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New Commuter with Rules of the Road Questions

Old 01-13-16, 08:18 AM
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RcktMan77
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New Commuter with Rules of the Road Questions

Hi,

I have a few scenarios for which I was wondering what the proper way for bicyclists to manage while navigating in traffic.

The first scenario occurs when I'm in a dedicated bike lane coming to an intersection with intentions of going straight through the intersection, but a car ahead of me or passing me is signaling their intention to turn right. How does one best proceed in this instance? Also, if in the same situation but the light is red, or there is a stop sign in which I will need to stop, where in the lane should I stop?

The second scenario I'm unsure about is what to do when I want to turn left. I'm on the right-most side of the right-most lane, and I need to somehow manage to get over two or more lanes while signaling to drivers my intent to do so--and hope they understand my intent. How do you best approach this situation? Where in the left turn lane should I be?

The last scenario I find a bit precarious is when a car moving in the opposite direction is signaling to turn left at an intersection, and my intent is to roll straight through the same intersection with a green light. What's the best way to proceed in this situation to ensure that the driver understands they need to yield me the right of way?

Thanks!
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Old 01-13-16, 08:24 AM
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Get some Bright Strobe Lights for your front and rear.

Ride to Be Safe.

Each time one enters an intersection it is a different scenario.
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Old 01-13-16, 08:59 AM
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@RcktMan77 - Welcome to BF!
Good questions! IMHO I am equal, by law, to other drivers regardless of what they are driving. I tend to obey traffic laws, but not always. The higher priority is my safety and health. I will yield to save my back side, but not without protest.

1. Lights are a good thing as the others should know you are a competent bicyclist with safety awareness. Having said that, be very defensive in your actions. Make the first move like you have the right of way, which you do, but be prepared to yield to bigger and threatening idiots. I ride in DC, which has got to be one of the most threatening environments as nearly all drivers think they are the only ones on the road or that the government has entitled them to have the right away in all situations. If I feel I am threatened, I give with a shout or some sarcastic comment concerning their source of a license. Usually they give. Their turning right in front of you is called a "right hook" in bicycle accident terms.

2. I face this one every commute. My approach varies based on the traffic. If it is light, I will move into the left lane early and own it, ride down the middle or to the side of the oil slick. Fortunately I can ride at 20-25 MPH so I am not a speed bump. My usual approach is to ride across the intersection and stop for the light or stop sign for the cross traffic and then continue. This works really well for me and lets the other vehicles who are stopped see me and my intention prior to a green light.

3. Your description of this scenario would be called a "Left Hook." I am victim of such an act with permanent physical damage as a result. This is almost more dangerous than the right hood as they are going the opposite or orthogonal direction. Assume you have the right away in this situation as well, but be extra careful! I face this every commute and must say I usually am not faced with having to take defensive measures. I think my extremely bright blinking light contributes to the mitigation. This situation I exacerbated when the light is turning yellow and they need to get out of the intersection. If you are already in it, they must yield and typically do. In this town nearly every one runs red lights. when a city this size has a revenue stream of $8-10 million from red light cameras, you know it is dangerous. And then the argument is that the fines are a hardship for the poor! As if, stopping for a red light is impossible!

At a controlled intersection, watch the crosswalk signal as well as the traffic signal. If traffic on my left is non existent, I will start across the intersection on a yellow to them. This gets me almost all the way across a 6 lane intersection before the cars going in my direction can get across as well as gives me time to get up to speed. By the time I get to the middle, the traffic from the right is stopped. Remember, it is the difference in speed that kills, not the speed itself.
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Old 01-13-16, 09:39 AM
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In all those situations, controlling the lane in the vicinity of the intersection is by far your safest bet. Don't rely on other people to do the right thing, because often they will not.

In 49 states (Oregon of all places being the exception), right-turning motorists are required to turn right from nearest the right-hand curb or edge as possible, which means merging into the bike lane before turning right (this is the reason for the dashed bike lane line near the intersection). This helps prevent a cyclist moving up past the right side of a turning car, and helps prevent the car from passing a cyclist just before turning. Unfortunately most motorists don't do this. It's best to merge out into the right-hand travel lane (center or left of center) until you're past the intersection, then move back to the bike lane.

For left hand turns, if you're in an area with plenty of traffic signals, you might notice that traffic will tend to move in groups or "platoons" with large clear gaps in between. Most of the time you can find one of these gaps near the point where you have to move left, and then just move right on over to the left turn lane without any trouble.

