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Old 08-08-07, 12:26 PM   #1
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When the outside lane narrows...

You're riding along in a wide outside lane. Maybe it has a bike lane stripe, maybe not. It doesn't matter. You're riding a few feet from the right edge of the road. Faster same direction traffic is light, but you are passed occasionally.

Up ahead, the outside lane narrows. Maybe it's due to construction. Maybe it's due to a left turn lane being added to the road. Maybe you're transitioning from a place where there is no onstreet parallel parking to where there is. Maybe the road simply narrows. It doesn't really matter. The point is, the outside lane (including BL if one is present) goes from being "wide enough to be safely shared side-by-side" to "too narrow to be safely shared". If there is a bike lane stripe, it disappears.

If you think about this general situation, and some of your regular routes, I suspect you will recognize that this happens fairly often. I bring it up because I rarely see cyclists do the "right thing" in these fairly common situations. What they seem to think and feel is that as long as they maintain their line of travel relative to the right edge of road, they continue to have the right-of-way to proceed. What they don't seem to recognize is that they are merging left relative to the left edge of the outside lane. Whether they are simply maintaining their path or merging is crucial to determining right-of-way relative to traffic that is in the process of passing them.

Forgetting bikes for a second, consider a road with multiple lanes in the given direction where the right lane ends. Say there is a car in the rightmost (outside) lane, and another beside and just behind him in the adjacent lane to the left. As they approach the point where the right lane ends and merges with the adjacent lane, who has the right-of-way? Who is required to yield to whom?

In both scenarios the person to the right should yield to the driver adjacent on the left who is in the process of overtaking. You can't just cut in front of him. You need to wait to let him pass before you move into his path, or you need to signal and negotiate for right of way to merge left into his path. But I almost never see cyclists even look back in these situations, much less yield and/or negotiate for right of way.

Can you think of any situations like this on your regular routes? How do you handle them?

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Old 08-08-07, 12:38 PM   #2
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Pretty much every single place from massilon to cleveland where ive road it is exactly the reverse Near the major intersections the lanes widen to allow for more lanes and the right turn lane (outside lane) is much wider than the strait only and left turn lane. I am sure you have seen the this vehicle makes wide right turns on the back of every city bus and semi. Well thats why the out side right turn lanes are wider.
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Old 08-08-07, 01:01 PM   #3
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Pretty much every single place from massilon to cleveland where ive road it is exactly the reverse Near the major intersections the lanes widen to allow for more lanes and the right turn lane (outside lane) is much wider than the strait only and left turn lane. I am sure you have seen the this vehicle makes wide right turns on the back of every city bus and semi. Well thats why the out side right turn lanes are wider.
Indeed, there are also many places where the outside lane widens, especially at approaches to major intersections. Obviously, that's not what I'm talking about.

On your next ride, look for places where the outside lane narrows, any place where you need to move left relative to the left edge of the outside lane, and try to pay attention to how you handle it.
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Old 08-08-07, 01:04 PM   #4
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I can think of serveral places on my commute that do just that. If I can move over before the lane I am in goes away, I do. Sometimes I have had to stop and handle it as a right turn when traffic was clear. But then I possessed the lane.
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Old 08-08-07, 01:25 PM   #5
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FWIW On another group I brought up the subject how it is preferable with roads that taper that they taper in from the left rather then the right.
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Old 08-08-07, 01:28 PM   #6
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I can think of serveral places on my commute that do just that. If I can move over before the lane I am in goes away, I do. Sometimes I have had to stop and handle it as a right turn when traffic was clear. But then I possessed the lane.
I'm not talking about situations where the outside lane disappears. I'm talking about the analogous situation: where the outside lane narrows.
It's analogous because prior to the narrowing, when the lane is shared, it is being treated as if there are two lanes. Later, when the lane is too narrow to be shared, it's not. So it's like the "virtual lane" you're in disappears. My point is few cyclists seem to treat it like that. They behave as if there virtual lane continues along the right edge of even the outside lane when it is narrow.

