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How far back at congested intersection?

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How far back at congested intersection?

Old 03-16-07, 01:10 AM
  #1  
Gerdz
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How far back at congested intersection?

I have recently re-entered cycling so 'VC' as such is new to me, but I think I mostly ride that way. I don't hold a lane if traffic is flowing too swiftly for me to keep up, but I do use left turn lanes and hold my place in the right lane when going through an intersection. This brings me to my question - if you are approaching an intersection in congested traffic and the rightmost lane can either turn right or continue on straight, how far back do you take your place? This occurred to me on my commute last week when I did as I normally do - I leave the bike lane and take over the right lane behind the last car. I don't want to be surprised by a motorist moving abruptly to the right and I don't want to make anybody mad by passing in the bikelane and then scooting into traffic closer to the light. On this particular day, I waited for 3 cycles of the traffic light and the bike lane started looking awfully tempting. I held my course and waited it out - what would y'all do?
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Old 03-16-07, 02:04 AM
  #2  
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If I am riding my single speed then I usually cut to the front and just sit alongside the front running car, I dont think its worth people getting pissed at me cause i am holding up the lane cause I accelerate slow on my SS. If I am riding my road bike I take my place in line and just wait my turn to go. If the line is REALLY backed up and I am in a hurry I will cut to the front no matter what bike I am on.
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Old 03-16-07, 04:44 AM
  #3  
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Waiting three cycles of lights on a bike seems rather silly to me. A waste of your time and a few other people's as well. I would suggest you stick back to the third or fourth car. Draw level with their rear wheel or, if a decent gap has been left, tuck in behind them and then make sure that the driver behind has seen you.

When a row of cars pulls off, the gaps between them tend to occur naturally allowing you to get behind your selected leader and create a safe space. Feel free to indicate that you are going straight on if you feel your intentions are not obvious.

Couple of things to look out for. Act as if the car in front is going to turn unsignalled (good advice for approaching any junctions really, even in the most VC of positions). Keep behind it and do not accelerate towards it. Watch out for drivers who stop very close to the car in front at lights. They have little regard for their own safety let alone yours. Prepare to stop dead in the cycle lane and wait for the next cycle if conditions change suddenly.
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Old 03-16-07, 06:42 AM
  #4  
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I don't really understand why you leave the bike lane, this doesn't make sense to me. If you are taking a bike lane on your ride, what makes you want to be a VC all of the sudden? If I had to leave the bike lane at an intersection I would pull up behind the last car. I would not go beside the car at the front or decide to just squeak in a few cars back. I really think the best choice is pick one riding style and stick with it.

just my 2 cents.
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Old 03-16-07, 06:52 AM
  #5  
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got to be adaptive; waiting 3 light cycles is excessive. the bike lane is there for a reason; one of the many benefits of a bike lane is that they provide space for bikes to advance on stopped traffic.

you can ride vehicular and still take advantage of a bike lane! A bike lane is a classed lane for bike travel, use them when safe to do so and avoid them when not.

Defiently want to avoid being in ANY of the vehicles' blind spots, but advancing towards the front, and taking a place off the rear bumper, or slightly in front of the car, NOT alongside a car in a blind spot, is beneficial to the rider.

some intersections have CLEAR right turners, sometimes a safe place is on the LEFT side of a right turner towards the front of the line.

Personally, I'm usually heading right to the front of the line, using a bike lane or splitting lanes (more common as not all roads have bike lanes!), and off the stoplight putting the hammer down. My riding style is quite assertive though, i won't recommend that as a technique that works for everybody.

Waiting 3 light cycles due to stopped traffic is taking away a lot of the inherent advantages of riding a bicycle. Advance on stopped traffic if safe to do so. safety first, avoid being stopped in a cars' blind spot, but ADVANCE.