To prevent left crosses, again it's best to merge out of the bike lane into the right-hand travel lane if you see oncoming traffic about to turn left. This helps the other motorist notice you easier (they're not looking for bikes at the edge), and also helps prevent you from being masked behind something like a large box truck where the motorist tries to turn immediately behind the truck and right into you.

There are some animations of these techniques that I will post if I can find them.

For the first two scenarios, a helmet mirror can help you be aware of when a car might be about to pass and try to hook you, and also help you find the big gaps in traffic for moving left, without having to constantly turn your head all the time.
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Old 01-13-16, 09:42 AM
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Commute Orlando did a nice piece with some companion videos. Here's the first one, the rest are linked at the bottom of the article.

I also suggest some quality time with the book, Art of Cycling: Staying Safe On Urban Streets by occasional poster here, Robert Hurst. Two earlier editions have similar titles, all starting with "Art of Cycling".

Your public library may have it with the other cycling books in the non-fiction section at 796.6. Sorry about recommending a trip to the library for < gasp! > a book, but it's an occupational hazard.

As for your specific questions:

1) I pull out behind the offending car and if necessary, pass it on its left.

2a) I work my way over beginning a bit early, signalling my intention (left arm out) and watching in my mirror.

2b) I "take the lane" when in the left-turn only lane. The last place I want to be passed is in the middle of a turn in an intersection. "taking the lane" prevents that.

2 alternate) My last ditch if I can't get over to the left is a two-stage deal. I cross the intersection on the right, then stop on the other side, turn my bike, and wait for that street's green.

3) A good, bright, daytime-visible front blinky, and I wear hi-viz by default. Lane position communicates intention. Don't be a gutter bunny. I drift to the center or even left-of-center of my lane so it's clear that I'm not turning right.

Last edited by tsl; 01-13-16 at 09:45 AM.
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Old 01-13-16, 09:43 AM
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All good answers, I particularly agree with SJX426. I try to draw a balance between my right to the road and understanding many drivers are either not aware of this rule or do not care, here in Phoenix I am convinced it is a heavy dose of both, so I am always prepared to yield. As 10 Wheels correctly said "Each time one enters an intersection it is a different scenario", so you have to be mindful of this and act accordingly and in the interest of your own safety. Some of the greatest lessons I learned through many miles of motorcycling is to assume others do not see you, as you ride play the what if game in your mind so you are prepared to respond when needed and to place your self in a position where you have an escape route.
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Old 01-13-16, 09:44 AM
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Answer to all three: proceed carefully as though they don't see you.
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Old 01-13-16, 09:44 AM
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Here's an illustration of scenario 1:

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Old 01-13-16, 09:47 AM
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Scenario 3:

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Old 01-13-16, 09:58 AM
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New Commuter with Rules of the Road Questions

My standard reply for almost any commuting situation, particularly urban, is wear a rearview mirror; I wear two, left and right, FWIW

Originally Posted by Stun View Post
…The best advice often comes from cyclists that live the closest to you...The exception here would also be Jim from Boston--anyone that can successfully commute around Boston has my full respect and probably knows how to deal with about every intersection imaginable!

Last edited by Jim from Boston; 01-13-16 at 10:16 AM.
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Old 01-13-16, 11:08 AM
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Thanks everyone for your input. I think I have an idea of what I should be doing in each of these situations now, and perhaps with some practice and more experience, I won't be so anxious when encountering them on the road.

One other situation which occurred to me was when there is a dedicated right turn lane adjacent to another lane that allows drivers to either go straight or turn right. If I'm traveling in a bike lane on the right, then am I right in thinking I need to negotiate my way out of the bike lane and move across the dedicated right turn lane and into the the adjacent lane in order to go straight through the intersection?
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Old 01-13-16, 11:34 AM
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I'm in CA where we have the dashed right turn lane. I think most people don't know exactly what the law is and work it out as they go. In the first situation I'll often get a good way left into the traffic lane and out onto the crosswalk, and wave the turning car through to my right. They don't always take it.

