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  1. #1
    8speed DinoSORAs Ed Holland's Avatar
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    Making a left turn, traffic and timing...

    On a matter of cycling practice in difficult circumstances.

    Here's one. Driving on the right (USA) It can be difficult at times to judge the correct time to move left in order to execute a left turn. This is especially true if there are 1 or more lanes to cross and traffic moving at differing speeds. (The same is true for right turns in the UK etc.)

    There are a couple of places on routes that I ride where this is the case. Occasionally there will be a situation where a platoon of traffic is approaching, such that it would preclude safe & easy manouvres at the usual distance from the intersection. In this case one can choose to move early, whilst you have the road to yourself. This brings the problem of riding in the leftmost lane with traffic for some distance before the left turn lane is reached. I have a tendancy to bias left in this situation, such that cars pass to my right, but there is the option of full lane occupancy. This latter choice might be vehicular, but it certainly feels exposed. Occasionally there is a honk on the horn from a motorist .

    Then there is the need to move through steady traffic that is moving faster than the cyclist e.g. a 2 or 3lane (each direction) expressway with 45 mph limit. Cars often let you in, but there is no guarantee, and it can be hard to trust that each has acknowledged you as you shift lanes.

    I'm not a shy cyclist, but these situations can still put the wind up me on ocasion.

    Thoughts please.

    Ed

    Thoughts please.
    Get a bicycle. You will certainly not regret it, if you live.

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    Senior Member curbtender's Avatar
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    If I didn't feel safe I'd stay to the right until I had an intersection with a light and then proceed with cross traffic. Anywhere in CA with a 45 speed limit and 3 lanes you are going to get some cars doing 50+.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ed Holland View Post
    On a matter of cycling practice in difficult circumstances.

    Here's one. Driving on the right (USA) It can be difficult at times to judge the correct time to move left in order to execute a left turn. This is especially true if there are 1 or more lanes to cross and traffic moving at differing speeds. (The same is true for right turns in the UK etc.)

    There are a couple of places on routes that I ride where this is the case. Occasionally there will be a situation where a platoon of traffic is approaching, such that it would preclude safe & easy manouvres at the usual distance from the intersection. In this case one can choose to move early, whilst you have the road to yourself. This brings the problem of riding in the leftmost lane with traffic for some distance before the left turn lane is reached. I have a tendancy to bias left in this situation, such that cars pass to my right, but there is the option of full lane occupancy. This latter choice might be vehicular, but it certainly feels exposed. Occasionally there is a honk on the horn from a motorist .

    Then there is the need to move through steady traffic that is moving faster than the cyclist e.g. a 2 or 3lane (each direction) expressway with 45 mph limit. Cars often let you in, but there is no guarantee, and it can be hard to trust that each has acknowledged you as you shift lanes.

    I'm not a shy cyclist, but these situations can still put the wind up me on ocasion.

    Thoughts please.

    Ed

    Thoughts please.
    This brings back an old saying from the Cold War. Trust but Verify. You never have to trust that a motorist has acknowledged your request to move in front of him. Just look at what he does. If he slows down for you, then he has acknowledged that he will accede to your request. If he doesn't slow down, then then he has not agreed to your request. That's all there is to that.

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    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    a vacuous witticism when applied to traffic cycling. i think bicycling sometimes does not afford the moment of verification. overly simplistic application of motorist/bicyclist interactions.

