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Thread: on/off ramps

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    cyclist/gearhead/cycli... moxfyre's Avatar
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    on/off ramps

    I have been doing this for about 8 months and still am not sure what the proper approach is...

    Every day on the way to work I have to ride over a major interstate overpass. This means crossing one on ramp and one ramp with no stop lights at them. When traffic is heavy it's always very hard to navigate. When the on ramp starts, I'm not sure if I should stay in the middle lane and have cars on both sides of me (all of them indignant, of course) or move all the way to the right, and then try to cross back over when the on-ramp divides from the main road. Both of these approaches feel awfully dangerous to me.

    Any tips? Maybe the vehicular cyclists can help me with this one.
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    Senior Member GeezerGeek's Avatar
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    25 years ago I had 2 close calls in two days on two ramps. I have never crossed a ramp since. I bike about 2 miles out of my way every day just to avoid them.

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    cyclist/gearhead/cycli... moxfyre's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GeezerGeek
    25 years ago I had 2 close calls in two days on two ramps. I have never crossed a ramp since. I bike about 2 miles out of my way every day just to avoid them.
    I would do the same but... if I take the ramps I can get to a lovely series of bike trails which I love to ride on in the mornings.
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    Commuter JohnBrooking's Avatar
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    Do you mean there's an on-ramp going off to the right before the bridge, then you go over the bridge, and there's another ramp of motorist coming off the highway from the right and emptying into your road? How many lanes besides the ramps? How heavy is the traffic, both on your road and the ramps?
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    cyclist/gearhead/cycli... moxfyre's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnBrooking
    Do you mean there's an on-ramp going off to the right before the bridge, then you go over the bridge, and there's another ramp of motorist coming off the highway from the right and emptying into your road? How many lanes besides the ramps? How heavy is the traffic, both on your road and the ramps?
    It's nearly as you've described it, but actually there's an additional ramp of motorists heading ONTO the highway sorta on top of the ramp. There are 3 lanes beside the ramps. The speed limit is 35 mph (~50 km/h) and the traffic when heavy is about 20 feet between successive cars. There are often large trucks too. The whole ugly mess is only about 1/4 mile long, but the most unpleasant and dangerous part of my commute for sure.
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    Quote Originally Posted by moxfyre
    I have been doing this for about 8 months and still am not sure what the proper approach is...

    Every day on the way to work I have to ride over a major interstate overpass. This means crossing one on ramp and one ramp with no stop lights at them. When traffic is heavy it's always very hard to navigate. When the on ramp starts, I'm not sure if I should stay in the middle lane and have cars on both sides of me (all of them indignant, of course) or move all the way to the right, and then try to cross back over when the on-ramp divides from the main road. Both of these approaches feel awfully dangerous to me.

    Any tips? Maybe the vehicular cyclists can help me with this one.
    I encounter a similar situation on my trek to campus. Passe by one on ramp and one off ramp. I stay in the right most lane until about 50-100m before it divides.

    I then start looking for gaps in the traffic, if there is one I signal take the lane and merge into the next lane. If not start signalling and wait, usually the drivers are pretty good about this and let me through. I give them a friendly thank you wave.

    Of course the traffic manual would have you stop at the point where the onramp divides, cross like a pedestrian and remount your bike and continue on. You could also do that if nobody yields to you.

    If you could provide a picture of this concrete mess you're describing it would be helpful.

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    Quote Originally Posted by operator
    I
    Of course the traffic manual would have you stop at the point where the onramp divides, cross like a pedestrian and remount your bike and continue on. You could also do that if nobody yields to you.
    I would say the manual has it pretty well in this no-win situation. I was on the access road to Bangkok from its international airport and it had a dozen of these off/on ramps. I felt much more secure and respected dismounting and making a solid dash to get across. Situations where traffic was light and I felt I was visible to all cars were very rare.

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    Commuter JohnBrooking's Avatar
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    I'm not sure what you mean about the additional ramp going onto the highway at the top, so I'll ignore that for now.

    Sounds scary, and I can't say I've had experience with that, so take this with a grain of salt. I haven't taken the road course or even read the book, I've just commuted for 2-1/2 years and read about VC principles here for a few months, which have confirmed some of the conclusions I'd already come to. So I'm mostly just saying what I think I would do based on my intuition.

