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Old 12-08-08, 01:41 PM   #1
rotharpunc
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making a left hand turn

when I'm riding I always get nervous when making a left hand turn, since I usually try to ride near the curb side of the lane. When I have to get next to the dividing line, or go into a special turn lane, I get especially nervous, I feel like I'm doing something wrong almost. Am I just being weird or is there some procedure or etiquette I don't know about for making a left hand turn onto a intersecting street while riding on the road?
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Old 12-08-08, 01:51 PM   #2
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It all depends on the road, the traffic, the weather, and your own preferences. If traffic is fairly fast and there is no dedicated leff turn lane, I generally just pull over, wait for a comfortable break in traffic, and then cross the road. If I can easily and safely get into a left turn lane, then I use it.
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Old 12-08-08, 01:54 PM   #3
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As for "etiquette", it's just following the rules of the road, i.e. signal, don't cut anyone off, be in the appropriate lane. You have the legal right to do what you're doing. Regarding safety, concentrate on being aware and predictable. Look for a good space to move into; signal; try to make eye contact with the driver; when you move, do so assertively but not abruptly so that it's clear what you intend to do but it's not a surprise to anyone.

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Old 12-08-08, 01:56 PM   #4
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There are several ways to properly make a left turn. The first, and scariest, is to do it just like a car. Get into the left turn lane and either when traffic is clear or you get the green arrow (depending on the type of control) complete your turn. This is what I usually do even on busy streets. (Hint, if you're in a traffic lane with cars, make sure you have lots of light that is visible day and night.)

The second is to follow the right lane until you get to the far corner the intersection, then stop, dismount and cross as a pedestrian. The third way is similar, except you stop as a pedestrian at the near corner and proceed as a pedestrian across both streets.

In the end, do whatever feels safest to you. If you're not used to it, the first method is scary, but with experience you get more confident in situations like that.
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Old 12-08-08, 02:49 PM   #5
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Another technique is to turn right onto the cross street, make a u-turn, then proceed across in the direction you want to go. This works best when the cross street has very light traffic, and when there's a traffic light. This is my preferred "chickening out" method, as opposed to the cyclist-pedestrian-cyclist transition. Do what works for you, though.
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Old 12-08-08, 03:34 PM   #6
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thanks, I guess I have used a combination of all of those techniques at one time or another depending on traffic conditions and such, I was just wondering if there was any one specific way it was supposed to be done. I'm usually more concerned about not getting hit/hitting anyone or getting hassled by cops then trying to assert my rights as a cyclist, so I try to use common sense while riding, but often times common sense doesn't seem to rule the day, especially when it comes to how people regard cycling on the roadways.
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Old 12-08-08, 04:30 PM   #7
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You have the following choices:

1) Like a motor vehicle: Follow these steps for making left turns just like cars do.
  1. From the right side of the street, look behind you for a gap in traffic. Start looking a half-block or more be-fore the intersection.
  2. When traffic allows, signal left and change lanes. If you can’t find a gap and you’re sure of your skills, get a driver to let you in by making eye con-tact and pointing. Don’t change lanes until you’re sure the driver is yielding!
  3. Go to the middle of the left-turn lane. If there’s more than one turn lane, use the one farthest to the right—unless you’re making another left turn immediately.
  4. If there’s a car already waiting to turn left, get behind it. (Never put yourself next to a car in the same turn lane!) If there’s an oncoming car facing you, waiting to turn left, place as much distance between you and it as you would if you were driving a car.
  5. Turn just like a car does. After the turn, move into the right lane—unless another vehicle is there or you’re making another left turn immediately.







2) Like a pedestrian:
• Ride straight through the intersection to the far crosswalk
• Stop, dismount, and position your bike in the new direction
• Yield to oncoming traffic, or if you are at a signalized intersection, wait for the green or WALK signal
• Walk your bike across the intersection

3) “Box” Left Turn:

Use the box left turn if you can’t merge left before you reach the intersection. Here’s how:
    1. Stay in the right lane and ride across the intersection on the left side of (not in) the crosswalk.
    2. Just before the opposite corner, check whether there’s room for you in the traffic lane to the right of the crosswalk, behind the stop line. If there is, go there and align yourself with traffic.
    3. If there’s no room behind the stop line, stop on the intersection side of the crosswalk and align yourself with traffic.
    4. When the traffic light changes, move with traffic.
Many states don't allow U-turns, so be careful about choosing that option from the suggestions way up above.

Never make a left turn from the right side of the road, even if you’re in a bike lane.
If there’s no turn lane, ride about four feet from the center stripe—far enough out so a left-turning car behind you can’t pass until you’ve finished the turn.
If a car’s stopped at the intersection and you can’t tell whether it’s going to turn left, don’t try to pass it on the left. Stay behind it until it gets through the intersection.
When turning left from a one-way street to another one-way street, you may turn into either the left or right side of the street if it’s safe to do so.



Multiple Left-Turn Lanes

Lane Choice
The Rule: Use the right-most lane that leads to your destination.
Why: You don't cross the path of other drivers also turning left!
Remain in line with, if possible, or if not, to the right of motorists making the same left turn.
End up on the right side of the new street after the turn

Lane Position
This is the same as turning left from a single left-turn-only lane:
Where the right-most left turn lane allows through traffic, position yourself in the left in such a lane.
Or, if the lane is too narrow for side-by-side sharing (3 feet between you and the car), then in the center of the lane

These almost always occur at a traffic signal with a protected left turn phase, thus there is little worry about oncoming or crossing traffic.
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Old 12-08-08, 04:41 PM   #8
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Hmmm...(assume German psychiatrist accent here)..."Ven dit you virst staht to have zees feelings, eh?"