    On high speed arterials, I hope I know in advance my turn is upcoming, and try to find the back of a pack, and roll up on lefts as the traffic is slowing, or be in front of a pack and reach the left side in front of a pod of traffic.

    sometimes the move to the left is soon after the previous light, as the pod affect makes the early grab of the left hand lane more expeditious.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ed Holland View Post
    I have a tendancy to bias left in this situation, such that cars pass to my right, but there is the option of full lane occupancy. This latter choice might be vehicular, but it certainly feels exposed. Occasionally there is a honk on the horn from a motorist .
    I think this is the safest option. It's clear what you're doing and unless the person behind you is inattentive (which could happen in any situation and have the same disastrous effects, but of course is so rare as to be not worth worrying about) then you will be easily spotted and avoided. It might irritate people that think you should be on the sidewalk, but they're relatively rare and unless you want to end up standing at a pedestrian crossing pushing the button and wondering if it worked then you've chosen the safest alternative. The alternative of multiple negotiations in a stimulus-rich situation seems more probable to tend to confusion to me. I know what you mean about the exposed feeling though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ed Holland View Post
    On a matter of cycling practice in difficult circumstances.

    Here's one. Driving on the right (USA) It can be difficult at times to judge the correct time to move left in order to execute a left turn. This is especially true if there are 1 or more lanes to cross and traffic moving at differing speeds. (The same is true for right turns in the UK etc.)

    There are a couple of places on routes that I ride where this is the case. Occasionally there will be a situation where a platoon of traffic is approaching, such that it would preclude safe & easy manouvres at the usual distance from the intersection. In this case one can choose to move early, whilst you have the road to yourself. This brings the problem of riding in the leftmost lane with traffic for some distance before the left turn lane is reached. I have a tendancy to bias left in this situation, such that cars pass to my right, but there is the option of full lane occupancy. This latter choice might be vehicular, but it certainly feels exposed. Occasionally there is a honk on the horn from a motorist .

    Then there is the need to move through steady traffic that is moving faster than the cyclist e.g. a 2 or 3lane (each direction) expressway with 45 mph limit. Cars often let you in, but there is no guarantee, and it can be hard to trust that each has acknowledged you as you shift lanes.

    I'm not a shy cyclist, but these situations can still put the wind up me on ocasion.

    Thoughts please.

    Ed

    Thoughts please.
    There is no one-size-fits-all for that kind of situation. Depends entirely on the specific road in question and the specific conditions at the specific time. Possible superior options range from either of the methods you mentioned to a wide variety of different types of two-point turns. As I wrote in another thread the two-point (sometimes called 'pedestrian style') left turn could actually be a time saver on a busy street. I would shoot for maximum smooth-eration. If you can roll with the flow, roll with it. If you are causing drivers to stomp on the brakes then it seems unlikely you are using the smoothest or safest possible method. It's my opinion that putting oneself in the left lane of a busy high-speed arterial in front of approaching traffic just to make a left turn that could be made in any number of other ways is less safe than commonly portrayed on this forum, and in my experience requires more trust in other road users than I prefer to dish out. That said I still do it on occasion. But then, I do lots of things.

    Robert

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    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by curbtender View Post
    If I didn't feel safe I'd stay to the right until I had an intersection with a light and then proceed with cross traffic. Anywhere in CA with a 45 speed limit and 3 lanes you are going to get some cars doing 50+.
    In my area, southern California, we have these same roads with 50, 55, 60 and 65MPH speed limits... I wonder how fast the motorists are going on those streets?

    These are not rural hiways, nor Freeways, but heavily used arterials connecting suburbs and commercial areas.

    My commute route for instance consists of nothing but these heavily used arterials signed at 45 and 50MPH. Of course, during the heaviest of rush hours traffic moves at a crawl... but otherwise it can be quite heavy and steady and fast.

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    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    yes, straddling a double yellow in the middle of opposing lanes of high speed traffic waiting for a gap to cross is just about as unsettling as holding the left hand lane waiting for traffic to clear; have done both, like neither.

    sitting on a center turn lane or in a dedicated turn lane, not so bad. I've seen roads with thin, divided double yellows with a couple of feet in the middle that are not so bad to wait in with your bike to turn left, but these are typically not at major intersections.

    Sometimes, too, the early cross and bit of wrong way cycle is sometimes the most expeditious way to handle traffic dynamics approaching intersections, but hardly recommended unless you know what the heck you're doing out there.

