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How should I handle this intersection?

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How should I handle this intersection?

Old 12-10-04, 08:16 PM
  #1  
sbhikes
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How should I handle this intersection?

I'm not sure how best to handle a certain intersection on my route.

It's a busy intersection, but not a big one. I have to make a left turn, but the lane I have to use is one of those that let you go straight or left on the green light. No opposing traffic, and it's only one lane that gets the green.

If the line of cars waiting is short, I feel no problem taking up the lane and taking my place in traffic. If the line of cars is long, that's a little trickier because I am not fast enough to keep up with how fast traffic will be going by the time I get up to the light. Of course I can't just keep to the right or else somebody going straight will run me over when I go to make my left turn.

I know I should just take up my lane, but I feel very uncomfortable holding up traffic. Some people might not make it through the light because of me. There's a general breakdown of society in that part of town already, meaning way too many impatient/distracted drivers doing too many stupid things.

I sometimes resort to walking my bike through the pedestrian crossings, which feels pathetic to me.

What do you recommend? Should I just keep doing what I'm doing? I suppose there's no other way. How do you handle these types of intersections? Please keep in mind I'm a slow-going woman -- on a recumbent no less, not a big muscular fixie rider in NYC.
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Old 12-10-04, 08:25 PM
  #2  
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I have a similar intersection on my commute...
With oncoming traffic, and Uphill approach...
This is what I do:
As I approach the intersection I straddle the yellow line and pray oncoming traffic has mercy and sees my oncoming headlights.
Ballsy, yes, but so far so good!!!
Hope this helps.
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Old 12-10-04, 08:46 PM
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I have a similar one on my commute. I take the lane. I don't usually have trouble keeping up with the cars once the light turns green though, sometimes I get going too fast and have to slow down even.

At intersections where I can't safely get over to the left lane, i just ride through the intersection, stop at the pedestrian "push to cross street" button, then carefully walk my bike into the rightmost lane going the direction that I need to go. That way I don't have to walk across the street.
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Old 12-10-04, 08:50 PM
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In kayaking, there's no shame in walking an area you're uncomfortable with.
In skiing, there's no shame in skipping an area you're unsure about.
In cycling, there's no shame in walking an intersection obviously designed without bikes in mind.

"Move not unless you see an advantage; use not your troops unless there is something to be gained; fight not unless the position is critical." Sun Tzu, the Art of War [12:17]
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Old 12-10-04, 09:37 PM
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Aside from using the crosswalk, you have a couple options.

First is, as you stated, you can take the lane and make the turn. You should have that right since it would unsafe for cars to pass you on the left since they might go straight and cut you off. You could use th opportunity to work on your sprinting skills and try to keep up with traffic as best you can.

Second is to use a trick I use where I have to make a left hand turn across three lanes of a busy road. Rather than fight my way across traffic, I stay in the right lane and go straight through the intersection until I am in front of the line of cars waiting at the light. I stop, turn the bike to the left, and wait at the front of the line until the light turns green. Then proceed straight through the intersection at the head of the pack.

In your situation, I would simply take the lane and do the best I could.
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Old 12-10-04, 09:44 PM
  #6  
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I don't ride a recumbent, but after thinking about it for a while, I decided I would ride to the front of the line and stop beside and slightly in front of the front car. If their left turn signal is blinking, I would stay where I was and turn with them. If not, I would signal to them or tap on the window that I was going to turn left ahead of them when the light turned green, and then move ahead a little. If there was enough room I would move completely in front of the first car.

Because I went to the front of the line, everyone has now seen me. If the first few cars are turning left, I wouldn't slow anyone down. If the first few cars are going straight, they can go as soon as I am out of the lane, well before I am halfway through my turn.

To me that is the best balance of safety and utility I can think of. If you are comfortable trying it, please let us know how it works for you.

Tom
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Old 12-10-04, 09:51 PM
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Originally Posted by supcom
...Second is to use a trick I use where I have to make a left hand turn across three lanes of a busy road. Rather than fight my way across traffic, I stay in the right lane and go straight through the intersection until I am in front of the line of cars waiting at the light. I stop, turn the bike to the left, and wait at the front of the line until the light turns green. Then proceed straight through the intersection at the head of the pack...
Hey, I do that too! - on the last light on my way home from work. There are two lanes of bumper to bumper traffic with a short light and it's very difficult to safely reach the turn lane. Don't know how easy it would be to maneuver the recumbent this way...?
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Old 12-10-04, 09:53 PM
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I do what supcom does. Go through in the right lane, and wait at the opposite corner until you can go with the perpendicular traffic. Pretty safe, doesn't inconvenience drivers, doesn't slow me down much.


Originally Posted by supcom
Aside from using the crosswalk, you have a couple options.

First is, as you stated, you can take the lane and make the turn. You should have that right since it would unsafe for cars to pass you on the left since they might go straight and cut you off. You could use th opportunity to work on your sprinting skills and try to keep up with traffic as best you can.

