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  1. #1
    Senior Member Mithrandir's Avatar
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    Advice on a dangerous intersection.

    So I started commuting to work on my bicycle last month, today was my 8th commute. For the most part it goes great, but there's one intersection that bothers the hell out of me, and every time I come up to it, I keep thinking to myself "one of these days, someone is going to kill me here".

    Here's an illustration of the lead-up to the intersection:

    dangerousintersection.jpg

    And a google maps link: http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&sour...03433&t=h&z=19

    So I'm heading west, I'm the blue line. My intention is to go straight west without turning. The majority of the traffic, however, turns North, as the city to the West is pretty dead. The traffic is usually going at a very strong pace, typically 50+ mph. To make matters worse, the entire lead-up to the intersection is on an uphill grade, because the road goes under a rail overpass a few hundred feet prior to the intersection, so I'm typically going slower than normal, say about 10-12mph rather than 15-17mph.

    Traffic is represented by the red line. They NEVER slow down and go behind me into the turn lane. They ALWAYS speed up and cut in front of me and it scares the crap out of me. I don't show this in the diagram, but this goes on up until about 30 feet from the intersection, so they're cutting in at the last possible moment, even though I'm to the left side of the solid turn lane marker, and they have far more than enough room to go behind me to my right.


    Does anyone have any suggestions for how to handle this in a safer manner?

    My first two commutes I wasn't quite ready to ride on the road, so I rode in the sidewalk. On the first one, I rode on the right hand sidewalk, so of course I wasn't able to actually cross the road in the crosswalk because the cars simply ignored me and kept speeding around the corner. So the next commute I decided to be "smart" and ride on the left sidewalk... which isn't smart for various other reasons (almost got T-boned multiple times, so I decided it was time to start VC).

    Any help would be appreciated. The only other route I can take that avoids this and similar intersections adds 3 miles to my commute (bringing it to 22 miles), a time commitment I'm not willing to make at this point in time.

  2. #2
    Senior Member nathan.johnson's Avatar
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    Once the right turn lane starts, you need to move out into the traffic lane far enough so that cars are forced to either pass you in the left lane or in the right hand turn lane. When I need to do this, I try to ride in the right tire rut.

  3. #3
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nathan.johnson View Post
    Once the right turn lane starts, you need to move out into the traffic lane far enough so that cars are forced to either pass you in the left lane or in the right hand turn lane. When I need to do this, I try to ride in the right tire rut.
    You did see this, right?

    The traffic is usually going at a very strong pace, typically 50+ mph. To make matters worse, the entire lead-up to the intersection is on an uphill grade, because the road goes under a rail overpass a few hundred feet prior to the intersection, so I'm typically going slower than normal, say about 10-12mph

    That is a 40 MPH speed differential. Yeah it can be done... but it is not for the timid, and indeed all it takes is one distracted motorist...

    Remember that "right tire track" puts him right in the flow of traffic... Even crossing that heavily used right turn lane (note the sweeping corner) is going to be tough.

  4. #4
    Yabba-Dabba-Doo! AlmostTrick's Avatar
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    This looks like an unpleasant one thanks to the uphill grade, long turn lane, and high motor speeds. If I understand you correctly, you are staying to the left side of the right turn lane. If so, this is why drivers continue to pass on your left. All I can say is what I would try, and that is get over into the right straight through lane earlier, especially since you say most traffic is turning right.

    You can monitor traffic for a good chance to do this. Then signal, look again, and move left. I would ride near the center of the straight through lane, but “float” slightly as conditions warranted. (depending which side cars were on, and which way they wanted to go) I’d also use a mirror and hi-visibility vest/jersey/jacket and bright flashing lights. Be assertive and prepare for a few honks.

    The nice thing about commuting the same time every day is that many drivers will become accustom to seeing and working with you, so things will get easier.

    Keep us posted how it goes.
    Have Bike, Will Travel

  5. #5
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    Not a VC solution, but this might work until you become more comfortable with the higher speed traffic:
    Make the right turn with the majority of traffic, then make a pedestrian style left turn onto Walden (ride straight across the intersection, then stop at the far side and ride with through traffic on Walden. Do a similar left turn onto Baily, and then a right to get you back on track on broadway.

  6. #6
    Senior Member nathan.johnson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by genec View Post
    You did see this, right?
    ...
    That is a 40 MPH speed differential. Yeah it can be done... but it is not for the timid, and indeed all it takes is one distracted motorist...

    Remember that "right tire track" puts him right in the flow of traffic... Even crossing that heavily used right turn lane (note the sweeping corner) is going to be tough.
    I did see that. But he already said he was riding to the left of the white line separating the turn lane from the right through lane. S/he's already in a position where it only takes one distracted motorist. I would use the entire lane to be more visible to motorists. That said, I'm not sure I would do it on a commute every day or not. I certainly would if I was passing through the intersection once. But I think I would try to find another way around, even if it added 3 miles each way.