  9. #9
    8speed DinoSORAs Ed Holland's Avatar
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    Thanks for your responses everyone - Interesting points of view from everyone.

    The bit that unsettles me most is where I want to move left into faster moving traffic. It is not that cars are unyielding, but the "trust but verify" process can take longer than one might anticipate - hence the difficulty in timing one's move.
    I'll admit to chosing routes that minimise the need for this type of manouvre, but am reluctant either to give up completely (fat chance ) or end up on slow / out of the way routes.

    Ed
    Get a bicycle. You will certainly not regret it, if you live.

  10. #10
    Bike ≠ Car ≠ Ped. BarracksSi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ed Holland View Post
    The bit that unsettles me most is where I want to move left into faster moving traffic. It is not that cars are unyielding, but the "trust but verify" process can take longer than one might anticipate - hence the difficulty in timing one's move.
    Then wait, of course. Don't be in such a hurry. If you can't get your verification in time, pull over, stop, and give yourself a chance to really figure out what's coming up behind you.

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    Banned. Helmet Head's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ed Holland View Post
    Thanks for your responses everyone - Interesting points of view from everyone.

    The bit that unsettles me most is where I want to move left into faster moving traffic. It is not that cars are unyielding, but the "trust but verify" process can take longer than one might anticipate - hence the difficulty in timing one's move.
    I'll admit to chosing routes that minimise the need for this type of manouvre, but am reluctant either to give up completely (fat chance ) or end up on slow / out of the way routes.

    Ed
    Dealing with challenging left turn situations on my commute is what caused me to seek some advice, and the only responses that helped me were those from the kind folks on my local bike coalition email list that recommended I read Effective Cycling. That's how I learned how to negotiate for the right of way with fast/busy traffic, instead of just haplessly waiting for a gap.

    It's best to err on the side of starting too early. Worst case is you end up in the leftmost lane in your direction sooner then you may have wanted, ideally, but it's never really a problem. You can ride near the center stripe or median, perhaps in the left tire track, until you get to the left turn pocket or whatever. Most cyclists start the process way too late.

    One rule of thumb is to imagine you're in a car or on a motorcycle in the rightmost lane, and consider the latest you would start moving left in that case. You should start at least that early when on a bike, usually considerably earlier. One hallmark of a seasoned traffic cyclist is regularly starting to move left while still on the block before the one at the end of which you need to turn left.

    Trust but verify doesn't take very long at all. Usually, all I have to do is look back over my left shoulder and the next car immediately slows/yields to let me in. Maybe half the time they don't immediately slow so I stick my arm out (it cannot be understated how much more effective a clear/straight arm signal is than a lame halfassed 45-degree angle arm signal is), and then they immediately slow/yield. Or the next car does. Rarely do I have to wait for the third car (not counting the first one or two that are too close to slow in time when I first look back), and I don't think I've ever had to wait for 4 cars.

    Like with anything else, once you experience successful merge negotiation a few times you quickly develop an innate "feel" for the timing, and it comes naturally. Now I seem to end up in the leftmost lane right before the left turn pocket appears.

    Quote Originally Posted by RobertHurst View Post
    If you can roll with the flow, roll with it. If you are causing drivers to stomp on the brakes then it seems unlikely you are using the smoothest or safest possible method. It's my opinion that putting oneself in the left lane of a busy high-speed arterial in front of approaching traffic just to make a left turn that could be made in any number of other ways is less safe than commonly portrayed on this forum, and in my experience requires more trust in other road users than I prefer to dish out.
    I'm very okay with requesting drivers to let off the gas and even use their brakes () to slow down enough to yield to me and let me in. I do trust them to not stomp on the gas and run me over after slowing to my speed and letting me into the space in front of them , but I don't think that's putting too much trust in others.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bekologist View Post
    yes, straddling a double yellow in the middle of opposing lanes of high speed traffic waiting for a gap to cross is just about as unsettling as holding the left hand lane waiting for traffic to clear; have done both, like neither.
    If there is no left turn pocket and you have to make the left turn from the leftmost lane, I stop near the center of it to wait to turn left, probably biased a bit towards the left, just as I would if I was making a left turn there while riding a motorcycle. It feels odd at first, but remembering motorcyclists do the same thing helps, and you can get accustomed to it pretty quickly, and the feelings of discomfort dissipate... but don't allow that to make you any less vigilant!

