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Old 09-28-04, 07:41 AM   #1
bikeforumlegs
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What do you do when approaching cars that are stopped for a red light?

What do you do when approaching cars that are stopped for a red light or for some other reason?

I have been meaning to start a discussion on this for some time, and I am prompted by some of the comments in the thread on right turn on red (Right Turn on Red Strategy).

I never pass non-parked cars, either on their right or their left, and I always prepare to brake when I am in the right lane and a car is stopped in the left lane to turn left.

When I come to a line of cars waiting for a light, I pull in behind the last car in line.
If I am in a straight-ahead only lane, I stay in the extreme right of the lane.
If I am in a straight and right turn lane, I take up the whole lane if I am back from the front a bit, or else I take the lane and watch for people wanting to turn right on red, in which case I shuffle over to let them turn right behind me.
If I am in a straight and/or left turn lane I take up the whole lane.

I cannot think of any reason(s) that are good enough to drive past cars waiting in line. The danger of doing this is way too high for me. Not only can you get doored, or cut off when someone decides to switch lanes, but once you are all the way at the front, now all the cars have to pass you again once you all start moving again, which annoys drivers, and increases risk to me.

What do the Gospels of John say on this topic (I haven't had a chance to read any of them yet)?

Honestly people passing waiting cars is possibly my biggest pet peeve, both as a cyclist and a driver. I am interested in hearing thoughts from both sides of the topic.
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Old 09-28-04, 07:45 AM   #2
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I go to the front of the line. They can pass me, therefore I can pass them.
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Old 09-28-04, 07:45 AM   #3
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I see what you mean about the fact that they all have to pass you again, which can be annoying doing that back and forth thing. However, it's my opinion that cars pass me in non-passing lanes (ie: the two of us in a single lane) because it is inconvenient for them to remain behind me. I do not feel guilty about passing cars because it is inconvenient for me to remain behind them.

Make sense? I am careful about it; I always keep my eyes open for doors and cross traffic. I just don't think I should have to wait in a long line of traffic when I don't have to, and when they all just blew past me anyway.
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Old 09-28-04, 08:04 AM   #4
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I have more problems with buses - you never know how long they will be stopped. But I pass cars all the time. I like seeing the same cars at the next stoplight - I know they know that I am on the road then. Often, I move around the right turners to the front of the pack of cars, then take off before the light changes if it's clear. What worries me the most is when I'm heading towards 5 or 6 parked cars at a light, all going forward or turning left (no turn lane) and a car is coming up behind me that wants to go right. They're going to pass all of the cars in the left lane, and push me into the parked cars. I usually let them pass, give them a thumbs up as I pass them, then hit it in the 2 foot wide section between the right turning cars and the forward/left turning cars...

I'll pass anything. If it's in my way, it is passed. Especially if it is stopped. If it moves, then I'll pass something else to get around them both.
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Old 09-28-04, 08:04 AM   #5
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I do not feel guilty about passing cars because it is inconvenient for me to remain behind them.
Fair enough. I guess when I try to weight the pros and cons on doing that, the only pro I can think of is convenience, while I can think of a number of cons that are all based on safety. In my opinion, safety concerns far outweigh issues of convenience.

My theory when I cycle is to never do anything unexpected to the drivers around me. If they are passing me, then can see me and avoid me. If I am coming up on them from behind, there is a VERY good chance that they don't realize I'm there, and thus may change lanes, open a door, etc...
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Old 09-28-04, 08:22 AM   #6
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It depends. If I am in a bike lane, coming up to a red light, I'll keep going until I get to the light. If I am turning left I'll get over to the turn lane and either take the whole lane or not, depending on if there are cars there or not.
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Old 09-28-04, 08:49 AM   #7
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It depends.

I was going to say a whole bunch of other stuff but there are too many exceptions and complications. In general, the best thing to do is to be cool and not stess out drivers. Usually, if it is a long column of cars in an urban area, I will take a number and get in line, if it is just two or three cars and there is space after the intersection, I'll pass.

What is the standard John Forrester "Effective Cycling" advice in this matter?
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Old 09-28-04, 08:51 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by H23
In general, the best thing to do is to be cool and not stess out drivers.
Not to be a jerk, but do you mean kind of the way they try so hard not to stress out ME? Because I don't mind doing my thing and going where I need to go when I have to fight for every inch of roadspace I get.
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Old 09-28-04, 09:07 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by emilymildew
Not to be a jerk, but do you mean kind of the way they try so hard not to stress out ME? Because I don't mind doing my thing and going where I need to go when I have to fight for every inch of roadspace I get.
I strongly believe that the majority of drivers are not trying to stress you out and that a good percentage even go out of their way to be courteous to cyclists. I also believe that there are well less than 5% of drivers who intentionally harrass and perhaps 20% of drivers who don't know that they are being a problem to cyclists - just unaware and don't know the right thing to do. I think the same is true for how other cars are treated by each other, frankly I get into just as much, if not more situations due to rude/dangerous drivers when I am in my car as when I am on by bicycle. Its just that we as cyclists are far more aware due to the more severe consequences of incidents.

