Lane position and busy intersections questions for newby- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1

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    Lane position and busy intersections questions for newby

    I'm new to the commuting aspect of biking, but I took my first route to school this past Friday. It's about 10.2 miles one way, which made for a pretty decent (for me) ride. Since I'm new to commuting, I was wondering how everyone here deals with lane poitions on the roads and how well your experiences with other drivers have been. I ended up riding the sidewalk most of the route because I was really apprehensive on riding on the actual road. Going on and off the sidewalk was really starting to wear on me even with my HT MTB. Also, a question on how to deal with busy intersections? Do you just ride like you were a car? Thanks for all the input and help. I'm really excited about being able to make this true habit which will hopefully not lead to me getting run over. haha

  2. #2
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    Depends how confortable/aggressive you are in traffic. You have every right to be in the car lanes, if there are no bike lanes. However, sometimes if its too crazy or you don't feel safe, just use crosswalks like a pedestrian.

    Keep your head on a swivel at intersections, and always assume that cars don't see you.

  3. #3
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    get infront of cars at stoplights. they will see you and won't turn across you then. i tend to move quickly back nearer the roadside as soon as traffic starts moving again

  4. #4
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    The biggest mistake on the road is trying to take up as little road as possible! This encourages cars to squeeze past when there isn't room. They also have a tendency to subconsciously classify you as a stationary object - like a pothole in the road surface, etc -. They go around you without realising how fast you're moving and then cut in on you.

    Take up space! ride at least 18" from the kerb. Signal clearly and pull out early before making a left turn. Use the lanes and traffic signs as you would in a car. At junctions sit in the centre of your lane (and make sure you're in the correct lane for your destination).

    The more you do this, the more you'll be noticed. If you've been noticed you're safe (or at least safer!). Don't go out of your way to annoy drivers, but if riding properly annoys drivers then guess what...They've seen you!

    Finally be paranoid! Look around you, listen to what's going on around you (personally I wouldn't ride on the road with an MP3 player), and assume that everyone could make a mistake that could kill you. (Sounds dramatic I know, but go out with this attitude and you'll be ready to avoid an incident instead of becoming one!)

    Sorry if this sounds a bit overkill, but it's got me safely through years of riding in the UK including London, with only one incident - and that was about 20 years ago!

    Finally, remember you're still supposed to enjoy your riding :-)

    Alaric.

  5. #5

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    Thanks for all your thoughts on the matter. On the roads that I ride on the speed limit is around 35mph, but as we all know they are going more like 40-50mph. I guess I'm concerned with people getting annoyed at me for only going 15mph.... I suppose that it will take time. The first time that I was riding on the road I ended up having a huge dump truck lay on it's horn because there was no way for him to change lanes in order to avoid me. Luckily there wasn't a curb and I was able to just move onto the shoulder. It still scared the **** out of me though. I was originally thinking about trying to use headphones while riding, but after this last trip I don't think that the music is worth my life. Hopefully this commute will only be for another year an a half or so. Hopefully next town we live in will be a little more biker friendly and have some nice trails to ride to work. The next time that I take the route I'll try and ride on the actual road and see how it goes. What's the worst that could happen.....oh yeah...

  6. #6
    Glove Softener
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    Quote Originally Posted by vanstelp
    Thanks for all your thoughts on the matter. On the roads that I ride on the speed limit is around 35mph, but as we all know they are going more like 40-50mph. I guess I'm concerned with people getting annoyed at me for only going 15mph.... I suppose that it will take time. The first time that I was riding on the road I ended up having a huge dump truck lay on it's horn because there was no way for him to change lanes in order to avoid me. Luckily there wasn't a curb and I was able to just move onto the shoulder. It still scared the **** out of me though. I was originally thinking about trying to use headphones while riding, but after this last trip I don't think that the music is worth my life. Hopefully this commute will only be for another year an a half or so. Hopefully next town we live in will be a little more biker friendly and have some nice trails to ride to work. The next time that I take the route I'll try and ride on the actual road and see how it goes. What's the worst that could happen.....oh yeah...
    In all likelyhood, the dumptruck driver didn't honk because there was no room, he honked because he's an ass-hole, or an aggressive driver, or suffering from the early stages of road rage. Sadly, you're probably going to have to get used to that because there are a lot of them out there. The best response is to keep your cool, smile and wave, and give the jerkoff some extra room because you are the more considerate road user (not because he has any right to it - he doesn't)

    Above all, be safe. If you get run over by a dumptruck it doesn't matter who's right - you're still crippled or dead.
    Don't do what Donnie Don't does.