Second is to use a trick I use where I have to make a left hand turn across three lanes of a busy road. Rather than fight my way across traffic, I stay in the right lane and go straight through the intersection until I am in front of the line of cars waiting at the light. I stop, turn the bike to the left, and wait at the front of the line until the light turns green. Then proceed straight through the intersection at the head of the pack.

In your situation, I would simply take the lane and do the best I could.
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Old 12-11-04, 09:28 PM
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Yeah, I'll have to take a look and see how it will work. I guess I'm so close to home by then I'm impatient. If I try the right lane,turn, and go with the next light option I'll have to wait through a few extra lights. I'm maneuverable enough on the recumbent. Whatever bike I'd use I'd have to get off to make that little turn around.

Sometimes I do a variation on that. I zip across to the left sidewalk and get up on the sidewalk and ride to the corner. Then I push the crosswalk button and ride through. It's not very legal, but convenient. Like having my own private left turn lane. Only works when there's no oncoming traffic.
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Old 12-11-04, 09:58 PM
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When I'm not comfortable at a particular intersection, no matter how familiar it is, I'll simply ride the crosswalk...... maybe I'll loose a minute at most....
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Old 12-11-04, 10:25 PM
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I ride the crosswalk, whichever way is green first. I know it is not legal, but I feel it is safe, and I care more about safe.
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Old 12-12-04, 01:24 AM
  #12  
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I don't know how well this would work on a recumbent, but sometimes I make a right and then an immediate U-turn. It's worked pretty well for me.
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Old 12-12-04, 02:06 AM
  #13  
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Originally Posted by manboy
I don't know how well this would work on a recumbent, but sometimes I make a right and then an immediate U-turn. It's worked pretty well for me.
I do this at select intersections.

In this situation, I would also consider staying to the left of the lane and riding to the front. The only tricky thing would be making sure you're fast enough to turn wide in front of the first car, if the first car is turning.

Riding a recumbent probably makes this a little worse, as I'm used to being able to stand up for instant acceleration.
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Old 12-12-04, 05:33 AM
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I take the lane.
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Old 12-12-04, 05:51 PM
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No way to do a right and a U-ie because of the sheer volume of traffic at this intersection.

As for the technique, I've seen it done by lots of people, but I always think, why didn't they just run the light?
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Old 12-14-04, 10:19 AM
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Originally Posted by supcom
Aside from using the crosswalk, you have a couple options.

First is, as you stated, you can take the lane and make the turn. You should have that right since it would unsafe for cars to pass you on the left since they might go straight and cut you off. You could use th opportunity to work on your sprinting skills and try to keep up with traffic as best you can.

Second is to use a trick I use where I have to make a left hand turn across three lanes of a busy road. Rather than fight my way across traffic, I stay in the right lane and go straight through the intersection until I am in front of the line of cars waiting at the light. I stop, turn the bike to the left, and wait at the front of the line until the light turns green. Then proceed straight through the intersection at the head of the pack.

In your situation, I would simply take the lane and do the best I could.
same strategy i use on 1 intersection on the way home.
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Old 12-14-04, 11:04 AM
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At an intersection like that I do either the supcom or manboy trick, depending on how busy the cross street is. If it is a busyish street I do a supcom. If not so busy where a quick u-turn is safe and convenient I prefer a manboy.
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Old 12-14-04, 11:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Jessica
I ride the crosswalk, whichever way is green first. I know it is not legal, but I feel it is safe, and I care more about safe.
Why not just get off your bike and walk in the crosswalk? That's what they're designed for, and it's not like it takes you that much energy to do that. It makes it legal and safer for everyone, including you.
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Old 12-14-04, 01:55 PM
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I had a similar problem on my commute for years. I too had to make a left turn, but my problem was getting across two lanes of busy traffic to get into a short right-turn-only lane (at an intersection with no signal). Like you, I could take the lane, but then I was holding up traffic. If I stayed to the right, then how do I get across to my left turn only lane?

I asked lots of experienced cyclists, and no one had the solution. The key for me was to read read Effective Cycling by John Forester. Have you read it? Check out the reviews on Amazon; every cyclist should read it - it could save your life.

Anyway, what I was missing from my traffic cycling tool box is a skill Forester calls "negotiation". In particular, the skill to negotiate for the right-of-way to merge left from the right side.

Here's what you do. When there is a long line, just ride along the right until you get '"close enough" (exactly where that is depends on your speed, the speed of traffic, how far you are from the turn, etc.). If the line of cars is stopped, just find two cars with a gap between them wide enough for you to merge into. Don't be rude, "ask" if you can move in by pointing to the spot where you want to stop, and looking at the driver behind it. 9 times out 10 they'll let you in. What else can they do? Move up? Highly unlikely. But if they do, just keep riding further up the line until you find a spot where they let you in.

If by the time you get "close enough" the line of cars is already moving, it's a little trickier, but not much. At this point you need to look behind you over your left shoulder, and hold that look for a few seconds. This is something you should practice. It's not hard, but it does take a little practice to learn to look over your shoulder like that without inadverdently turning the bike... the trick is to keep going in a straight line! It might be a little harder on a recumbent -- I don't know -- but it's an essential skill to riding safely and effectively in traffic.