    I would definitely not keep all the way to the right and cross back over at the last moment. Way too dangerous and unpredictable, IMHO. You may have to actually take a lane. You say you might "stay in the middle lane", do you mean the middle of the middle lane? Or do you mean on or near the line between the middle lane and the right lane? The latter would be dangerous because you'd be encouraging cars in both lanes to squeeze by you on both sides without really enough room. So the only other alternative seems to be to take a complete lane, and for this, the right lane (not including the on-ramp) is probably the best choice. Yes, motorists will be indignant, but I think this at least will feel most natural to everyone. No worse than if you were a broken-down car travelling at 15 MPH.

    How to negotiate this, I'm not sure. Look for a good space (get a mirror if you don't have one), turn your head a bit (a good visual clue for motorists), signal, start gradually moving into the lane. Easy for me to say, I know. If done gradually enough, hopefully the motorists behind you will have time to react accordingly. By taking the lane, you are guarenteeing that no one will turn right into you (unless someone in the middle lane changes their mind and suddenly decides they need to be on the ramp), and you will be more visible to the people merging into your lane after the bridge.

    Well, I think that would be close to the official VC answer, although I have to say I'm not completely comfortable with it either. As an alternative, I'm sure some others would suggest stopping at the edge of each ramp and crossing it as a pedestrian, waiting for a break in traffic or a nice motorist to wave you across. And maybe that would be safer, intrinsically and/or if it makes you more comfortable.

    What do others say?
    Quote Originally Posted by MadfiNch on Commuting forum
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    cyclist/gearhead/cycli... moxfyre's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnBrooking
    I'm not sure what you mean about the additional ramp going onto the highway at the top, so I'll ignore that for now.

    Sounds scary, and I can't say I've had experience with that, so take this with a grain of salt. I haven't taken the road course or even read the book, I've just commuted for 2-1/2 years and read about VC principles here for a few months, which have confirmed some of the conclusions I'd already come to. So I'm mostly just saying what I think I would do based on my intuition.

    I would definitely not keep all the way to the right and cross back over at the last moment. Way too dangerous and unpredictable, IMHO. You may have to actually take a lane. You say you might "stay in the middle lane", do you mean the middle of the middle lane? Or do you mean on or near the line between the middle lane and the right lane? The latter would be dangerous because you'd be encouraging cars in both lanes to squeeze by you on both sides without really enough room. So the only other alternative seems to be to take a complete lane, and for this, the right lane (not including the on-ramp) is probably the best choice. Yes, motorists will be indignant, but I think this at least will feel most natural to everyone. No worse than if you were a broken-down car travelling at 15 MPH.

    How to negotiate this, I'm not sure. Look for a good space (get a mirror if you don't have one), turn your head a bit (a good visual clue for motorists), signal, start gradually moving into the lane. Easy for me to say, I know. If done gradually enough, hopefully the motorists behind you will have time to react accordingly. By taking the lane, you are guarenteeing that no one will turn right into you (unless someone in the middle lane changes their mind and suddenly decides they need to be on the ramp), and you will be more visible to the people merging into your lane after the bridge.

    Well, I think that would be close to the official VC answer, although I have to say I'm not completely comfortable with it either. As an alternative, I'm sure some others would suggest stopping at the edge of each ramp and crossing it as a pedestrian, waiting for a break in traffic or a nice motorist to wave you across. And maybe that would be safer, intrinsically and/or if it makes you more comfortable.

    What do others say?
    Thanks, John. I think I will try taking the right lane tomorrow morning. I would use the pedestrian approach when the traffic is too heavy, but one of the ramps actually doesn't have any accomodation for pedestrians at all, not even a tiny little shoulder.
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    Senior Member Dchiefransom's Avatar
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    I haven't read Forrester's book, but I probably wouldn't take the right lane if there is two lanes going on to the freeway(HOV lane). Then I would take the lane to the left of the lane merging onto the freeway. The other thing you have to watch out for is if there's a solid white line dividing the two lanes. You're not allowed to cross that, so you'd have to take the lane to the left of it before it starts.