  12. #12
    Bike ≠ Car ≠ Ped. BarracksSi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Helmet Head View Post
    I'm very okay with requesting drivers to let off the gas and even use their brakes () to slow down enough to yield to me and let me in. I do trust them to not stomp on the gas and run me over after slowing to my speed and letting me into the space in front of them , but I don't think that's putting too much trust in others.
    I'm not okay with doing that, partly because of the cars immediately near me, but also because of all the cars behind them that probably can't figure out what's going on up ahead and are wondering, "Why the f* do I see brake lights all of a sudden?"

    Of course, if there aren't many cars behind the ones I'd cross in front of, then I can easily afford to hang on for a few seconds while they pass by.

    To me, a busy street is like a semi-controlled herd of very large land animals. I feel safer and less selfish by not disrupting that flow.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BarracksSi View Post
    I'm not okay with doing that, partly because of the cars immediately near me, but also because of all the cars behind them that probably can't figure out what's going on up ahead and are wondering, "Why the f* do I see brake lights all of a sudden?"

    Of course, if there aren't many cars behind the ones I'd cross in front of, then I can easily afford to hang on for a few seconds while they pass by.

    To me, a busy street is like a semi-controlled herd of very large land animals. I feel safer and less selfish by not disrupting that flow.
    I call this the transference of freeway mentality to surface streets. The causes of ebb and flow in traffic are countless, and much less predictable than it is on freeways. There are traffic signals, drivers pulling off and onto the street, drivers slowing, stopping and backing up in order to park, buses and taxis stopping to load and unload passengers, and often those being slowed can't see why they are being slowed.

    So what? So what if some guy back there is wondering, "Why the f* do I see brake lights all of a sudden?" Why does that even concern you? Why the f* do you care? Let him wonder - keeps him alert. It's a good thing.

    Remember, you have as much right disrupting that flow as anyone else. Feeling that you don't is exactly what Forester is talking about when he talks about "cyclist inferiority complex". Getting over that is critical to being comfortable, effective and safe cycling in traffic. It is neither unsafe nor selfish to cause some disruption in traffic. And once you learn to get comfortable with causing some disruption once in a while, it's like dropping a huge load from your shoulders. Finally, remember, you're asking someone to slow down. They don't slow down unless they agree. And, so, they are the ones causing the slow down... not you! Once they slow down (and everyone behind them), you're just moving into a line of traffic that happens to be moving at your speed.

  14. #14
    Devilmaycare Cycling Fool Allister's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BarracksSi View Post
    To me, a busy street is like a semi-controlled herd of very large land animals. I feel safer and less selfish by not disrupting that flow.
    Beautfully put. Sometimes, you do need to shepherd them a bit though.
    If we learn from our mistakes, I must be a goddamn genius.

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    Banned. Helmet Head's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allister View Post
    Beautfully put. Sometimes, you do need to shepherd them a bit though.
    And sometimes more than just a bit. It's a very useful skill to have available to you...

  16. #16
    Bike ≠ Car ≠ Ped. BarracksSi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Helmet Head View Post
    So what? So what if some guy back there is wondering, "Why the f* do I see brake lights all of a sudden?" Why does that even concern you? Why the f* do you care? Let him wonder - keeps him alert. It's a good thing.
    Because it's okay to engender the attitude that "bikes don't belong on the street because they're too damn slow"?

