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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 10-04-10, 01:57 PM   #1
Yalborap
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Commuting question: Merging onto street from the "wrong" side, how do you handle it?

Right, so, with the weather cooling down, I've finally taken to commuting on a regular basis. It's friggin' awesome, even if I'm coming to loathe the hills around here due to just being on a simple single-speed beach cruiser. But hey, that's life.

Here's the issue: I live in a suburby cul-de-sac. My job is surrounded on two sides by major streets(the ones I can come down), and on the third by the local highway. Given this, my best option is to go down one of the streets that can get me right there.

The issue is, my little complex opens up onto this major street from the "wrong" side. That is, I need to make a left turn to get into traffic. And it's a four-lane major street, too. As you can imagine, this is more than a little harrowing and I'm not much a fan. Given the fact that there's a stop sign on my end, but not on the end of the major traffic, how would you fine folks suggest I handle this with a minimum of ill will from people?(Oh, and what people do you need to talk to if you think some stop signs are seriously necessary? Is that a city government kinda thing?)

Thanks in advance.
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Old 10-04-10, 02:23 PM   #2
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If I am understanding correctly you have few options. You can try to cross the street, but if it is really busy could take a while. You could ride on the sidewalk until you get to a spot where you can cross. However if it is heavily walked you may just walk with the bike until you can find a place where you can cross. You could also merge with traffic (going opposite your intended direction) until you can find a place to cross over.
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Old 10-04-10, 02:38 PM   #3
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If I am understanding correctly you have few options. You can try to cross the street, but if it is really busy could take a while. You could ride on the sidewalk until you get to a spot where you can cross. However if it is heavily walked you may just walk with the bike until you can find a place where you can cross. You could also merge with traffic (going opposite your intended direction) until you can find a place to cross over.
These are your best options. I cross 4 lanes of traffic making a left every evening and it can take a while to get enough of a break but I just wait for it. Fortunately, it usually doesn't take too long for a decent opening.
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Old 10-04-10, 02:41 PM   #4
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Yeah, the issue is that the crosswalks are several blocks away from me on either side.

I think I might just have to use the sidewalk to get up there. *sigh* At least I can take the street back...
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Old 10-04-10, 03:25 PM   #5
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Not on my work commute, but on my "errand" commute to stores a half mile away I use sidewalks for two short sections on the return trip because it's just much safer (Intersection of Commonwealth Ave & Chestnut Hill Ave in Boston). It's 4 lanes of traffic intersecting 6 lanes of traffic with treacherous trolley tracks in 3 of the 4 directions. Getting down to the stores is no problem on the road, but getting back in traffic *and* making sure to cross all track and track intersections at 90 degree angles is just about impossible unless I use the sidewalks. Just be courteous to pedestrians and slow to their pace if there is no safe way to pass.
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Old 10-05-10, 03:24 PM   #6
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I make a left onto an uncontrolled major arterial every time I leave work. There is no sidewalk or viable shoulder option. I can cut a gap as tight as any car, but will only do so if the traffic that will be immediately behind me is not too heavy, since they will need to slow or switch lanes to overtake me. I usually get across within a minute or two, just like the folks in cars who also have to wait.

Occasionally, when presented with a gap in the first three lanes but not the fourth, (the curb lane going in my intended direction) I just pull out into the left lane going in my direction and then merge over to the right lane. It doesn’t feel as scary as it sounds.
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Old 10-05-10, 03:59 PM   #7
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I have to cross 4 lanes to turn left into my parking lot in the morning. There is a turn lane so it's not too hard, early in the day, to cross 2 eastbound lanes into the turn lane and wait for an opening in the westbound lanes.

Later in the day (coming back from lunch, say), traffic has built up and I cannot cross any lanes. So I either go up past work, cross at the next light and come back down, the correct way, and turn right into the lot,

OR, I cross at the previous intersection before work and go up the sidewalk, past a car dealership and another strip mall before reaching my own strip mall and turning left into the parking lot.

I never ride the wrong way on the street or in a bike lane or on a shoulder.
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Old 10-05-10, 06:28 PM   #8
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My part of town is similar with the cul-de-sac residential areas connected by fast arterials. My work commute is over a mile longer on the bike than in the car. A few blocks detour is annoying but won't impact your commute time substantially especially if it makes it easier to safely cross.

I do have some 6- or 8-lane arterials to cross but fortunately most are divided boulevards so I can manage just crossing halfway and then wait until I get another break in traffic. I also structure my commutes so I am not in the rush hour traffic.

Please, do NOT ride upstream against traffic. It is very unsafe. Sidewalks are for pedestrian speeds and are illegal to cycle upon in my area. They are fraught with their own hazards.
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Old 10-05-10, 06:43 PM   #9
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Sidewalk is fine as long as you adjust your riding style for it. Especially if it's only a few blocks..
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Old 10-05-10, 07:54 PM   #10
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Another option is to make a right turn onto the major street, ride as far as the nearest crosswalk or safe place to make a U-turn, cross the street (walking the bike if necessary), and continue in the intended direction of travel. Riding against traffic is not safe, and riding on a sidewalk is not fair to pedestrians (if there are any).
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Old 10-05-10, 08:00 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yalborap View Post
The issue is, my little complex opens up onto this major street from the "wrong" side. That is, I need to make a left turn to get into traffic. And it's a four-lane major street, too. As you can imagine, this is more than a little harrowing and I'm not much a fan.
The first turn at each end of my commute is a left onto a 5-lane US highway. I just wait until I can shoot straight across to the opposite shoulder and merge in from there.
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Old 10-05-10, 10:06 PM   #12
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If you have to get in the habit of crossing 4 lanes of traffic, you need to get in the habit of making quick decisions for your safety:
1) if little traffic, turn left.
2) if traffic is heavy, turn right, then right again at the next light and do a U-turn of some sort (if traffic is light on that streets), then turn left with the light.

I have a similar problem, but if it's really hectic, I'll simply find a way to safely get to the nearest light that will let me turn left. Even if it takes a few extra minutes... hey.. your on a bike... relax and enjoy it.
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Old 10-05-10, 11:41 PM   #13
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Yellow is option #1. Traffic is 45-60 mph. Guess what color option #2 is since I can rarely get across all of those lanes without being splattered?

Do what's safest for you.
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Old 10-06-10, 11:01 AM   #14
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you should merge into traffic going the opposite direction of work and find a safe legal cross street with a traffic light. either that or cut through a neighbor's backyard to get onto the right road going the right way
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Old 10-06-10, 11:26 AM   #15
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In general, the best instruction I know of for negotiating busy streets can be found at CommuteOrlando.
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Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."
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