In the other scenarios it would depend on the intersection and the level of traffic whether I would behave like a vehicle as @PatrickGSR94 would advocate, or chicken out and use the crosswalk. The more lanes and higher speeds, the more likely I am to join the pedestrians.
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Old 01-13-16, 11:51 AM
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Originally Posted by RcktMan77 View Post
The first scenario occurs when I'm in a dedicated bike lane coming to an intersection with intentions of going straight through the intersection, but a car ahead of me or passing me is signaling their intention to turn right. How does one best proceed in this instance? Also, if in the same situation but the light is red, or there is a stop sign in which I will need to stop, where in the lane should I stop?
If the car is ahead of you, I try to slow and pull into the lane behind the car. This signals the driver that you're not going to swoop by on the right, and allows everyone to proceed in a safe fashion. Technically, the cyclist in the bike lane has right of way, and if they don't have enough room, the car should stop and wait for the cyclist to pass. Personally, I don't advocate defending your right of way in this situation, the cyclist is the loser in a right hook, and overall it disrupts the flow of traffic.
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Old 01-13-16, 12:18 PM
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Originally Posted by RcktMan77 View Post
Thanks everyone for your input. I think I have an idea of what I should be doing in each of these situations now, and perhaps with some practice and more experience, I won't be so anxious when encountering them on the road.

One other situation which occurred to me was when there is a dedicated right turn lane adjacent to another lane that allows drivers to either go straight or turn right. If I'm traveling in a bike lane on the right, then am I right in thinking I need to negotiate my way out of the bike lane and move across the dedicated right turn lane and into the the adjacent lane in order to go straight through the intersection?
@RcktMan77 you should always use the right-most lane that serves your destination. ANY situation that puts a bike lane (allowing straight-through traffic a.k.a. cyclists) to the right of right-turning traffic IMHO should be criminal. Whoever designed such things and/or allowed them to be installed should be held criminally negligent for any car/bike crashes that occur there.

So if you have a RTO lane, and then a lane allowing straight and right-turning traffic, and you want to go straight, then you should merge out of the bike lane and into the right-most straight-through traffic lane. Never, ever place yourself to the right of right-turning traffic if you yourself intend to go straight.

Can you post a link to a Google map/street view of such a location like you have in mind?
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Old 01-13-16, 12:31 PM
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Hi,

I don't have a particular intersection in mind, but was seeking advice on what to do in these types of situations generally based off of my experience driving and seeing some of these lane options. However this intersection is an interesting one....

https://www.google.com/maps/@32.7508247,-97.3614877,3a,75y,90t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1s-CSMl2Cgh9uABh7SUZg3RQ!2e0!6s%2F%2Fgeo3.ggpht.com%2Fcbk%3Fpanoid%3D-CSMl2Cgh9uABh7SUZg3RQ%26output%3Dthumbnail%26cb_client%3Dsearch.TACTILE.gps%26thumb%3D2%26w%3D392%26 h%3D106%26yaw%3D35.970604%26pitch%3D0!7i13312!8i6656
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Old 01-13-16, 12:37 PM
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Originally Posted by RcktMan77 View Post
Hi,

I don't have a particular intersection in mind, but was seeking advice on what to do in these types of situations generally based off of my experience driving and seeing some of these lane options. However this intersection is an interesting one....
Don't take this the wrong way, but just use your common sense based on the circumstances. Everyone rides differently, some follow car rules, some none at all, and everything in between. If you try to ride predictably and defensively, you can ride almost anywhere in reasonable safety. Stay off highways unless it is legal to ride on the shoulder.
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Old 01-13-16, 01:14 PM
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Originally Posted by RcktMan77 View Post
Hi,

I don't have a particular intersection in mind, but was seeking advice on what to do in these types of situations generally based off of my experience driving and seeing some of these lane options. However this intersection is an interesting one....

https://www.google.com/maps/@32.7508247,-97.3614877,3a,75y,90t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1s-CSMl2Cgh9uABh7SUZg3RQ!2e0!6s%2F%2Fgeo3.ggpht.com%2Fcbk%3Fpanoid%3D-CSMl2Cgh9uABh7SUZg3RQ%26output%3Dthumbnail%26cb_client%3Dsearch.TACTILE.gps%26thumb%3D2%26w%3D392%26 h%3D106%26yaw%3D35.970604%26pitch%3D0!7i13312!8i6656
Assuming you're referring to going northbound on University Drive, just get in the right-most through lane, just left of the RTO lane. Never use a RTO lane to go straight, as usually there is no receiving lane on the other side and you could get squeezed between the curb and other traffic to your left heading straight. Don't try to split lanes (filter) up in between the right through lane and the RTO lane, because again you could get squeezed between the curb and other traffic by the time you get to the other side of 7th Street.

