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Traffic law and safety question

Old 09-03-20, 11:10 AM
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slickrcbd
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Traffic law and safety question

Something recently came up and I'm wondering if anybody knows about the laws for bicyclists in suburban Cook County. I know bikers have a hybrid of automobile and pedestrian laws, and I'm not sure what applies here.
In Downtown Arlington Heights, on either side of the train station (and the library) are two streets called Vail and Dunton. I need to cross the train tracks and a busy street called Northwest Highway/route 14 in order to get to the library which is two blocks north.
Both streets on my side of the tracks have two lanes going towards the library and one going away. The right lane has a sign that says "Right lane must turn right" while the left has arrows that indicate it is for going straight or making left turns.
There are usually too many pedestrians around to ride on the sidewalk safely.

Do I need to go into the left lane if I want to go straight to the library, or can I as a bicyclist stay close to the curb in the right lane and cross NW highway and continue on another block to the library?
I've been staying in the right lane, but recently somebody was yelling at me for not turning right on my bicycle.
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Old 09-03-20, 12:23 PM
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So, you will probably get a lot of commentary on this, because there's a wide variety of opinions around here about 'lane positioning'. One important thing to keep in mind as a cyclist is: be where drivers expect you to be, and do what drivers expect you to do. Violate that concept, regardless of traffic law, and you're increasing your risk of getting hit. Now, another thing you will hear is the concept of "Take the Lane", which means that you have equal rights to the road, on par with cars, and there are a lot of situations where you should take the whole lane for your own safety. There are situations where you don't want cars trying to go around you, increasing the risk, and if you're not right-in-the-middle of the lane, one of them is gonna try it. In the case you describe, above, I would use the 'left/straight' lane and go straight, just the way the other drivers do.
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Old 09-04-20, 06:11 AM
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The number one mistake I see people make when they encounter a right turn lane is to move past cars (next to the curb) who have already stopped in the lane and are ready to turn right. That's a recipe for disaster, as they are likely looking to the left to see if it's safe to turn right. They aren't looking for bikes next to them.

Aside from that, I tend to try to split the difference between the lanes, staying as far to the right as I can in the straight/left lane or as far to the left in the right turn lane. Taking the straight/left lane is also a possibility. Unfortunately, most intersections were never designed with bike riding in mind, so there is no perfect answer. It all depends on specific circumstances - which lanes already have cars, whether the light is about to change or is already green, etc...
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Old 09-04-20, 05:48 PM
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If it's a hazard, you have the choice to be a vehicle or pedestrian. Just get off, and walk your bike wherever you want.
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Old 09-05-20, 12:51 AM
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It was some random stranger who yelled at me as I was crossing the street "RIGHT TURN ONLY, BUDDY!", from a car who wanted to turn right but was annoyed he had to wait for me because for once there weren't any pedestrians on my side of the street, but there was somebody waiting on the other side to cross.
This once, I could have gone onto the sidewalk, and I sometimes do in order to hit the button for the walk signal if nobody is on the sidewalk to do it for me.
I was just unsure if he was right or if I'd been doing the right thing by waiting with my right foot on the curb (so I can be lazy and stay on the seat) and crossing from the right lane instead of going into traffic in the left lane.