Last edited by Bekologist; 03-16-07 at 07:29 AM.
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Old 03-16-07, 07:23 AM
  #6  
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I don't have bike lanes on my regular route, so I can't speak to that complication. However, a rule of thumb which I learned here and works well for me is that I will pass carefully (usually on the right, but maybe on the left, depending on the situation) until I am within one cycle of the light. Then, as everyone is slowing down because the light has gone red again, I usually find that a gap has opened behind me that I can move into to take my place. Being within one light cycle also means that I can usually maintain speed with the cars once the light has changed until at least halfway through the intersection, so I can maintain my position long enough to avoid right hooks. After the intersection, if it is safe, I will move right again to allow passing. This works very well for me and has become second nature.

Last edited by JohnBrooking; 03-16-07 at 07:44 AM.
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Old 03-16-07, 07:28 AM
  #7  
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Originally Posted by Bekologist
Personally, I'm heading right to the front of the line, and off the stoplight putting the hammer down, but my riding style is quite assertive, i won't recommend that as a technique that works for everbody.

Waiting 3 light cycles due to stopped traffic is taking away a lot of the inherent advantages of riding a bicycle. Advance on stopped traffic if safe to do so. safety first, avoid being stopped in a cars' blind spot, but ADVANCE.
Same here, and we don't even have bike lanes. If there is no danger of cars right hooking you while you are in the bike lane filtering forward why not? Even if there are some drives to the right that cars might turn into you can take it slow. Heck you have 3 light cycles to sit through, plenty of time. Once you are in front of all the cars there is little danger that any of them won't or didn't see you.
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Old 03-16-07, 07:48 AM
  #8  
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the only thing that will make me wait 3 light cycles is a funeral procession.

we don't have bike lanes in my town, either; it depends on which street i'm on as to how i'll deal with the problem, simply because of the prevailing attitudes of drivers -- they must be taken into account at all times, of course. generally, the higher the yolume of cars, the less accomodating they are to bikes, and the more vigilant i must be (over and above my normal 'personal radar'). but i WILL make progress as well -- cars will not just disregard me. i'm just feisty that way.
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Old 03-16-07, 08:53 AM
  #9  
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I'm with John Brooking on this one. His advice sounded good to me.
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Old 03-16-07, 09:57 AM
  #10  
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Originally Posted by sbhikes
I'm with John Brooking on this one. His advice sounded good to me.
I agree, I do as he does in the rare instance that traffic backs up so far that I might miss a light cycle. I'm lucky that I don't experience those conditions often where I ride.
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Old 03-16-07, 09:59 AM
  #11  
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Gerdz, it's a good question, and you have to do what you believe is safest and most appropriate. I tend to ride like you; I take the lane when I am going as fast as traffic, in intersections with a right turn, when the lane is too narrow, when I see a car signalling to park up ahead...etc.

You've received good advice, so far. My behavior would depend on the intersection in question. How many lanes total, and what's the speed limit on the street.

For example, I have a busy street that I commute on during rush hour, and sometimes the right lane (straight or right turn) is backed up, but the left is clear. The speed limit is 25, but cars are lucky to attain 20 during rush hour. I go into the left lane, and then after the green, and after the intersection, I merge into one of the gaps... it has been surprisingly easy. When the left was busy, I filtered between the two lanes, and merged into the right lane after the intersection.

On another street, it's one lane in each direction, with a long line at the light. The road is narrow, so right-turners have to wait until they reach the intersection to move over and turn. I pass slowly and carefully on the right, and time it so that by the time I am approaching the actual intersection, it is green and the cars are starting to creep forward. I merge into an opening gap, and go through in line with the other cars.

At a busier intersection, with a higher speed limit, long wait, and a long light, I would probably do like the others and filter carefully up the front of the line, and make sure I am visible to the first driver.
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Old 03-16-07, 12:30 PM
  #12  
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Originally Posted by JohnBrooking
... a rule of thumb ... I will pass carefully ...
FYI: here are some of the factors that I consider if and when I decide to filter forward carefully:
  1. traffic may start moving at any time (for example, an officer may be standing at the intersection, waving traffic thru)
  2. a vehicle that you're just about to pass may suddenly pull into your path (to drop off a passenger, avoid something happening in front of them, etc.) even if they can't actually make a turn there
  3. a wide vehicle (car, truck) that was waiting at a junction (street, alley, driveway, etc.) may suddenly move into your path thru a gap in the line of vehicles that you're passing
  4. a pedestrian or a narrow vehicle (bike, moped, etc.) may do the same thing, only they can use much smaller gaps
  5. a tractor-trailer rig may use a gap to turn at a junction prior to the light, sweeping the middle of the trailer over your path

Last edited by Bruce Rosar; 03-16-07 at 03:44 PM.
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Old 03-16-07, 01:07 PM
  #13  
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I agree with what Bekologist and Bruce Rosar have written.