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    Depends on traffic speed and density, but I find that doing a left turn signal helps. It emphasises the fact I don't want to go there and that I'm ready to jump in their face...
    Michel Gagnon
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    Are you sure that's the only way to get to those nice bike paths? Maybe there's some other way you haven't heard of yet. You should ask someone locally.
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    cyclist/gearhead/cycli... moxfyre's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sbhikes
    Are you sure that's the only way to get to those nice bike paths? Maybe there's some other way you haven't heard of yet. You should ask someone locally.
    There is another way that basically requires me to go an extra 1.5 miles to skirt this 1/4 mile section. I know it might be worth it for safety, but first I'm gonna try what John suggested.
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    This is what I do crossing interstates 'On/Off' ramps:

    Ride on the right side of the right lane approaching the 'On' ramp. Ride a strait line, staying left of the dividing line between the 'On' ramp and the through lane - you should not change lanes or ride in the 'On' ramp or on the right shoulder.

    Some cars will pass you on the left, cross in front of you and use the 'On' ramp. Most will simply figure out that you are not going to enter the interstate system and pass on your right, excepting cars continuing over the overpass.

    After crossing the bridge, cars using the 'Off' ramp will be merging from your right side. Look back and make sure they see you. Give an arm signal if necessary to make sure the cars yield. If the 'Off' ramp is long, one or two cars may pass you on the right, but most will slow down, wait for you to clear the ramp and pass on the left. Simply continue on in a strait line and you have made it across!
    Last edited by galen_52657; 03-08-05 at 06:49 AM.

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    Commuter JohnBrooking's Avatar
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    I agree with galen, too. That's kind of what I was going for.

    Please let us know how it went.
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    moxfyre, are you trying to tackle the beltway overpass at Ikea? In the morning rush? I must say that I would be inclined to go a mere 1.5 miles out of my way rather than tackle that frazzled area. I don't even like driving there, and cagers are particularly bad on and around the beltway, especially in the morning. Be careful.

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    cyclist/gearhead/cycli... moxfyre's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by velogirl
    moxfyre, are you trying to tackle the beltway overpass at Ikea? In the morning rush? I must say that I would be inclined to go a mere 1.5 miles out of my way rather than tackle that frazzled area. I don't even like driving there, and cagers are particularly bad on and around the beltway, especially in the morning. Be careful.
    Yeah, you got it Today was gridlocked due to light snow, so I didn't have to do any of these things. But I'll report on it tomorrow.
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    No Rocket Surgeon eubi's Avatar
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    If you can leave just a bit earlier it may make a big difference. At least here in the LA area it does.

    I was ten minutes late starting my commute today and the traffic was MUCH heavier.

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    I've got a similar situation where Columbia Pike crosses Arlington Blvd. Several hundred feet before the ramp, I take the lane, riding in the right tire track. I do plenty of shoulder checks to make sure there's no obliviopus sot behind me. Given that the traffic is neither fast nor terribly heavy, it is a mystery why they have a high speed onramp there.

    Paul

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    Heavier traffic is better, low speeds no cars to worry about buzzing you. Just watch for the right hooks or split the lane.

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    I think it may help too, if you get in the correct lane position on the early side, rather than very close to the on ramp. If you need a motorist to let you get in the right place, you have a little time to communicate with a motorist before the ramp. If a driver is cooperative, even if you have to slow him down for a bit it may make sense to be in front of him before you get to the ramp. At least you know this driver has seen you and is slowing if needed. If you slow him down for a while after you get past the ramp and can move over, give a passing sign when you can. And try to give a "Thank you" wave if possible. Some people appreciate it. That motorist may be a regular on that route and may let you get safely in front of him again. If you get close to the driver in traffic, thank the driver too. I know sometimes it's impossible to do this too.

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    Dog is my co-pilot 2manybikes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PaulH
    I've got a similar situation where Columbia Pike crosses Arlington Blvd. Several hundred feet before the ramp, I take the lane, riding in the right tire track. I do plenty of shoulder checks to make sure there's no obliviopus sot behind me. Given that the traffic is neither fast nor terribly heavy, it is a mystery why they have a high speed onramp there.