I wonder if the guy would have yelled if I'd gone onto the sidewalk.
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Old 09-05-20, 12:01 PM
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Going straight in the right turn only lane is more dangerous and illegal. Signal left and get to the center of the straight through lane prior to the right turn only lane. Clear the intersection and move right when safe and reasonable. Wave to any motorists that was behind you as you move right. Once you do this enough it is very empowering.
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Old 11-02-20, 05:37 PM
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Use the right-most lane that goes in the direction you want. In this case it's the left lane. Yes, position yourself in the middle of the lane until you're past the intersection, then move over if it is safe to do so.
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Old 11-02-20, 05:40 PM
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Don't ride on the sidewalk. You're a vehicle.
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Old 11-02-20, 05:52 PM
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Center of the straight lane until you're through the intersection or get off and walk on the sidewalk.
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Old 11-16-20, 08:18 AM
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I have to ride in only downtown Chicago, so my ride is a constant situation like you have to deal with once on your trip. I THINK you are wrong about Illinois: in every situation, car rules apply.* Aside from that, I do what's already been described, which is to stay within the law and give the strongest clues I can to those around me. Straight, in a three-choice situation, I'll be between the right turn and the straight lanes at the front if I can, giving more space to the turn-right people, and as soon as traffic starts moving, when I'm in front of right turners, I immediately pop far to the right, out of the way. If I can't be at the front, I take the whole lane, since taking off it's easy to stay with the cars and not block them, then again, pop right as soon as possible. Left in tight traffic I ride in the right side of the turn lane so I can get out of the way fast once I've turned, and I turn wide so that cars can immediately get around my left, unless things are such that (i.e., it's just me) I can take the whole left lane, in which case I stay more left, clear of the people going straight, who tend to cut some of the left lane if they don't see someone big and metal in it.

I think it's really important to do what is legal because that's what most people will expect and is legal; you can't predict what outliers will do, and you don't want to be the outlier competing with outliers while confusing the rational ones. In every situation I try to do the clearest, least confrontive thing that's legal. I've been riding in Chicago for 30 years and never had a single close call.

As a last ditch, in a nasty place, I will move over to the sidewalk, dismount, and walk my bike through the whole intersection as a pedestrian. It only takes a few seconds longer. I do that a lot when I want to turn in a confusing busy 5-way with lots of lanes, and I'll do it in any tight spot where I don't feel comfortable. (Like construction projects where they give the cars a tiny lane bordered by a concrete wall holding scaffolding, with a pedestrian walk under the scaffold. I'll walk the pedestrian walk rather than get squeezed against a concrete wall in a lane too narrow for cars.) It's a cheap deal to add a minute to your trip to save your life, and I feel the same way about that shortcut that will save me four blocks if I ride wrong way for half a block: just don't do it!

My general policy is to try to figure out where the mess is going to happen, and then be somewhere else, preferably ahead of it, because behind it is the same as in it, which is why I prefer to be at the front of the pack and move out of the way as soon as I can. When you're in the middle, the people around you have too many other things to watch, and won't look out for you.

* Illinois publishes a bicycle road rules book, and after the introductory stuff, here's the first line:
"Obey all Traffic Laws and Signals • When riding your bicycle on Illinois roadways, you must obey the same traffic laws, signs and signals that apply to motorists."

Last edited by mdarnton; 11-16-20 at 08:27 AM.
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Old 11-16-20, 11:54 AM
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If you ride on the sidewalk, remember to act like a pedestrian. In fact, it's best if you walk. If you ride, though, make sure you're riding at a pedestrian-appropriate speed, and likewise cross only with the light, and stop and look both ways before entering the crosswalk, The last thing in the world that a car driver will expect is for a bike to come flying off the sidewalk into his/her path. They will scan the sidewalk for potential 3-4 mph walkers, but not far enough to account for 15 mph bikers.
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Old 11-16-20, 02:56 PM
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As said earlier, use the lane for going straight to go straight. Using the right turn lane, especially from far right in the lane will get you run over.

Also to complicate matters is that the train tracks are at a 45 to the road. It is best to cross them as close to perpendicular as possible or bad things will happen.

Per google Dunton has a left turn lane and a Straight/right lane and does not look like a busy/high speed road. I'd choose that street to minimize the number of options as well. Since it appears to really only split to 2 lanes after the tracks, I would probably do something like the following, being very clear to signal if you are on the far right, as you will need to take the lane safely.
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Old 11-16-20, 03:07 PM
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Or even better, just use Ridge as it crosses both NW highway and the tracks at 90 with no additional lanes. The Strava heatmap indicates that Ridge is the preferred route for cyclists across the tracks.

Last edited by Mista Sparkle; 11-16-20 at 03:12 PM.
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