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Old 09-28-04, 09:07 AM   #10
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obviously there are multiple schools of thought here. i tend to go to the head of the line if there's space to do so. at the beginning of my commute home there is a traffic backup of at least a mile along a two-lane road, and there is no way i will "take a number" in that situation. while i agree with the idea of being cool and not stressing out other drivers, it is a balancing act and a give-and-take, as emilymildew alluded. i'm all about not being confrontational in my riding style, but at the same time i cannot be responsible for the state of mind of indivdual drivers. if someone finds it annoying to have to pass me multiple times, god help them when they are confronted with real problems like getting laid off, dying parents, children in trouble at school, et cetera.

edit: and i agree with noisebeam, that the majority of drivers are not really a problem. it's the few who cannot get over themselves that cause problems, and yes it happens just as often if not more often when i am driving a car, but the gravity of the consequences make it a bigger issue for cyclists.
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Old 09-28-04, 09:10 AM   #11
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I do what you do, get behind the last car in line, taking the lane. When the light turns green, I go to the right as soon as practical, including after making a left turn.
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Old 09-28-04, 09:11 AM   #12
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I ride like I am a vehicle. I never pass on the right, unless given a full lane to do so. I line up behind the other vehicles. This has worked very well and I feel by far the safest doing so.

There are some roads into intersections where a single lane widens to two wide, but lanes unmarked, in these cases if I am going straight and the cars are going right (they are lined up to the right) I pass them on the left. If I was a car I could do this too.

I did ride for a month where I didn't line up and pushed to front - I had far more close calls from right turners and squeezing and my comfort level went up considerably when cycling by following the rules of the road.

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Old 09-28-04, 09:17 AM   #13
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It really depneds on the mood of the traffic. Usually I am a mirror of the surroundings; if the cars/drivers are being aggressive, then I have to be - if I'm passive then I'm roadkill. If the traffic/intersection pretty relaxed, I don't mind taking a place in line (MY lane) and waiting it out. but if it's getting hectic - then I'm in survivor mode and go where I have to go to get through.

BTW: I wonder if drivers get peeved when a bike takes a whole land at an intersection?
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Old 09-28-04, 09:20 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cicadashell
obviously there are multiple schools of thought here. i tend to go to the head of the line if there's space to do so. at the beginning of my commute home there is a traffic backup of at least a mile along a two-lane road, and there is no way i will "take a number" in that situation.

Yeah. I also have different thoughts depending on the roads and the situation. If I have a decent shoulder, I view that as 'my lane' and ride as far up as I can go, right up to the light if able to do so. If there is NOT a shoulder or an inadequate one, then I tend to ride in traffic as if I was any other vehicle: but it isn't very long before I find another road to ride on!

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Old 09-28-04, 09:36 AM   #15
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I just had this happen to me today. I started a new route and usually I have to wait in line at the light. I saw one *mart biker just pass me and wait in front beside a truck. I thought about going ahead and staying behind him but I don't know how fast he goes or how he rides. I figure the car behind me knows I am there and the rest of the cars in front of me have to deal with the *mart biker before me. The people behind me have to deal with me. I figure I have a better chance of dealing with both the drivers and the *mart biker better if I stay where I am. It worked and I was able to safely pass the *mart biker. He had no helmet (big surprise) but I was glad he was riding the correct direction. That is the second person this week that has done that. Maybe some are figuring it out ;0) He ended up passing me on the next hill. I am still figuring out how to deal with the new route. Plus I carry things that weigh more. When we were stopped at a light we exchaned a few smiles and he said, "nice" (referring to my bike). I heard his accent and figured he may not know much English. So I didn't mention is non-helmet wearing issue. So the short of it is... I would recommend just staying in place in normal traffice. However if there is a major backup due to an accident or construction.... I just zip ahead. I think it may make some drivers mad...but then maybe they will rethink being trapped in their "Cage".

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Old 09-28-04, 04:22 PM   #16
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I ride up to the front of the line only if the lane up ahead is wide enough for the car to pass. If it's really narrow, there'd be no point in me going up to the line so I'd just wait. No point in frustrating drivers trying to pass me on a narrow lane or put myself in danger.
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Old 09-28-04, 04:29 PM   #17
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My strategy is this: Anything legal goes. Also, if it won't get me a ticket from the average relaxed cop (BAD: run red lights, ride on wrong side of road, etc., OK: take a half lane to the right, ride on boulevard/sidewalk, etc.), it's fair game as long as it doesn't inconvenience anybody, or make an average chilled out driver feel uncomfortable.