    Really, I don't get it. I don't see why disrupting traffic flow can be a good thing. All it takes is one person to create a problem, and you've soon got people glancing up and stomping on their brakes -- because many drivers' reaction to the unknown is to simply stop. And, knowing how closely people follow each other, their only option is to stop VERY hard, and if there aren't any rear-end collisions as a result, they're just getting lucky.

    As they say, "if you can't run with the big dogs, stay on the porch." Nobody's got a "right to disrupt traffic flow". To say that they do is just being a selfish jackass.

    It's not some "cyclist inferiority complex". That's bull****. That's a ****ing bull**** statement. Sorry.
    Last edited by BarracksSi; 03-24-08 at 07:54 PM.

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    Bike ≠ Car ≠ Ped. BarracksSi's Avatar
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    Okay -- you want to know why I think it's better to not disrupt traffic?

    Because we CAN. We have the option of taking a five-foot, ten-second detour to duck out of the herd, get a better position, and sneak where we need to go.

    We don't have to stay stuck with motor traffic. They do. They wish they could have the same flexibility.

    But they don't. They can't filter through a hundred yards of stalled bumper-to-bumper traffic. They can't take a quick dodge onto a sidewalk when the going gets really tough. They can't just park in front of the store because all the curbside spots on that block are full.

    Basically, they're screwed.

    That's why I can't agree with the phrase, "cyclist inferiority complex".

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    Surface streets are not freeways.
    Steady traffic flow is not sacrosanct on surface streets.
    Okay, it may not be a good thing to disrupt surface street traffic flow, but it's not necessarily bad.
    People who can't cross streets at intersections without traffic controls drive me nuts too.
    They feel uncomfortable asking motor traffic to stop for them so they can cross. It's ridiculous.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BarracksSi View Post
    As they say, "if you can't run with the big dogs, stay on the porch." Nobody's got a "right to disrupt traffic flow". To say that they do is just being a selfish jackass.
    Which is worse:

    1. Requesting that same direction faster traffic slows temporarily to your speed to allow you to change lanes to turn?

    or

    2. Triggering a stop light for the main road to allow you to cross that road on an intersecting road, causing all traffic in both directions on the main road to come to a complete stop?

    Keep in mind that all drivers have done #2 at some point in time while driving.

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    Bike ≠ Car ≠ Ped. BarracksSi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Helmet Head View Post
    Surface streets are not freeways.
    Steady traffic flow is not sacrosanct on surface streets.
    Okay, it may not be a good thing to disrupt surface street traffic flow, but it's not necessarily bad.
    People who can't cross streets at intersections without traffic controls drive me nuts too.
    They feel uncomfortable asking motor traffic to stop for them so they can cross. It's ridiculous.
    "It may not be a good thing... but it's not necessarily bad." How is something that is "not a good thing" also not bad?

    Coming to a sudden stop with no stoplights in sight IS traffic disruption, and should NOT be something that drivers have to deal with.

    Get over yourself. Someday you'll realize that your version of advocacy is exactly what makes motorists hate bikers even more.
    Last edited by BarracksSi; 03-24-08 at 09:22 PM.

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    Bike ≠ Car ≠ Ped. BarracksSi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by joejack951 View Post
    Which is worse:

    1. Requesting that same direction faster traffic slows temporarily to your speed to allow you to change lanes to turn?

    or

    2. Triggering a stop light for the main road to allow you to cross that road on an intersecting road, causing all traffic in both directions on the main road to come to a complete stop?

    Keep in mind that all drivers have done #2 at some point in time while driving.
    #1 is worse.

    You are not a traffic control. You cannot be seen clearly by anyone more than two or three vehicles deep.

    Stoplights can be seen better by more drivers, creating less of a surprise and fewer "WTF?" moments.

    Think beyond your own little bubble of a universe and how your actions affect people around you.