    Paul


    This gives you a traffic calming (or slowing) effect before the ramp. And you do the lane position as one maneuver before you get to the ramp. You don't have to deal with the ramp at the same time.
    The drivers are less distracted before the ramp too. They can concentrate on just you when they have too. By the time you get to the ramp you are going in a straight predictable line, it’s easier for the drivers to understand your intentions too. It is very clear you are going straight. For me a quality helmet mirror makes all this easier. I can see in front and behind almost at the same time. I never get surprised from behind anymore.
    I think half the battle is being predictable to a driver. It gives them a little more confidence, and that is safer for the cyclist.

  23. #23
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    I detest freeway-style uncontrolled free right turns, merges, and diverges and believe they have no place except on freeways themselves. San Diego's cycling and pedestrian advocacy groups actually got CalTrans to change its policy, such that all new freeway access ramps meet the rest of the street system at right angles and with appropriate traffic controls. If I know in advance about a particularly nasty onramp or offramp, I avoid it if practicable.

    I have been criticized by some vehicular cycling advocates for referring to these abominations as "deathtraps," but that is precisely how I view the worst of them. Get active with your local cycling, pedestrian, and/or disabled access advocacy groups and see if you can have a bit of judicious traffic re-engineering or traffic calming done. Remind your civic leaders of the potential liability nightmare an inherently dangerous intersection represents.

    One of San Diego's most shameful freeway onramps is from southbound Gilman Drive to southbound I-5, one block north of the access to the Rose Canyon bikeway. The San Diego County Bicycle Coalition was able to get this thing restriped so that there was only one right turn lane, and occasionally we get a police sting operation against motorists who turn right from the through lane, potentially endangering cyclists.
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  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by John E

    One of San Diego's most shameful freeway onramps is from southbound Gilman Drive to southbound I-5, one block north of the access to the Rose Canyon bikeway. The San Diego County Bicycle Coalition was able to get this thing restriped so that there was only one right turn lane, and occasionally we get a police sting operation against motorists who turn right from the through lane, potentially endangering cyclists.
    Oh how well I know that spot... I remember when the change took place... raised civility 100%, although there are still dolts that try that right hook entry.

    Another bad spot is west bound I-52 at south bound Genesee... two on ramps and an off ramp all in about 70 yards... A right angled on ramp, followed by a "square" ramp for left turning north bound motorists who are not looking for cyclists, and then finally a looping off-ramp that blindly dumps motorists onto Genesee. Just before that intersection at Governor drive, the bike lane on Genesee is useless... it is right along parallel parked cars. I simply take the lane and ride cautious up to the light on the other side of the bridge, and then begin my climb out of the valley in the BL along the 45MPH traffic.

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    I think I'm going to cry. The advise in this thread is that beautiful. Kudos to operator, JohnBrooking (you learned to explain that from reading this forum???), 2manybikes, and galen for providing what appears to be excellent advise, along with Michael Gagnon's tip about using the hand signal.

    I agree a diagram would be helpful. But to summarize:
    • Before reaching the first ramp, get into the rightmost lane that serves your destination (getting past that ramp, for now). In other words, if there are any lanes that are dedicated to that ramp, get to the left of them. Others have described how to do this, involving waiting for gaps, or negotiating for gaps using look backs over your shoulder and perhaps hand signalling, until someone yields the right-of-way for you.
    • If your lane goes straight only (going off on the ramp is not an option), ride around the right tire track. If you get too far to the right, motorists might try to squeeze their cars into the lane with you - if they do, that's your signal that you're riding too far to the right. But there's no reason to require them to leave more of the lane than necessary in order to pass you safely, so you probably don't have to ride all the way in the center of the lane.
    • If your lane goes straight AND right down the ramp, then you might want to ride further to the left, to give ramp-headed motorists more room on your right to get to the ramp, and to discourage them from passing you on the left and cutting right in front of you.
    • Once you cross the first ramp you have to think about your next position (of course, you should think about it now so you won't have to think about it when you're actually enroute!). Where does your lane go now? Again, choose the rightmost lane that serves your (next) destination, and negotiate as required to get there.


    I have to cross I-5 on my commute. It used to make me nervous. Now it's enjoyable.

    Serge

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