When there is a bike lane, and it ends, the transition is a bit more obvious. But even then cyclists seem to just plow ahead without looking back or giving merging a thought.
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Old 08-08-07, 01:46 PM   #7
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The shorter of my commute routes has 4 areas like that on the way in and 6 on the way home (6.7 miles one way) where the pavement width decreases due to a shoulder disappearing or a wide outside lane becoming narrow. I handle these by riding centerish to begin with so that I don't have to deal with last second merges. Depending on my speed, some of the wide areas are too short to even use so I ignore them. When I do use them, I negotiate back into lane through lookbacks and hand signals when necessary. The other commuter who I see often does look back and negotiate the merges as well although he tends to stay to the right any time there is room. The other cyclists I have encountered in these areas hold a steady line a few feet from the road edge.

My longer commute (due to construction) has one area where the right lane ends on the way in. I'm almost always making that right turn onto that road with only a few other vehicles and the first light we encounter (just before the lane ends) is usually red so I ride in the middle lane and keep up with traffic. There is a shoulder for most of the rest of the ride but there are enough intersections that I generally don't use it. When I do, I do have to negotiate back into traffic before the next intersection or right turn lane appears in which case I lookback and use hand signals when necessary to negotiate. Every other cyclist I encounter on this road just stays in the shoulder/right turn lanes to go straight.
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Old 08-08-07, 02:32 PM   #8
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In such situations as you describe, HH, and there are many that I encounter, I will look in my mirror to see if anyone is coming and if they are and the way ahead poses problems if they try to pass me, then I'll move out to the center to block people from passing me. If for some reason I cannot do this (people are right on my tail for instance), then I shrink a little closer to the edge and hope for the best.
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Old 08-08-07, 02:48 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Helmet Head View Post
You're riding along in a wide outside lane. Maybe it has a bike lane stripe, maybe not. It doesn't matter. You're riding a few feet from the right edge of the road. Faster same direction traffic is light, but you are passed occasionally.

Up ahead, the outside lane narrows. Maybe it's due to construction. Maybe it's due to a left turn lane being added to the road. Maybe you're transitioning from a place where there is no onstreet parallel parking to where there is. Maybe the road simply narrows. It doesn't really matter. The point is, the outside lane (including BL if one is present) goes from being "wide enough to be safely shared side-by-side" to "too narrow to be safely shared". If there is a bike lane stripe, it disappears.

If you think about this general situation, and some of your regular routes, I suspect you will recognize that this happens fairly often. I bring it up because I rarely see cyclists do the "right thing" in these fairly common situations. What they seem to think and feel is that as long as they maintain their line of travel relative to the right edge of road, they continue to have the right-of-way to proceed. What they don't seem to recognize is that they are merging left relative to the left edge of the outside lane. Whether they are simply maintaining their path or merging is crucial to determining right-of-way relative to traffic that is in the process of passing them.

Forgetting bikes for a second, consider a road with multiple lanes in the given direction where the right lane ends. Say there is a car in the rightmost (outside) lane, and another beside and just behind him in the adjacent lane to the left. As they approach the point where the right lane ends and merges with the adjacent lane, who has the right-of-way? Who is required to yield to whom?

In both scenarios the person to the right should yield to the driver adjacent on the left who is in the process of overtaking. You can't just cut in front of him. You need to wait to let him pass before you move into his path, or you need to signal and negotiate for right of way to merge left into his path. But I almost never see cyclists even look back in these situations, much less yield and/or negotiate for right of way.

Can you think of any situations like this on your regular routes? How do you handle them?

The difference between a road with a BL and the same situation being presented to motorists, is that in the case of the nice wide car lane (for sake of simplicity... please) there is a nice sign erected some distance before that says "lane ends, merge left." That does not occur for BL... so there is no notice to either the cyclist, nor the motorist in the adjacent lane that some negotiation may need to take place. (this is exactly what happens on Miramar road east bound... )