All of the advice I've seen in this thread has been pretty good, but I think no one has addressed the central issue. There are a lot of people hurtling along at insane speeds in huge metal cages that weigh about thirty times what you do. It's reasonable to feel a bit of caution when you have to pull into these faster lanes of traffic.

So, the trick here is twofold. First, you need to pick a time and place where approaching motorists can see you for several seconds before they arrive at your piece of pavement. This means watching traffic behind you, signaling and then moving over when it is clear that approaching motorists will have time to react.

The second part is just to be diligent about approaching traffic as you're in these faster lanes. I keep a lot of my attention on my mirror until it's clear that the motorist behind me has matched my speed (i.e., like when we're both stopped at the light). Until this happens, I have an escape strategy.

Aside from these precautions, you really should just act like a slow moving vehicle; otherwise you violate the Principle of Least Astonishment and you might end up getting hurt by surprising a motorist.
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Old 12-09-08, 04:37 PM   #9
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to abbreviate psychlepath's answer... if there's a crapload of traffic and you feel generally unsafe looking over your shoulder while at the same time holding your left hand out to signal that you intend to continue towards the median and turning with one hand... then yeah, head off to the right to a crosswalk and cross at a green light... otherwise take it easy and DO give drivers the benefit of a hand signal as you make your way to the turning lane.

p.s. if, later on, you find that an oncoming car is cutting you off Before you've had a chance to finish your turn, get a license plate number and/or talk to the driver and/or call 911... no driver has a right to cut off any vehicle, bicycle or car, from completing their legal turn before they may go straight.

p.s.s. if however you're thinking about turning After you've had your chance (turning arrow green light) just wait it out...

apologies if any of the above is obvious; it IS important though.

Last edited by rekall; 12-09-08 at 04:42 PM.
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Old 12-09-08, 06:05 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rotharpunc View Post
when I'm riding I always get nervous when making a left hand turn, since I usually try to ride near the curb side of the lane. When I have to get next to the dividing line, or go into a special turn lane, I get especially nervous, I feel like I'm doing something wrong almost. Am I just being weird or is there some procedure or etiquette I don't know about for making a left hand turn onto a intersecting street while riding on the road?
I feel weird too, but not because I am doing something wrong, but because a left hand turn puts you in probably the most dangerous position you can be in as a cyclist. You have to slow down in a traffic lane populated by cars. And sometimes you must make a complete stop, which is THE most dangerous position you can be in because you are completely defenseless, you can't steer away from a hazard because you are not moving.

Many times, if the traffic is heavy and I know I have to make a left turn, I will actually turn left a street or two before the street I have to turn on if I can get by when there is a break in traffic and thereby avoid coming to a complete stop in the street.
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Old 12-09-08, 06:44 PM   #11
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Funky lane configuration

I got honked at making a left yesterday at this intersection, turning from Williams on to Moorpark to continue heading West.

There are two lanes and a bike lane. The left lane is left only & the right one is left or straight. The straight direction is *much* less busy than the cross street (Moorpark) or the street I was on.

At the red light, I got out past the limit line & most of the way across the crosswalk and signalled left with a high-viz covered jersey, so I think the car behind me that ended up going straight did see me & honked not due so much to suprise, but either "hey you're assuming a lot about my attention & about what the car screaming up behind me might do - watch out our you're going to get run over" or "get the f out my way, I'm a car and you are the puny" but I'm on a new-to-me recumbent still learning the helmet mirror, so I'm not sure what happened. I gave him a toot w/ my AirZound tho.

I think I'll just go straight & wait for the light going West across Gullo until I get used to this intersection. I've mapped out a low conflict route to work and I want to keep it that way. I don't want to reprise my Wash. D.C. windshield-glass-in-my-wrist 20's. Can't reach from the bent anyway

I suppose the assertive way is to take the right lane so cars going straight have to wait.
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Old 12-09-08, 07:16 PM   #12
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You can try Homestead; it's not too busy. And there's a bike lane with signal loops.
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Old 12-09-08, 07:50 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by morganw View Post
I got honked at making a left yesterday ..., turning from Williams on to Moorpark to continue heading West.

There are two lanes and a bike lane. The left lane is left only & the right one is left or straight. The straight direction is *much* less busy than the cross street (Moorpark) or the street I was on.

...

I suppose the assertive way is to take the right lane so cars going straight have to wait.
Your "assertive way" is the only safe way. You should be turning left from the left third of the left-or-straight lane, not its right side margin or a bike lane or shoulder to its right, which should be used only for straight ahead.
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Old 12-09-08, 08:52 PM   #14
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Left turn like cars do, but since there is a speed difference you will need to wait for a bigger gap to move across. If you are on a street with traffic lights, these will create significant gaps in the traffic. These gaps may mean you wiil have to get to the middle of the road much earlier than if you were in a car. Since cars definitely dont want hit oncoming traffic, they will leave plenty of space for you in the middle of the road. Glasses mount mirror helps keep you aware of when the traffic gaps are coming.
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Old 12-09-08, 09:12 PM   #15
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Much of the advice given here is available in a concise and organized form here, esp. chapters 2-4.
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