Rules of the road?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Rules of the road?

    I just started semi commuting to work this week. My question is about turn lanes. Say I am riding on the shoulder (say 3' wide) and there is a right hand turn lane ahead. Should I continue riding on the shoulder, some what following the turn lane, or should I stay straight? Not sure I am describing the situation correctly. Any suggestions?

    Scott

  2. #2
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    I encounter this same situation during my daily commute. I look back first and if there isn't any traffic coming up close behind me, I do a left turn hand signal to alert any drivers behind me and then ride the painted strip (if any) between middle lane and right turn lane straight through the intersection. Sometimes I stay on the shoulder and then signal to cross the right turn lane into the "straight-ahead" lane.
    -Greg
    Lynskey Ridgeline 29-SL, Truvativ Hammerschmidt, Cannondale Lefty 29er SL w/ DLR (Project321 adaptor). 26 lbs.

  3. #3
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    This can depend on the exact nature of the right turn lane, the intersection, and traffic density. When in doubt do what seems safe over what the rules of the road are, because the rules don't take bike visibility/car power imbalance into account.

    I often ride a variable distance route either side of a road which has 8' shoulders. The outer edges have a lot of detritis so the 1 -2 foot outside the 1 foot rumble strip is best for tires and butt. This also keeps you more visible to traffic in the road. Usually I get the extra distance a disabled car or truck gets. A few croud the rumble strip getting as close a$$ possible. The 3' rule did not pass here. Some measure 3 feet form center of mass, some don't know where the right side of their vehicle is.

    Cross traffic tends to ignore anything on the shoulders ESPECIALLY if there is a right turn lane. Also if you are crossing in front of stopped cross traffic, and you are exiting the shoulder, you are barely ahead of the stop line and may need to swerve around stopped vehicles. Your right of way is clearer to cross traffic if you are sailing by in the center of the right turn lane. I take the center to a little left of center to be more visible and not share the lane side by side with someone wanting to turn right.

    On most of this route, these right turn lanes are not marked with white turn arrows indicative of right turn only. So I find the break in the rumble strip and check I don't have someone turning into the lane then move into it. The few with arrows have not been repainted, and make me think they will no longer be, making my use more legal. I have been seen many times riding arrowed right turn lanes like this by State Troppers and Sheriif Deputies and not been pulled over. I think I have avoided a couple of right hooks by exiting the shoulder and using the turn lane. I have had one driver cut into the right turn lane just in front to barely make the turn. Either the driver suddenly recognized his turn, misjudged my speed, or was too impatient to wait 5 seconds for their turn. So you need a good mirror and watch for that maneuver It would be worse on the shoulder. They won't see you at all.

    In cases where a lot of traffic turns right, and there are two through lanes without excessive traffic, it may be wiser to take the right straight through lane as if you were driving a car. If a lot of the right lane traffic is turning right the density of the right lane's traffic will diminish for a short distance past the intersection. Unless you are required to use the shoulder, a cyclist has the prerogative to use that lane. However, you will likely force last minute lane changes until you clear the intersection and can return to the shoulder. Increased conspicuity helps give traffic more time to respond to you being there.

    ANSI vests, Pearl Izumi Traffic Green wear are helpful to alert drivers sooner. Good light and reflective tape for night. See the Another Thread On Bike Lights in this forum for more.

    YMMV.

  4. #4
    Ride Responsibly
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    You should take a position to the left of the right turn lane, same as if you were on a motorcycle, or in a car. If in doubt, take the whole traffic lane as is your right.

  5. #5
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    I take it you`re talking about going straight through, not turning right. If so, then yeah- stick to the shoulder all the way to the intersection and Murphy will have somebody try to shoot around you at the last minute to cut you off with a "right hook". I generally do it like Grnamin described (except that I must admit I don`t signal as often as I should). In that case, I ride the right side of the first non turn lane.