As far as ROW... well, the motorist in the ending lane should signal and move over when there is space to do so... They should anticipate their needs, plan ahead, signal and merge. However, what often happens is the guy in the ending lane "guns it" and tries to cut off the driver in the next lane left... waiting until the last second to make this move.
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Old 08-08-07, 03:03 PM   #10
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The difference between a road with a BL and the same situation being presented to motorists, is that in the case of the nice wide car lane (for sake of simplicity... please) there is a nice sign erected some distance before that says "lane ends, merge left." That does not occur for BL... so there is no notice to either the cyclist, nor the motorist in the adjacent lane that some negotiation may need to take place. (this is exactly what happens on Miramar road east bound... )

As far as ROW... well, the motorist in the ending lane should signal and move over when there is space to do so... They should anticipate their needs, plan ahead, signal and merge. However, what often happens is the guy in the ending lane "guns it" and tries to cut off the driver in the next lane left... waiting until the last second to make this move.
How would you like to see this? (click on it to see larger image)

bikesmergeleft.gif
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Old 08-08-07, 05:34 PM   #11
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The difference between a road with a BL and the same situation being presented to motorists, is that in the case of the nice wide car lane (for sake of simplicity... please) there is a nice sign erected some distance before that says "lane ends, merge left." That does not occur for BL... so there is no notice to either the cyclist, nor the motorist in the adjacent lane that some negotiation may need to take place. (this is exactly what happens on Miramar road east bound... )
Funny you mention that because the one plus that I have found with bike lanes near me is that some (the ones on the arterials heading towards Philly from my house) are signed before they end letting you know that you need to merge left (a common occurence over the small bridges). The signs are tiny and probably only readable at cyclist speed but they are better than nothing. Obviously, you could remove the stripe and just post "lane narrows" and I'd be even happier.
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Old 08-08-07, 05:49 PM   #12
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How would you like to see this? (click on it to see larger image)

Attachment 51335
Perfect... honestly. Of course a bit larger so everyone can know why the heck I am moving left... that would be quite nice.

As it is now, it only says "Bike lane ends" just as the line ends... along with "Bike Route Begins" (which is really a misnomer as the Bike Route has occured the whole way the BL existed... )
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Old 08-08-07, 05:51 PM   #13
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Funny you mention that because the one plus that I have found with bike lanes near me is that some (the ones on the arterials heading towards Philly from my house) are signed before they end letting you know that you need to merge left (a common occurence over the small bridges). The signs are tiny and probably only readable at cyclist speed but they are better than nothing. Obviously, you could remove the stripe and just post "lane narrows" and I'd be even happier.
The only problem with just "lane narrows" is that the 50MPH motorists don't consider that perhaps it narrows for cyclists too. (not that they "consider" us much at all anyway... )
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Old 08-08-07, 05:54 PM   #14
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Perfect... honestly. Of course a bit larger so everyone can know why the heck I am moving left... that would be quite nice.

As it is now, it only says "Bike lane ends" just as the line ends... along with "Bike Route Begins" (which is really a misnomer as the Bike Route has occured the whole way the BL existed... )
That's not true.

There are distinct classes of bikeways in CA, and a "bike lane" (class 2) is one class of a bikeway while a "bike route" (class 3) is another. If it is a class 2 then it is not a class 3, by definition.
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Old 08-08-07, 05:56 PM   #15
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The only problem with just "lane narrows" is that the 50MPH motorists don't consider that perhaps it narrows for cyclists too. (not that they "consider" us much at all anyway... )
But it tells me, the cyclist, all I need to know. It can be tough to judge a lane width at night in the rain or even on a really bright sunny day at certain speeds.
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Old 08-08-07, 06:16 PM   #16
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The only problem with just "lane narrows" is that the 50MPH motorists don't consider that perhaps it narrows for cyclists too. (not that they "consider" us much at all anyway... )
That doesn't matter, since the merger (the cyclist) has to yield, which is the main point of this thread.

If the driver who has the right of way happens to decide to yield to the cyclist, so the cyclist can merge left into the narrowing lane in front of him, that's nice, but it's not his duty or obligation.
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Old 08-08-07, 07:39 PM   #17
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The sign is a good one, but what'll happen in the real world is everybody in a car will do whatever it takes not to get stuck behind the bike merging left.

Nothing, absolutely NOTHING, will make motorists into patient, polite sharers of the road except getting them on their bikes instead.
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Old 08-08-07, 09:03 PM   #18
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That doesn't matter, since the merger (the cyclist) has to yield, which is the main point of this thread.