  7. #7
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    <----------------------- 20,000 mile bike commuter

    Become familiar with your state laws.
    Be visible: bright clothes, bright lights (i.e. Dinotte 200 rear blinkie)
    Find alternate routes (I take a 1 mile longer route home because it's safer & has bike lanes)
    Be a "defensive cyclist" -- anticipate the worst at intersections & lights
    Lots of good info on this board, read old threads.

  8. #8
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    Ride defensively. 90% of drivers don't see you. 10% are actively trying to kill you.

    I make myself seen. When making a left, I should be in the left so I only cross oncoming traffic. When I am at an intersection, I go to the appropriate lane for the direction I'm headed. I signal when I change lane positions. Ride as far to the right as what is safe and practicable. Give a thumbs down to drivers that honk. It's a non-aggressive way to relay that they're being an a s s hole.

  9. #9

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    Well, I just went for my second ride, this time to go and purchase tickets at the box office for a upcoming hockey game and was a little less than 10 miles round trip. I rode on the street the entire time with not too many issues. A few times I could hear the big rigs coming close and I couldn't help but tense up a little bit at the sound of them. Also, it made a big difference going from 30lbs of tire pressure to the max of 65 for the tires that I'm using. I do think that they are going to be replaced by a better suited tire for the road/trail sometime soon. Thanks again all for the response.

  10. #10

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    Normally i travel on the right side of the right tire track and at intersection move to the left side (inside) of the right tire track, but this morning i make a mistake and stop without moving left, low and behold, an A**hole, not only wegded himself next to me but took the right turn no more than 5 feet infront of me.

  11. #11
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    Sounds like you need a new route. Try riding sidestreets with the fewest stop signs or roads with nice bike lanes. Driving a car on residential streets is simply excessively loud and annoying, but you are on a bike that (hopefully) doesn't make any noise.

  12. #12
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    It depends on the road. On my commute, I ride on suburban neighborhood streets (25mph limit), suburban main streets (35mph limit), multi-use paved trail, and major suburban thoroughfare (50mph posted, 65 real speed).

    On the neighborhood streets, I take the full lane and typically cruise at 16-20mph. No problems, as I'm close to traffic's normal pace.

    Larger suburban streets (w/out a paved shoulder), I ride near the right tire track. Enough so that cars have to cross the center line to pass (vs crowd past me). I have to be a bit more cautious at intersections, as speeds are higher, busier roads.

    On the really large roads (2 lanes each direction, long turn lanes, wide paved shoulder), I use the shoulder. Speeds are too fast for taking the lane. At turn lanes, I am VERY careful and ride to the right of the main lane/turn lane stripe. If I need to make a left turn, I usually stop and cross like a pedestrian (if traffic is really light, I might signal and cross like traffic, but that is rare). Also, at the large intersections, I filter down the shoulder to the front of the line - just be VERY careful that you don't get right-hooked by somebody who decides to make a right into the turn lane. When it's raining or dark, I skip the large road and stay on the paved path that runs parallel - it's slower by 3-4mph, but not so many worries about getting run down.

    My basic rule is "stay alive." I leave the militant vehicular cyclist stuff to others.

  13. #13
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    In many states and/or communities, it's unlawful to ride on the sidewalks outside the residential areas. A general observation is that sidewalks are for pedestrians... Cyclists ride on the street, where they're safe (safer) from the shenanigans of pedestrians.

    In general, cyclists are safest when they act like and are treated like the drivers of vehicles. That means following the same traffic rules as the cars.

    The basics of riding in traffic can be distilled down to a few simple rules:

    1. Drive on the right side of the roadway; never on the left, and never on the sidewalk.

    2. Obey all traffic signs and signals.

    3. When you reach a more important or larger road than you are on, yield to crossing traffic.

    4. When you intend to change lanes or move laterally on the roadway, yield to traffic in the new lane or line of travel.

    5. When approaching an intersection, position yourself with respect to the direction of your destination. Ride in the right-most lane that's going where you want to go.