    A similar situation is pulling up to a red light with multiple lanes in your direction and no cars already waiting in front of you. If you pull up to the line and you`re still on the shoulder, you stand a good chance of somebody trying to drive around you or through you to make that right before the light turns green. Again, better to be out in the the lane, stopping the other guy`s temptation. I frequently stop towards the left side of the first lane so that if anybody comes behind me and wants to make a right on the red there`s plenty of room to get around.

    Also, take not of BrianMc`s first paragraph- when in doubt, saving my butt trumps the law.

    EDIT: In the situation you asked about, riding the shoulder with a right turn lane, even when I AM turning right I usually get out into that lane so that I don`t get squooshed by a driver trying to pass me durring the turn who maybe cuts it a little tight.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by smackay
    I just started semi commuting to work this week. My question is about turn lanes. Say I am riding on the shoulder (say 3' wide) and there is a right hand turn lane ahead. Should I continue riding on the shoulder, some what following the turn lane, or should I stay straight? Not sure I am describing the situation correctly. Any suggestions?

    Scott
    Ride in the right-most lane that's going where you need to go. If the right lane turns into a right-turn-only lane (RTOL) and you need to go straight through in order to get to your destination, you would need to merge left into the rightmost straight-through lane.

    Some demonstrations:

    "A Cyclist’s Eye View"

    Part 1. -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFjCza5e1kw
    Part 2. -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XIr3mI96FZk
    Part 3. -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLu0DHPeYm8
    Ride a mountain bike... you will not regret it if you live.
    (with apologies to Mark Twain & The Taming of the Bicycle)

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by smackay
    I just started semi commuting to work this week. My question is about turn lanes. Say I am riding on the shoulder (say 3' wide) and there is a right hand turn lane ahead. Should I continue riding on the shoulder, some what following the turn lane, or should I stay straight? Not sure I am describing the situation correctly. Any suggestions?

    Scott

    Depends hugely on

    traffic volume (say everyone is turning right to merge, no one is going straight through, or of course the opposite)

    traffic speed (might not pull into the main lane if traffic is hummin along and 70 mph)

    road conditions (snow, rain etc) Might take the main lane if everything else is buried in 8 inches of snow.

    visibility (At night, geez with 70 mph, i just shouldn't be there)

    Traffic furniture

    Pedestrians (cuddling up close to a herd of pedestrians is always an option)

    just to name a few, sometimes a different approach is needed for the very same intersection...

    Think it through, identify the hazards, and mitigate them as best you can.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by PscyclePath
    Ride in the right-most lane that's going where you need to go. If the right lane turns into a right-turn-only lane (RTOL) and you need to go straight through in order to get to your destination, you would need to merge left into the rightmost straight-through lane.
    Nice urban videos. Match's what I do in urban areas at urban speeds.

    The second video mentions 20 mph differential in speed as allowing lots of time for the driver to respond. With two lane highway with 55 posted with a mix of traffic including vehicles at 65-70 all too often, so the closing speed is 40-55 mph for overtaking traffic and 90+ on downhills for approaching traffic. Most are not expecting to see a bicycle, adding more danger.

    With curves or hills preceding an intersection where an extra lane is added on the right often (3 in 5 cases) with no arrows, These extra turn lanes are at few intersections and were often added not just at busy intersections but at ones where through traffic collided with slowing turning traffic, too often. That is a BIG HINT! Blood was likely spilled to get that ateration in the road. No point in being another sacrifice. I will use it such a right lane as a straight through lane. The shoulder gets you missed by cross traffic entering the roadway because drivers don't look that far rearward when checking cross traffic. It gets you hooked by fast approaching last minute right hand turn drivers that are not easy to see around corners or over grades or while distracted by the stopped cross traffic or turning approaching traffic. The through lane gets you run over by traffic exceeding your speed by 40-55 mph and if the sight line is not good (most of the intersections), they don't have time to respond especially if distracted in any way. The cross traffic has at least slowed, if not stopped for the stop sign and through traffic and in principle is looking each way, the right turn traffic needs to slow for its turn, so both are less dangerous to deal with if they don't see you or respond well or in time and mess it up. There are good bail outs of back to the shoulder for the fast right turn, or behind the vehicle that pulls out but should not have. There is no good alternative if both oncoming and approaching vehicles are two semi tractor trailers at 60 mph or more with their huge stopping distances who suddenly find a bike in one lane and no out. A car driver with cell-phone has a similar stopping distance or even longer.