Usually just looking back is enough to get someone to realize you're wanting to merge left. But it doesn't hurt, and often helps, to stick out your left arm too. Now, many cyclists think that's enough - that signalling left is all that is needed to merge left. It isn't! You still don't have the right-of-way! Someone has to grant it to you. So, wait. Wait until someone slows down to let you in. Often they will also wave their hand or indicate with their head that they are letting you in. Now, as this person slows down to let you in, you're still holding him up and everyone behind him, but you've reasonably minimized your impact by waiting until this point. Besides, it was his decision to slow down and hold everyone else up, not yours!

Once they slow down to let you in, merge left! The lane is now yours, and the person behind you who let you in is blocking for you. Stay in about the left tire track (not so far left that you're too close to the oncoming lane, but far enough left to allow straight-thru motorists to pass you on your right), continuing to signal left if necessary and safe to do so, and make your turn. You can gradually move to the right side as you complete the turn - but don't move too far to the right too early so that you're inviting turning motorists to pass you on your left before it is safe to do so. It's your lane; you're in control.

All of the above assumes the road is wide enough for a car and bike to safely share side-by-side (including the cyclists staying out of the door zone of any parallel-parked cars). If it's not wide enough, then you have to take the lane earlier, no matter how long the line is, no matter how much you slow down traffic.

Let us know how it works for you.

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Last edited by Serge Issakov; 12-14-04 at 02:13 PM.
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Old 12-14-04, 02:18 PM
  #20  
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Originally Posted by Jessica
I ride the crosswalk, whichever way is green first. I know it is not legal, but I feel it is safe, and I care more about safe.
You may feel it is safe, but it is NOT safe to travel in sidewalks at speeds faster than people walk. You must assume that motorists crossing the sidewalk will only scan far enough to make sure there is no one coming at pedestrian speeds. It is unreasonable to ride at 6, 8 or more MPH across a sidewalk, because motorists are likely to not anticipate anyone doing this. It's very unsafe to ride in crosswalks! This is a common cause of car-bike collisions.

See my longer reply previous for how to properly (and SAFELY) handle intersections like this on a bicycle.

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Old 12-14-04, 09:27 PM
  #21  
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I tried forgetting the left turn and going straight instead, thinking I'd just turn left somewhere else down the street. Thankfully I heard no gunshots along the way. I checked out the people standing around and gratefully saw nobody holding a gun, either.

I guess I'll stick with the cross walk method, saving taking the lane for those moments when I'll have enough momentum to keep up. It really sucks taking the lane at some intersections. You can't always get up to the front, so you get stuck behind them and the longer the line of cars, the slower they go at first. It makes it impossible to get any really good momentum going before they hit the gas.

I remember this really awful left/straight situation in San Diego I used to do. The light was green but you couldn't turn left unless you had an arrow. So, you'd have to sit there in the lane with a green light staring you in the face, waiting for the arrow, with all this traffic that wants to go straight, and could if you weren't there. To make it even worse, the right lane also went straight and both these lanes were onramps to the freeway.

Sheesh! Who makes up these intersections? They should be shot.
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Old 12-15-04, 01:35 AM
  #22  
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I'd take the lane. Do it all the time, as for inconviencing cars, well, screw them. I'm making a turn, and am relatively fast. There's a few intersections around San Diego that are like that. My favorite is Napa and Linda Vista Road. There's also one in Santee on my commute at mast at magnolia, 2 left turn lanes, and on the ground in the middle of the crosswalk on the right side of the right left turn lane is a bike symbol which has a light trigger under it. Got honked at 1 time for riding through 2 blocks of cars to the front and stopping on the "bike" symbol. I pointed at it and shrugged. Driver waved... I also semi square the corners when making left turns so I end up in the bike lane, or where a bike lane would be. It helps, and not too many people take offense. As for the ones that do, screw them.
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Old 12-15-04, 12:47 PM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by sbhikes
You can't always get up to the front, so you get stuck behind them and the longer the line of cars, the slower they go at first. It makes it impossible to get any really good momentum going before they hit the gas.
So what? I'm with markw. Don't worry about the motorists. They are not going to run you over because you're pissing them off. When you ride like you know you have the right to be there, motorists show you the respect that you are due. Yes, even if you are slowing them down. Pretend you're operating a tractor or heavy piece of machinery. There's nothing you can do about slowing them down. Don't worry about it.

Plus, you're not polluting the air, you're not making noise, and you're getting exercise which reduces your burden on the medical system. Motorists are not doing any of that.

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Old 12-15-04, 03:07 PM
  #24  
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Avoid that intersection and find another one to make your left turn.
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Old 01-20-05, 06:18 PM
  #25  
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So, sbhikes, how is it going at this intersection? Did you try any of the suggestions? With what results?

Thanks,
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