    #3 would be even better -- pull off and wait for the clump of traffic next to you to pass by, then cross. They don't stop, and you likely wouldn't even have to wait as long as if you tried to trigger a light.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BarracksSi View Post
    "It may not be a good thing... but it's not necessarily bad." How is something that is "not a good thing" also not bad?
    It's not a dichotomy.
    That is, something may be morally neutral as well as good or bad. I think disrupting traffic is a morally neutral thing to do, particularly if you have a legitimate reason to do it. It may not be good, but it's not bad either (claiming that something that is not good is necessarily bad is arguing a false dichotomy).

    Quote Originally Posted by BarracksSi View Post
    Coming to a sudden stop with no stoplights in sight IS traffic disruption, and should NOT be something that drivers have to deal with.
    How does anyone parallel park (which requires stopping in a traffic lane and backing up) in your world?
    How do drivers deal with such disruption in your world?

    Quote Originally Posted by BarracksSi View Post
    Get over yourself. Someday you'll realize that your version of advocacy is exactly what makes motorists hate bikers even more.
    Believe me, I can tell by how well I'm treated how much the type of riding I advocate is appreciated by drivers. The secret is that as long as you are obeying their rules and they can tell what you're doing and why, by and large they are very cool with it. I get way more smiles, waves and nods than honks of impatience or other expressions of anger or dissatisfaction.

    The real irony is that if you make it a priority to not be disruptive, you're more likely to be overlooked (or not noticed as soon) and less predictable and more likely to end up being a source of frustration and anger. From that experience it's easy to imagine that if you got more assertive with lane positioning and negotiation it would only get worse, but if have found that the opposite is true, and I've confirmed this with every cyclist I've met who rides similarly.

    But it sounds like you're convinced I'm the one missing something and you probably can't accept any of this.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BarracksSi View Post
    #1 is worse.

    You are not a traffic control. You cannot be seen clearly by anyone more than two or three vehicles deep.

    Stoplights can be seen better by more drivers, creating less of a surprise and fewer "WTF?" moments.

    Think beyond your own little bubble of a universe and how your actions affect people around you.

    #3 would be even better -- pull off and wait for the clump of traffic next to you to pass by, then cross. They don't stop, and you likely wouldn't even have to wait as long as if you tried to trigger a light.
    On my commute home I have a left turn at an uncontrolled intersection (well, stop signs from the side streets - but no controls for the direction I'm traveling prior to turning left). I use to use #3 - I would literally pull over to the curb or even get on the sidewalk and wait for there to be a gap in traffic before I would cut across the road to the left turn pocket. But I got sick of it, because sometimes it would be cold and dark and I would be in a hurry to get home and I'd feel like a schmuck sitting off to the side waiting sometimes for several minutes before there was a break in traffic. Once I learned to "create" my own gaps with negotiation (from reading Effective Cycling) there was no going back. Yes, cars have to slow, but as soon as I get out of the way, they can accelerate and are often caught up with the car in front of them again while I'm still waiting for a break in oncoming traffic to make my left turn from the left turn pocket. In practical terms of actual time lost it's usually not disruptive at all.

  24. #24
    BF's Level 12 Wizard SingingSabre's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BarracksSi View Post
    That's why I can't agree with the phrase, "cyclist inferiority complex".
    They're still throwing that term around? You're serious?

    I thought we debunked that crap last February...as in 2007.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bklyn
    Obviously, the guy's like a 12th level white wizard or something. His mere presence is a danger to mortals.

  25. #25
    Bike ≠ Car ≠ Ped. BarracksSi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Helmet Head View Post
    But it sounds like you're convinced I'm the one missing something and you probably can't accept any of this.
    I can "accept" that you'[removed] love to spin arguments so that they sound like the other guy is a bad person, that's what.

    I finally see why so many other forum members call you [edit] foolish. I really shouldn't be surprised.
    Last edited by lotek; 03-25-08 at 12:23 PM. Reason: removed the personal insult.

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