If there is so much congestion that I'm likely to miss a cycle, and there is space to do so safely and reasonably, I will filter forward until I find a nice spot to slip in, usually with some kind of friendly non-verbal exchange with the driver I am moving in front of.

I prefer to filter forward in space to the left of the rightmost lane/line of stopped traffic, but will use space to the right, whether or not it is demarcated as a bike lane, if that's the only safe and reasonable option.
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Old 03-16-07, 01:29 PM
  #14  
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If you are taking a bike lane on your ride, what makes you want to be a VC all of the sudden?
Ahh the crux of my hatred for BL's.

Why indeed... maybe because every cycle vs. car instinct I have tells me that BL's are magic white lines that fail miserably at intersections.
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Old 03-16-07, 01:49 PM
  #15  
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Originally Posted by Bekologist
A bike lane is a classed lane for bike travel...
Well, to be precise, it's not a travel lane (despite the name):

Designated Bicycle Lane - A portion of a roadway or shoulder which has been designated for use by bicyclists.
Looking at this definition, note:
  • the lack of the words travel or lane
  • that the facility is for use (parking is a use)
  • the classification bicyclists (i.e., a class of individuals who, by pedaling, aren't operating heavy motor vehicles)

Last edited by Bruce Rosar; 03-16-07 at 03:45 PM.
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Old 03-16-07, 06:40 PM
  #16  
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Thanks for all the replies. I admit - 3 light cycles was probably excessive. I was caught off guard by the delay - my route is usually less congested but there was freeway work or something going on so my frontage road was especially congested. I took my normal place at the end of the line. After the first full cycle I realized how bad it was but felt kind of foolish about leaving my lane and moving up at that point and waited it out. I agree with most of you, except the assertion that it makes no sense to leave the bike lane if that is where you primarily travel. Bike lanes and intersections are a deadly combo, IMO.

Last edited by Gerdz; 03-16-07 at 07:23 PM.
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Old 03-16-07, 11:03 PM
  #17  
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bruce, funny. you proposition bikes will be 'parking', not 'using' via travelling thru a part of the public rights of way designated for bicyclists. Your semantic charade would impress Aristophanes.

do you understand the practical ramifications of bike lanes? you don't ride definitions, dude.

do you have any good advice for the original poster, getting stuck at long lines at lights when there's a bike lane useable and safe to advance on stopped traffic? are you suggesting they use the lane cautiously, then merge with stopped traffic, not use the bike lane to pass stopped traffic and stick it out at the back of the line?

Some of us- even, I dare say, most riders- are capable of more adaptive, expedient use of public space like bike lanes to pass stopped traffic.
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Old 03-16-07, 11:43 PM
  #18  
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I know I use the bike lane to pass by stopped traffic. The BL's in Orange County have a dashed line near the intersection and that is where I signal and exit, merging back into the middle of the traffic lane. It doesn't matter whether I'm at the front or a few cars behind, and I try to get behind about 3 cars at the most, myself. Anymore than that and I will filter or use the bike lane to get to the front.

Of course, bike lanes can be blocked too. The last time I rode through heavily congested and stalled traffic, I blew through all the cars in the bike lane. Until some jerk decided that enough was enough and intentionally jumped into the bike lane to block my path In that case, I just swerved my bike around him, and jumped all the way over to the left of the stalled traffic (I had to make a left turn at the stop light). Then I just moved on my merry way
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Old 03-16-07, 11:59 PM
  #19  
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Originally Posted by Bekologist
you proposition bikes will be 'parking', not 'using' via travelling...
What I wrote was:
... the facility is for use (parking is a use)
which, like the definition, doesn't exclude using the facility for traveling (although I'm not endorsing that).