If the driver who has the right of way happens to decide to yield to the cyclist, so the cyclist can merge left into the narrowing lane in front of him, that's nice, but it's not his duty or obligation.
If I am well in front of a motorist, and there is plenty of room... I will signal and take the lane. That he has to slow down at some point should not be an issue. In a case like that I don't have to yield and there should be no doubt in the motorists mind that I am in the right place. (you would do the same thing when making a left turn with approaching traffic in a lane to your left, )
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Old 08-08-07, 09:23 PM   #19
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I'm controlling the lane if necessary BEFORE the narrowing begins.

what if its a line of cars spooling up to turn left in front of you that is causing the 'virtual' narrowing?
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Old 08-08-07, 10:46 PM   #20
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If I am well in front of a motorist, and there is plenty of room... I will signal and take the lane. That he has to slow down at some point should not be an issue. In a case like that I don't have to yield and there should be no doubt in the motorists mind that I am in the right place. (you would do the same thing when making a left turn with approaching traffic in a lane to your left, )
Well, duh. If you can establish your right of way within the lane well before he has reached, of course he has to slow down. But this is no different from riding in any narrow lane. That can be handled by posting "share the road" signs at the narrowing like are sometimes posted on any road with a narrow lane (for which I've found no utility, but whatever). The focus here is on the dynamics of transitioning from wide to narrow, and the cyclist's obligation to yield (assuming he has been riding off to the side) during the transition to anyone who is already in the process of passing him, or about to pass him.

The best way to handle it is what JJ essentially described above. Establish early the right-of-way you'll need once the road narrows, before it narrows. Don't wait until you're forced to merge into the path of adjacent traffic.
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Old 08-08-07, 10:48 PM   #21
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I'm controlling the lane if necessary BEFORE the narrowing begins.

what if its a line of cars spooling up to turn left in front of you that is causing the 'virtual' narrowing?
2 points for the first sentence.

I can't picture the scenario you're describing in the second sentence, but I think the answer is the same. Regardless of the cause of the narrowing, you should take control early and not wait until you're forced to merge left.
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Old 08-08-07, 10:52 PM   #22
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Well, duh. If you can establish your right of way within the lane well before he has reached, of course he has to slow down. But this is no different from riding in any narrow lane. That can be handled by posting "share the road" signs at the narrowing like are sometimes posted on any road with a narrow lane (for which I've found no utility, but whatever). The focus here is on the dynamics of transitioning from wide to narrow, and the cyclist's obligation to yield (assuming he has been riding off to the side) during the transition to anyone who is already in the process of passing him, or about to pass him.

The best way to handle it is what JJ essentially described above. Establish early the right-of-way you'll need once the road narrows, before it narrows. Don't wait until you're forced to merge into the path of adjacent traffic.
This is where I think the signs help... by establishing the fact that the road narrows... nothing worse than to be riding along and suddenly find that the road got narrower and you couldn't tell due to traffic conditions... motorists get a fair warning... cyclists do not.

A road narrowing sign tells you that change is up ahead. It gives you time to establish that ROW.

I know the road narrows on Miramar... and dammit too often I forget exactly where. Why do I have to memorize the roads, and drivers of other vehicles don't?
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Old 08-08-07, 11:15 PM   #23
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can't picture cars that are travelling towards you lineing up to turn left in front of you? causing a virtual 'narrowing' of the road ahead?

can't picture cars turning left in front of you causing a narrowing of the road ahead? interesting.......
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Old 08-08-07, 11:42 PM   #24
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can't picture cars that are travelling towards you lineing up to turn left in front of you? causing a virtual 'narrowing' of the road ahead?

can't picture cars turning left in front of you causing a narrowing of the road ahead? interesting.......
Oh, you're talking about left-turners in oncoming traffic! I did not get that at all. I still don't see it though. Why would oncoming traffic be on my half of the road?
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Old 08-09-07, 12:00 AM   #25
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YOUR half?

interesting black and white analysis of very fluid and often chaotic traffic dynamics.
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