  7. #7
    Senior Member sggoodri's Avatar
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    If you don't feel comfortable claiming a substantial portion of the through lane under free-flowing conditions due to the prevailing speed, one option is to hang back and wait until the light turns red before moving into a lane-control position. Traffic will need to slow for the red light and you'll be more comfortable claiming your space through the intersection.

    Depending on the length of the red light and how fast you cover the distance, you might be able move into lane control position before the right turn only lane starts and still reach the intersection before traffic speeds up on the next green. Otherwise, you can slowly ride up the right side of the right turn only lane until the light turns red, then negotiate two lateral movements - once across the right turn only lane, and once into the through lane, before reaching the end of the queue. The sequence and duration of the signal phases along with the typical traffic patterns will determine how easy each of these movements will be to make.

    Worst case is that you miscalculate the time and aren't able to merge into the through lane before you reach the line of stopped traffic, and you'll be stuck trying to go straight from the left edge of the right turn only lane. Fortunately, the through lane on the other side of the intersection starts out extra wide. While not legal, you will have enough space on the other side of the intersection to go straight across from a position in the left edge of the right turn only lane. Or, you could play it by the book and make the right turn that your lane designation mandates, and U-turn later.

    I often make a left turn at the top of a hill on a 4-lane 40 mph arterial on my commute home. I find it easier to merge left when the signal turns red, compared to when busy traffic is moving freely, because drivers are slowing down, and are no longer in a hurry to beat the red. The other easy time to move left is when there is a lull in traffic. Being opportunistic may add some time to the commute, but less time than making a detour, and may be less stressful than claiming the lane when traffic is both fast and heavy.

  8. #8
    Transportation Cyclist turbo1889's Avatar
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    I agree on trying to time your approach so that you are approaching the light when it is red to reduce the danger due to reduced speed of the motor vehicle traffic. Other then that the line you are currently taking through the intersection is the same one I would take (as you drew it with your blue line in your diagram).

    I'm not sure how fast the light cycle is at that intersection but if it were me I think I would try to time my approach so that the light turned red when I reached where the solid white line starts between the straight through and right turn lane and then turned green by the time I got to it thus reducing the number of motorists doing a high speed "side swipe" type lane change over the solid line right in front of me and about taking off my front tire with their rear end (which I believe is what you are describing and I have also experienced myself).

  9. #9
    Senior Member Mithrandir's Avatar
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    I did the commute on Friday and tried paying attention to how the traffic ebbs and flows. There is a light about 1/2 a mile prior to the intersection so that proves to be an effective limiter of traffic in that the cars reaching the intersection seem to all reach it simultaneously, with large gaps of no traffic inbetween.

    Friday I was lucky in that I reached the intersection with no traffic. I will have to experiment more with my timing to see what is the "sweet spot" of avoiding the traffic.

    Unfortunately this may all be for naught. My company decided to close my office and make us all remote workers by the end of the year (ie work from home), so I'll no longer have any need to commute after this season. Heh, so much for discovering bicycle commuting

  10. #10
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sggoodri View Post
    If you don't feel comfortable claiming a substantial portion of the through lane under free-flowing conditions due to the prevailing speed, one option is to hang back and wait until the light turns red before moving into a lane-control position. Traffic will need to slow for the red light and you'll be more comfortable claiming your space through the intersection.

    Depending on the length of the red light and how fast you cover the distance, you might be able move into lane control position before the right turn only lane starts and still reach the intersection before traffic speeds up on the next green. Otherwise, you can slowly ride up the right side of the right turn only lane until the light turns red, then negotiate two lateral movements - once across the right turn only lane, and once into the through lane, before reaching the end of the queue. The sequence and duration of the signal phases along with the typical traffic patterns will determine how easy each of these movements will be to make.

    Worst case is that you miscalculate the time and aren't able to merge into the through lane before you reach the line of stopped traffic, and you'll be stuck trying to go straight from the left edge of the right turn only lane. Fortunately, the through lane on the other side of the intersection starts out extra wide. While not legal, you will have enough space on the other side of the intersection to go straight across from a position in the left edge of the right turn only lane. Or, you could play it by the book and make the right turn that your lane designation mandates, and U-turn later.

    I often make a left turn at the top of a hill on a 4-lane 40 mph arterial on my commute home. I find it easier to merge left when the signal turns red, compared to when busy traffic is moving freely, because drivers are slowing down, and are no longer in a hurry to beat the red. The other easy time to move left is when there is a lull in traffic. Being opportunistic may add some time to the commute, but less time than making a detour, and may be less stressful than claiming the lane when traffic is both fast and heavy.
    I do this too... quite often in fact, so much so that I don't even think about it... it just happens... I think that because I am on a bike I am just a bit more aware of the ebb and flow of traffic and I just fall into that rhythm without thinking about it.

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