    6. Between intersections, position yourself according to your speed relative to other traffic. (Slower traffic, like bikes, should use the right-hand lanes except when you're passing slower traffic or going at the same speed as the normal flow of traffic, or setting up to make a left turn.)

    More good advice:

    1. Be predictable. Not only is the uniform vehicle code created to offer predictability among roadway users, drivers also respect a cyclist who knows what he or she is doing and acts predictably in traffic. Following the rules of the road will make you predictable. Maintain a straight line of travel on the right-hand side of the road; do not weave between parked cars. Ride with, not against, the flow of traffic. Maintain a smooth, steady, confident pace. Following the laws will increase your predictability and safety. Abide by traffic control devices; stop at stop signs; and follow the normal right-of-way rules to determine when it is your turn to go. In fact, it is important to maintain your right-of-way when you have it. Abiding by the right-of-way rules makes you predictable and gives you a clear right to the road. Also, be wary of the motorist who waves the bicyclist to move first through an intersection, even though the cyclist does not have the right-of-way. If that motorist changes his or her mind, he or she still has the right-of-way, and the bicyclist could be at fault in the event of a crash. In this situation, a stopped vehicle may hide another moving vehicle.

    Knowing your surroundings is another way to remain predictable. Start by using your ears to hear if vehicles are approaching from the rear, but don't rely on them. Look over your shoulder to the rear (both to the left and to the right) for traffic while keeping your bike in a straight line of travel to more closely monitor what is going on behind you and prior to a lane change. Employ scatter vision to assess the situation in front of you, such as dogs, kids playing, or cars pulling out of driveways.

    2. Be alert. Keep an eye out for cars pulling into your lane or onto the roadway. Make eye contact with drivers while you look for other hazards. Watch motorists who may cut in front of you and take a right turn when you are traveling straight through an intersection. The first indication of a motorist's intent to cut you off may be the turning front wheels, so learn to be alert to these subtle signals. Other potential hazards include parallel-slatted sewer grates, slip*pery manhole covers, oily pavement, gravel, railroad tracks, potholes, and ice.

    3. Be visible. The law says ride as far to the right as practicable, but this does not mean you have to ride close to the curb, and it absolutely doesn't mean that you have to ride as far right as possible. If you are riding far enough away from the curb, merging cars and traffic entering the roadway will have an easier time seeing you. If you maintain a straight line just to the right of the path of motor vehicle travel, the motorist's view of you is less likely to be blocked by parked cars. Do not ride in a motorist's blind spot. Dress in bright colors and be sure to use reflectors and lights for night, dawn, or twilight riding.

    4. Be assertive. Plan to take the right-of-way when you have it. If a car looks as if it will turn left in front of you as you proceed through an intersection, continue pedaling, look at the driver and be prepared to make an instant turn to the right if indeed the driver acts illegally and fails to yield to you.

    5. Be courteous. Yield the right-of-way as required by law. Always yield to pedestrians. Exercise good etiquette on paths and trails, and do not stop and block the trail. When you wave at motorists or anyone else, please use all your fingers, not just the middle one.

    I was doing a road class last night with a couple of new riders when one said, "You know, this is just like reviewing the driver's ed manual."

    Derned straight...

    tom

  14. #14

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    great advice and a good read. I just experienced my third commuter day today, and besides having a city garbage truck pulling up behind me and revving his engine, it went alright. I spotted the number on the back of the truck and I will be making an official complaint to the city. This being my second time of riding on the road, I'm starting to get the hang of being with the other traffic. Although, there are still quite a few times that I feel vehicles pass WAY too close to me for comfort. I guess that it's just something that I will have to get used to. Maybe with the gas prices continuing to jump there will be fewer drivers and more riders. :P Thanks again for all the support!

  15. #15
    aka Willy Vanilly
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    This probably goes without saying but ride with traffic! I've seen at least two pretty nasty accidents from "casual" commuters riding on the wrong side of the street on the sidewalk. In both cases, they got tagged by cars pulling out of driveways looking the opposite direction (the direction that traffic (including bikes) should be coming from). It scared me. Be safe out there.
    Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius -- and a lot of courage -- to move in the opposite direction.
    E. F. Schumacher

    sXe

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