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Old 10-24-02, 11:42 AM   #1
mechBgon
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Traffic-flow dilema, what would you do?

On my commute, I go through a stoplight intersection at 29th and Bernard. Bernard has one lane each way, and no turn lane. However, there is enough room there for two lanes each way.

29th carries more traffic, so the stoplight is green by default for 29th. Traffic on Bernard tends to arrive in bunches, and often the first person in the line wishes to turn left. Obviously, this person has to wait for oncoming through-traffic to clear before making a left turn.

Ideally, everyone would queue up in one line. As soon as two facing people wanted to turn left, they could do so simultaneously. The light won't change to red until there are no more vehicles waiting to go, so the people wanting to go straight might have to wait a bit, but everyone would get through eventually.

In reality, the people in line behind the left-turner don't want to wait their turn in line, and begin passing on the right, sometimes at considerable speed. Even when facing another left-turner, a person planning a left turn is reluctant to proceed when it's possible that a vehicle could come zooming by on the edge and broadside them.

My question: when approaching this intersection, if there are vehicles in line, where do I position myself? If I simply roll up the right side to the stoplight, I'm doing what I don't like others doing: passing on the right like a chump who never learned to wait his turn in line, back in kindergarten. If I stop at the rear of the line of stopped cars and hold position until it really is my turn to go, people who planned on the up-the-sidelines maneuver find themselves stymied by a guy on a bicycle who mysteriously won't move until the vehicles to his 10 o'clock move :confused: Additionally, the oncoming left-turners often spot me and WON'T GO even when facing a left-turner themselves; they evidently think I'm going to dash up the right side myself! :roll: Grrrrr....

About the only foolproof option is to 1) arrive at the intersection first myself, so I'm legitimately at the front of the queue, or 2) join the left-turners myself and wait my turn with complete justification. I think I may write the traffic department and suggest that they put in a turn lane, actually, but I'm interested in hearing any thoughts on this.
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Old 10-24-02, 01:52 PM   #2
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passing on the right is illegal EVERYWHERE so you are justified in blocking the idiots who do it.
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Old 10-24-02, 03:03 PM   #3
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I always weave to the head of the line on my bike - I don't like sucking everyone's tailpipes. Then, once waiting to turn left as in this example I think, I just wait until there's a break in oncoming traffic just like in a car then scoot.

Otherwise, if advancing to the head of the queue doesn't work... I just wait behind the last car I come up to as if I were a car... directly centered behind that car -- leaving space to the right for others to pass if they so desire... eh?

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Old 10-24-02, 03:10 PM   #4
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I think I understand the description of the problem. Though the previous poster is correct about passing on the right, I don't think citing that rule is actually going to solve your problem.

Since,a s a bicycle, we are considered a vehicle according to the law, I would occupy the lane as entitled. However, as a practical matter, I think I'd position myself so as not to block the illegal traffic.

I just reread your post and am not clear as to whether you are trying to turn left or prodeed through the intersection. If turning left, I'd take the left center of the "imaginary" left turn lane and wait my turn to go left. If proceeding through the intersection, I think I'd position myself to the far right of the "imaginary" right lane and proceed through when safe. In either case, you'd need to pay real close attention to what was happening behind you.

Perhaps you could ask the local police to observe this intersection and offer suggestions to errant drivers.
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Old 10-24-02, 03:18 PM   #5
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It sounds like the street you're on doesn't have enough traffic to warrant a protected left arrow and left-turn pocket, according to the traffic engineer's guidelines, assuming there was a survey done, but whatever you as a bicyclist do when you have to turn left in that situation, you know you have to use care. My primary guideline is, in any physical conflict between a bicycle and another vehicle, no matter who is at fault, the bicyclist always loses.

That said, I would just recommend that you choose the safest path for the traffic conditions that are at hand at the time. If traffic is light and you see that the vehicle to your left is indeed turning, you may be able to turn in his shadow without any trouble. If there's any amount of oncoming left-turn traffic, I'd duck in between, if there's enough room, to be sure to turn in a single file, or just wait your turn as you approach the intersection.

But if the traffic is very heavy, a third alternative is to go straight and stop at the far right-hand corner, and wait for the light to change for the opposite direction. That maneuver is generally only needed on a multi-lane road where it may be difficult to change lanes safely into the left-turn lane, but it's always a possibility unless there are oncoming left-turning vehicles as you discribed. It's that case that those vehicles are stopping for, in your description, I guess. But don't depend on it.

Whatever you do, in any amount of traffic, do it slowly and visibly, and be sure the drivers can figure out what you are about to do.

Best of luck,
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Old 10-24-02, 09:10 PM   #6
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Get on the phone to your local council and point out the problem. Maybe getting them to paint some markings on the road indicating where people should be would solve the problem.
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Old 10-24-02, 10:48 PM   #7
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Thanks to all for the feedback. My preference would be to go straight at this intersection, but taking a left and then the next right is an option that takes me home up a side street instead of on the arterial.

I did find the email address for our city's traffic department and sent them an email asking for them to observe the intersection when everyone's heading home from work, and consider marking an official left-turn lane at least. I got a reply from the gentleman saying he'd forward it on to the traffic engineers.
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Old 10-26-02, 08:11 PM   #8
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An official left turn lane might work out well, because it would at least make motorists' and cyclists' intentions clearer. Ambiguity is always dangerous. Given the current configuration, I would not feel guilty about cycling straight ahead when cars are queued up to turn left, but I would be very wary of left turners from the opposing direction.


Whether to use a dedicated far side turn lane is always a case-by-case judgment call. Can you reach it safely? Will you make better progress by making a two-part turn, instead? The higher the speed limit and the wider the street, the more likely I am to be too timid to access the dedicated turn lane.
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Old 10-27-02, 03:24 AM   #9
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This is the ideal situation to quickly change from bicyclist to pedestrian. Pull your bicycle onto the sidewalk and walk your bike past the line of traffic. Cross the street, and then become a bicyclist again.
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Old 10-27-02, 05:52 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by mike
This is the ideal situation to quickly change from bicyclist to pedestrian. Pull your bicycle onto the sidewalk and walk your bike past the line of traffic. Cross the street, and then become a bicyclist again.
This sounds like the only safe alternative (and might actually save you time from the sounds of the situation) other than re-routing your commute to avoid the intersection in question.
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Old 10-27-02, 04:26 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by cycletourist
passing on the right is illegal EVERYWHERE so you are justified in blocking the idiots who do it.
Its actually alowed in Oklahoma granted that the vehicle being passed is making a left hand turn and there is sufficient paved roadway to facilitate the passage of another vehicle.
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Old 10-29-02, 10:25 PM   #12
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I don't know how I'd handle it unless I'd cycled it.

Motorists make up their own rules. We cyclists don't fit into their plans very often.

Be smart. Protect yourself.
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Last edited by LittleBigMan; 10-29-02 at 10:27 PM.
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