45 + Four lane highways. (There are four lanes, I want one. people have plenty of room to go around me)

    When I'm on a normal 2-lane road, I stay as far to the right as possible. If cars are starting to pile up behind me, I pull over and let them pass. Most people pass with caution.

    I have a "curb feeler" that sticks out 16" from my rear axle, on the left side. It's a radio antena w/ a spring at the base so it will flex if i'm in a turn and it scrapes the ground. I assume this looks very dangerous to a passing motorist, because they give me PLENTY of room. (Oh NOS! they are going to scratch my paint!!!). I'm thinking about adding a small flag to the end of it as well.
    go more faster

  24. #24
    Banned. Helmet Head's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kwhord
    Sometimes peolple freak out when i signal to change lanes. I guess they think i'm going to dart in front of them.
    They freak out for good reason. More often than not, when I see a cyclist signal s/he simply moves after signalling, regardless of who has the right-of-way. It's like their hand signal means "here I go", rather than "may I?".

    When I'm driving, I give cyclists a huge berth, because they are so unpredictable. But I can understand why some motorists resent having to do that. If cyclists were more more predictable, there wouldn't be a need (not to mean that a safe margin shouldn't be maintained, just like when passing a motorcyclist).


    Quote Originally Posted by kwhord
    I take the lane to protect myself, I think it is safer than riding on the right in some situations. A few of these for me would include:

    1. A blind curve on a slow 2 lane road (I actually ride a little left of the middle on these) This puts me in an approaching driver's line of sight much sooner as they round the turn.

    2. Any time I approach an intersection or right turn (no right hooks for me)

    3. Riding next to cars parked on street (This is a no-brainer)

    4. 45 + Four lane highways. (There are four lanes, I want one. people have plenty of room to go around me)
    Nice list. Care to update the vehicular cycling entry on Wikipedia accordingly? There is a section on this topic - when vehicular cyclists use the full lane.

  25. #25
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Helmet Head
    They freak out for good reason. More often than not, when I see a cyclist signal s/he simply moves after signalling, regardless of who has the right-of-way. It's like their hand signal means "here I go", rather than "may I?".
    Ever signaled a lane change on the freeway, auto to auto (or motorist to motorist)? Did the motorist in the next lane gladly fall back and give you room? Or did they speed up and move into that spot?

    Sure, sometimes a motorist will give me a willing nod when I am cycling and need to move over. I love that approval and understanding. But just as often I see motorists deciding that they don't want to be behind a bike, and they just ignore you or worse yet, speed up to hold their lane. Perhaps that is why you see cyclists doing what you interpret as "here I go... "

    Of course I have also seen just the opposite... where I have done a head turn just to check the flow of traffic well before a turn and I have had motorists almost come to a halt to let me merge well before I was ready...

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