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Multi-lane travelling

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Multi-lane travelling

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Old 08-21-02, 10:55 AM
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hipchecker6
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Multi-lane travelling

Need some advice on biking on 4 + lane roads. If I need to turn left, how soon is too soon to get in the left lane? Should I hug the left of the lane or the right? Etc. etc.
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Old 08-21-02, 11:27 AM
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Most folks will tell you that you have as much right to any lane as does a motorized vehicle. Yet it is also true that "slower traffic" keep right.

Generally, what's behind you will more or less dictate the answer to your question. I try to time my move to the left lane so that I do not interfere with the free flow of traffic if possible. If the way is clear to get to the left lane, I take it when I feel that I can make it to the intersection before traffic catches up to me.

Once I have the left lane, I tend to stay to the center right of it for visibility.

Naturally, if the intersection is regulated with traffic signals, follow their guidance.

It is technically "OK" to cause traffic to slow behind you in order to get where you are going. However, you can be correct but also dead or injured. I use a mirror and time my move to the left so as to cause the minimum disruption to traffic flow.

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Old 08-21-02, 12:05 PM
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Timing for "the move" depends on traffic volume. Sometimes when turning left from a very busy street, I bail out altogether and become a pedestrian for the trip across the crosswalk. I make the move as early as I can, but not into heavy fastmoving traffic.

Before the turn, I go to the left lane, but stay on the right side of the left lane. That way I am not fighting for position with other left turning vehicles. After the turn, they can have the left lane, I'll take the right, plus I can head for the sidewalk if they're really bad drivers. When you're on the left side of the left lane, you can easily be forced into oncoming traffic.
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Old 08-21-02, 12:29 PM
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On a 4 lane road, when to get in left lane to turn? So much depends on the road and traffic conditions. Experience and intuition come into play as well.

Generally, signal your intentions clearly and early. Always be patient and wait until you are sure there is a motorist behind you that is assisting you by yielding. Merge left one lane at a time in this fashion. Always be certain you have gained motorist assistance before merging.

Once in the turn lane, hold the middle position until you have completed your turn.

If you don't feel comfortable merging left at a given intersection,
it's perfectly legal to stay in the right lane, cross the intersection and prepare to proceed when the light changes again, using the right lane. Just be sure you do that safely, as well.

Always work with motorists.
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Old 08-21-02, 01:55 PM
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I agree with LittleBigMan, though I would add that, while it is important that you gain recognition by traffic, you should not need assistance from cars except to slow down when you are in the lane and not try to pass in the same lane. Crossing multiple heavily traveled traffic lanes to make a left turn is something that I would consider an advanced move.

In that situation, I would wait for a break in the traffic that is large enough so I can slid into the next lane without causing the car behind to panic or slow suddenly. I would speed up as fast as I could possibly go when I am making the lane change. Once in the lane, take the WHOLE lane, as letting cars pass by squeezing is very dangerous when in the middle of the road. Repeat this process for as many lanes as need be crossed. Treat each lane change as separate.

This move requires an assertive posture and I would not try it if traffic is tight and traveling at more than 15 or 20 mph faster than your top sustained speed. In final review, think of yourself as a car sized, slow moving vehicle and position yourself in the lane so other cars are forced to treat you as such.

Other than these general rules of thumb, it is hard to say with such little information about a particular intersection.
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Old 08-21-02, 02:09 PM
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I think you have to judge the situation, but the principle that MikeW expounded awhile back has stuck in my mind: always act to keep your exposure to a minimum. I find this notion of "exposure" to be extremely useful.

To me, mixing it up with traffic that's moving three or four times faster than I am is too much exposure. I don't merge left on a busy 45-60mph road. In fact, I don't get into the left lane if I think I'll force a car to brake to avoid hitting me.

So I merge to the left-turn lane only when there's a big enough hole in traffic to allow me to get there without cutting a driver off. If I can't, I go ahead and cross the intersection on the green, stop, turn my bike, and wait for the light to change.

I believe in assertive, vehicular cycling, but I stop short of inviting cars to hit me to prove my point. The critical element of riding in traffic is predictability, and in my mind one way to test that is whether you ever force a driver to hit his brakes. (This is not the same thing as preventing a driver from accelerating.)

I disagree with LBM here. I never trust drivers to assist me, or to do anything else. Drivers don't understand bikes, and I consider that to be a fundamental law of nature. If I can't complete a maneuver by working with traffic as it exists, I don't try it.

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Old 08-21-02, 02:34 PM
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Originally posted by Rich Clark
I disagree with LBM here. I never trust drivers to assist me, or to do anything else. Drivers don't understand bikes, and I consider that to be a fundamental law of nature. If I can't complete a maneuver by working with traffic as it exists, I don't try it.
That's ok. But I can't imagine not knowing how to communicate with other drivers and look for signs of assistance from them. This is basic not only to vehicular cycling, but driving as well.
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Old 08-21-02, 02:35 PM
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Great advice from all It does call for good judgement and adaptation to the situation. In my city, the speed limit is 30mph on most arterial streets, with some 35mph zones. Rough metric equivalents: 50kph and 55kph. The majority of my turns are in areas where I can get up to at least 2/3 of the speed limit, so I generally watch for my chances to coordinate lane changes with the traffic flow and approach them in a vehicular fashion, a task made much easier by my 3rd Eye helmet mirror.

I would add that signalling is very important, and not these laughable little halfhearted signals some cyclists use, as if they're pointing out glass or gravel. Get your arm STRAIGHT out, and do it long enough for the others to realize

1) Hey, he/she's signalling something, not just waving

2) Oh, that must mean a left lane change... see, his/her arm is pointing left

3) Aha, instead of pulling my car into the left lane to pass, I'll let the cyclist have it, and I'll have this lane free for myself... just got to scrub a few MPH/KPH, and we're all set.

This can take 5 to 8 seconds in my estimation, so I hope your arm is up to the challenge
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Old 08-21-02, 06:14 PM
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Originally posted by LittleBigMan

That's ok. But I can't imagine not knowing how to communicate with other drivers and look for signs of assistance from them. This is basic not only to vehicular cycling, but driving as well.
Sure. I do a lot of that, directing traffic, pointing at drivers and then giving them a stop signal or letting them know I'm turning across their path, or signalling to overtaking cars that it's safe or not safe to pass.

But that's not the same as trusting them with my life. I never do anything that would expose me to danger if the driver somehow misinterprets or ignores a signal. And I never merge with traffic that's moving faster than me, under any circumstances. The car you're merging in front of may be yielding, but the next one after that may get frustrated and decide to zoom around and pass everybody on the right.

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Old 08-21-02, 07:11 PM
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Originally posted by Rich Clark
I never merge with traffic that's moving faster than me, under any circumstances.
Yes, of course, you're right. That's why, before merging, a cyclist must be sure the driver behind has slowed to an equal speed with the cyclist and allowed plenty of room. Forcing your way into traffic is foolish.

I was suprised how motorists in rush hour traffic actually slowed and waited for me to merge with them when I signalled my intentions. But if a cyclist does not feel confident with this, they should not do it.
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