I have used the very left corner of a RTO lane to go straight on a few occasions when there is a receiving lane on the other side (i.e. one straight lane on my side and 2 lanes on the other side), because the normal straight traffic feeds into the left lane on the other side. But that's a pretty rare occurrence for me.
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Old 01-13-16, 01:25 PM
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Originally Posted by RcktMan77 View Post
when there is a dedicated right turn lane adjacent to another lane that allows drivers to either go straight or turn right. If I'm traveling in a bike lane on the right, then am I right in thinking I need to negotiate my way out of the bike lane and move across the dedicated right turn lane and into the the adjacent lane in order to go straight through the intersection?
In theory the driver is supposed to merge into the bike lane and then turn right, and the bicycle should stay in his lane (barring obstructions and other hazards) and proceed through the intersection. Normally an actual bike lane should be between the right-only lane and the through lane, and that's about where I'd prefer to be regardless of a bike lane.

In practice drivers often do not observe the legally correct practice with respect to bicycles, so we cannot depend on that. What to do depends on the particular intersection and traffic.
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Old 01-13-16, 02:46 PM
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Be really careful in the first scenario. I have witnessed some unbelievably poor judgement by motorists in just this situation. One option is to check for empty lanes to the left that you could occupy temporarily.
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Old 01-13-16, 04:18 PM
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My rules: predict others and be predictable. Drivers of motor vehicles (MV) and drivers of bicycles must yield when changing lanes. If a MV driver wants to turn right and that involves crossing the bike lane, he ought to yield to you. If you think he will, keep moving, but be prepared for him to do the wrong thing. Have your hand on your bell (which you really should have) and also be ready to yell bloody murder if it gets really close.

If the MV driver is in the oncoming direction and is turning left, proceed straight assertively as if you expect him to behave, even though we know he won't. If he starts turning left, start ringing your bell rapidly, and see if he starts to change his speed or course in response. If he doesn't respond to your ringing, start veering to the right to avoid a collision.

If you want to turn left, negotiate lane changes in the same way you would while driving a MV. Look behind you, and if changing lanes does not cause the driver in the next lane to brake or change course, move into the lane. Make frequent head turns to indicate you are aware of who is around you. I turn my head back repeatedly many times. It alerts people to my presence and to my awareness. If you can manage, look backwards for MORE time than you look forwards as you shift left across the lanes. Look forward briefly to make sure you are moving without creating a collision course. You can use your head turns as a left turn signal rather than using a hand signal. This is legal, as it is probably in your state to turn without a hand signal if using a hand signal is dangerous, and that is your call.

If you really don't feel skilled enough to make a left turn that way, go straight across the intersection before turning. Stop at the far side and stop. Turn your stopped bike in the direction of the left turn at the red light and prepare to start the new direction in your new position.
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Old 01-13-16, 09:15 PM
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Originally Posted by alan s View Post
Don't take this the wrong way, but just use your common sense based on the circumstances. Everyone rides differently, some follow car rules, some none at all, and everything in between. If you try to ride predictably and defensively, you can ride almost anywhere in reasonable safety. Stay off highways unless it is legal to ride on the shoulder.
This.

Think for yourself,
Pretty pictures, and dogmatic techniques are useless without good and pragmatic judgment biased on the actual conditions present at a given moment. Until your comfortable making these decisions entirely on your own, stay on roads that don't present these issues.
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Old 01-14-16, 10:32 AM
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Pictures do a better job at illustrating a technique than does a block of words.

The only thing I've been dogmatic about is trying to go straight to the right of right-turning traffic. That simply defies all logic, and is just asking for a collision, especially when everyone is moving steadily through the intersection (green light phase).
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Old 01-14-16, 11:13 AM
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Have you looked at Bicycling Street Smarts? Here's the section on bicycle lanes.

Bicycling Street Smarts, Chapter 4: Non-standard Intersections
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Old 01-14-16, 11:37 AM
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Originally Posted by PatrickGSR94 View Post
Pictures do a better job at illustrating a technique than does a block of words.

The only thing I've been dogmatic about is trying to go straight to the right of right-turning traffic. That simply defies all logic, and is just asking for a collision, especially when everyone is moving steadily through the intersection (green light phase).
Sometimes yes, sometimes no, every situation is different.

While I agree it's important to understand the potential issues, I think it's unwise to suggest there's a simple default solution, or advise how one should address it in a particular manner.
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Old 01-14-16, 11:59 AM
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PatrickGSR94
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I cannot think of a single situation where riding straight to the right side of turning traffic would be advisable. If you know of such a situation please describe it.
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