Originally Posted by Bekologist
...thru a part of the public rights of way designated for bicyclists.
A highway right of way is pretty wide. So wide, in fact, that it can include (in addition to the travel lanes) such things as:
  • parking lanes
  • shoulders
  • sidepaths
  • designated bicycle lanes
Originally Posted by Bekologist
do you have any ... advice for the original poster... getting stuck at ... lights when there's a bike lane useable and safe to advance on stopped traffic?
Since a designated bicycle lane is no more a travel lane than is a parking lane, shoulder or sidepath, I don't agree that they're safe for traveling (although I have seen folks using them that way). The Rules of the Road limit passing in the OP's situation to the left side.
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Old 03-17-07, 12:17 AM
  #20  
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okay, so you wouldn't use a bike lane to pass stopped traffic, Bruce. fair enough. i think you're in the minority, even among the vehicular cyclists in here.

There are many of us that are capable of determining that, facing a long lineup of cars at a stoplight with a bikelane alongside, that

a) when traffic is stopped, and

b)the bike lane is clear; then

c) the ability to proceed cautiously is a go!

'rules of the road 'so allow the original poster to use a bike lane to pass stopped traffic, dude!
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Old 03-17-07, 12:35 AM
  #21  
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Originally Posted by Bekologist
'rules of the road 'so allow the original poster to use a bike lane to pass stopped traffic...
That may be true where you are, but not where I am. By definition a designated bicycle lane is no more a travel lane than a parking lane, shoulder or sidepath is. The Rules of the Road in some states (like the one where I am) require that passing occur in a marked travel lane, but others just require that there's enough room within the paved roadway to pass safely.
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Old 03-17-07, 01:08 AM
  #22  
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so you think bikes are NOT allowed to use a bike lane to pass stopped traffic in your state?

that IS prettty funny, bruce, pardon me while I get a giggle out of your misconstruement of bicycling. goodnight.
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Old 03-17-07, 08:19 AM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by Bekologist
so you think bikes...
No, not the bikes. The people who use them.

Originally Posted by Bekologist
...are NOT allowed to use a bike lane to pass stopped traffic in your state?
The Rules of the Road in some states (like the one where I am) require that passing in the situation the OP described MUST occur in a marked travel lane. Now I can see how someone might look at designated bicycle lane and say: It must be a travel lane for cyclists; it's got lane and bicycle in the name! but names can be deceptive.

Peeking under the cover at what's hiding behind the name reveals that it's really:
a portion of a roadway or shoulder which has been designated for use by bicyclists.
Now we can see that it's no more a travel lane than the shoulder is (heck, it may even be the shoulder) and so isn't legal to use (at least in some states) for passing other traffic in the OP's situation.

Last edited by Bruce Rosar; 03-17-07 at 09:42 AM.
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Old 03-17-07, 08:35 AM
  #24  
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yes, bruce, it is apparant your bias against bike lanes colors your deception regarding use of bike lanes to pass stopped traffic.

To the OP:

if there is a long backup of traffic at a light, by all means use the bike lane to advance. that's what that portion of the public right of way is for, your use by a bicycle.

1)Safety first!
2) find a safe place near the front of the line without placing yourself in a driver's blind spot. Some of us choose to proceed all the way to the front, some choose a few cars back. I'll do either, depending on circumstance.
3) Once traffic begins to move, assert a lane position for your safety thru the intersection and proceed.
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Old 03-17-07, 09:40 AM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by Bekologist
... deception regarding ... bike lanes...
I'd agree that's there deception involved when something that's not a lane is named as if it was one. Given the history of segregated cycle facilities, I can't say I'm surprised that it helps to avoid the possibility that cyclists might block motor vehicle traffic. Michael Farrell (Transportation Planner II, MWCOG) once wrote in the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP) list that:

... if you could get cyclists to take the lane, ... you would cause a lot of traffic congestion. If you want cyclists to ... not block motor vehicle traffic, put in the bike lane.
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