I.E: passing a long string of traffic on the right will likely not get me a ticket, but if there's only 1 foot clearance that might freak out a driver. I don't do it.

I.E: passing a string of traffic to a red light and then waiting in front of the traffic for green, not good 'cause then the driver in the lane I'm taking is inconvenienced.

I.E: passing a string of traffic to make a right turn, totally fine.

This seems to only fall apart in the case of beligerent drivers, who don't think bikes should be on the road, and will go out of thier way to be ****** even if you haven't inconvenienced them in any way.

My thoughts...
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Old 09-28-04, 05:38 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by emilymildew
Not to be a jerk, but do you mean kind of the way they try so hard not to stress out ME? Because I don't mind doing my thing and going where I need to go when I have to fight for every inch of roadspace I get.

I know you are being sarcastic but, yes, almost all drivers will try to be cool and not stress out cyclists. As someone said, there are drivers that simply don't know what to do and there are a number of aggressive drivers. These two groups present a risk for us--- but usually not as much a risk as our own dumb selves and poor traffic designs.

I'm from Pittsburgh originally, I know what you mean about having to fight for roadspace. However, Pittsburgh cyclists have it pretty good. There are cities that are much more diabolical.
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Old 09-28-04, 06:36 PM   #19
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up until last week I ALWAYS waited in line, in the middle of the lane, with the cars at any intersection (traffic light or stop sign, whatever), and then as I come through the intersection I edge over to the right of my lane. My passing on the right just doesn't seem safe. Nobody driving a car is going to check their right, rear area before moving.

But last week I got to an intersection with a 4pm Friday backup. I would have had to wait at least two changes of the light had I remained in line, so I said screw that and creeped up a narrow shoulder on the right, and then made a right turn.
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Old 09-28-04, 08:15 PM   #20
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But last week I got to an intersection with a 4pm Friday backup. I would have had to wait at least two changes of the light had I remained in line, so I said screw that and creeped up a narrow shoulder on the right, and then made a right turn.
Sure, there is nothing wrong with going slowly. I don't see why people take this as a black-and-white issue.
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Old 09-28-04, 08:17 PM   #21
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Depends on the situation. If I have a bike lane, I pass 'em all. Some light I get away with passing fine, some places I can't bacause of curbs and parked cars. In the small downtown section, I ride the middle of the lane, but traffis doesn't move faster then me through there.
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Old 09-28-04, 09:07 PM   #22
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Depends on the time of year. On really hot days in summer I find a shady spot -- wherever in the line that may be. Combine a Queensland summer with the slowest traffic lights in Australia and you have a recipe for death by heat exhaustion. At all other times, it depends on what I perceive the light is about to do. If I can make it to the front of the line before the light changes, I will do so. The safest place to be in the scramble that follows a Queensland Halley's comet light change is the front where there is space.

I don't buy into the ol' "they just have to pass me again" line at all. If they're really going any faster than I am (which is rare in even moderate traffic), they'll only have to pass me once and I'll never see them again. If they are continually having to re-pass me, it means I'm having to do the same thing, which means that in real terms (i.e. the time it takes to reach a destination), nobody is getting held up at all, since they're not really moving any faster than I am in anycase.
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Old 09-28-04, 10:53 PM   #23
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Normally what I'll do is line up more or less on the center of the car in front of me, thus making my intended direction obvious to those behind me. I do leave myself "dive room" so that if I need it I have an escape route. If I'm the first one to the intersection I do essentially the same thing perhaps moving over a bit more to the left of center allowing the cars that want to turn right a clear path, but never so much that straight traffic creeps up on me. As I cross the intersection I bring myself back over to the what I call the "safe zone" which is the right third of the road (remember the law is as far right as practicable). This has served me well as I act in a manner that drivers can understand. Of course there's ALWAYS some morons but that's life.
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Old 09-28-04, 11:14 PM   #24
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For the people preaching the "wait in line" method. Why not just drive your car like all the other idiots on the road stuck in gridlock. Today traffic was gridlocked all the way from Major Mack down to at LEAST 401. That's 17km. This is not including the downtown portion past the 401.

You'd "take the lane" and "line up in traffic" ? GG.
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Old 09-29-04, 02:09 AM   #25
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For the people preaching the "wait in line" method. Why not just drive your car like all the other idiots on the road stuck in gridlock.
I think that's the whole point here. There's only one reason that cars wait in those queues -- and that's because they can't to anything else! It's not because they don't try to barge their way to the front (they do, and if I'd had the mind this afternoon I could have taken photos of drivers doing just that), it's simply because they can't. By picking my way through the queue when I'm on my bike, I'm not behaving any differently to any other road user. The only difference is that I actually have the ability to back up my intentions, and they do not.
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