    So again, I follow the rules except where they endanger me. I could confuse cross traffic thinking I am turning right, until I don't turn, so I ride the lane left of its center. That increases my visibility to approaching, overtaking, and cross traffic as a bonus and hints that I am not likey turning right.

    The only time I 'take my lane' on these fast roads is to pass vehicles in the shoulder or a left turn, and I slow, speed up, or stop to allow traffic to clear. A collision is just too damaging to my person to risk it. I will even walk the bike to get my left, if need be.
    Last edited by BrianMc; 06-01-2010 at 06:14 PM.

  9. #9
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    Since you didn't post your locale, I would use the law of common sense than follow what might be your town's rules of the road.

    Most bike lanes have a solid line until it comes to the corner. Then it becomes a dotted line, indicating that a car can merge into the shoulder and then make a right turn. If there is a right hand turn lane, then riders should merge over to the straight-thru lane and ride between either lane.

    But with that in mind, I wouldn't trust any car from not merging into me, turning right in front of me, even tagging me with a baseball bat as it passed.

    First of all is riding in a visible manner. I never ride on the edge of the gutter. While there is more of a chance that I might be sideswiped by riding on next to a car lane, I believe that by being in the left side of the shoulder, drivers are more likely to notice you and make more of an effort to avoid damaging their car (and saving your life).

    And if a driver is drunk or just inadvertent, 3 feet of shoulder is not going to save your life.

    Second is when to merge from the shoulder across the right turn lane. Obviously you do not want to get rear-ended, so look back to make sure cars are not in either lane (in case there is a driver who failed to signal). This is also a good time to pay attention to what is in front of you. I don't use mirrors, I need to know what is in front of me before I start looking back.

    If there is a lot of traffic coming from behind, you want to use hand signals to clearly indicate your intention. I still will not merge over until I know the car behind me sees me and is slowing down to allow me to merge.

    Finally, squeezing between two lanes might be unnerving, especially when you live in an area unfamiliar with bicycles. I would stay calm and be ready to float into either lane.

  10. #10
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    Well before the right-turn lane, I would find a gap in traffic and move into the through lane. I may or may not take the whole lane, depending on the road configuration, but I would get myself out to where cars have to acknowledge I am there by going around me or staying behind me. This lessens the chance that I am going to get hooked by someone turning right. Once through the intersection I would move back onto the shoulder.

    Drivers may not like me moving out into the lane, but tough on them as I am not doing anythng illegal and it's the safest place for me to be.

  11. #11
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    After seeing those videos, I am glad we have bike paths overhere. Better for both driver an cyclist.
    I don't need sex, life f*cks me everyday.....

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by PscyclePath
    Ride in the right-most lane that's going where you need to go. If the right lane turns into a right-turn-only lane (RTOL) and you need to go straight through in order to get to your destination, you would need to merge left into the rightmost straight-through lane.
    That's how I do it.
    :wq

  13. #13
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    Sorry for not giving my locale. Pensacola, Fl. Yep we used to have the whitest beaches until yesterday when the oil started showing up.

    Anyway, my commute to work has very little traffic and hardly no right hand turn lanes, maybe 3-4. The way home has probably 15 right hand turn lanes and 20x the traffic. In some places there is a dedicated bike lane that splits the right turn lane and the straight lane. On those I stay in the bike lane. Others, the bike lane is actually the shoulder. I guess my question is follow the shoulder and stay out of the right turn lane all together (until I have to cross that intersection)? Or, I could continue going straight and stay to the left side of the right turn lane. I understand that I have the right to take the actual straight lane, but that is far more dangerous because of the road traffic. 55 mph and almost bumper to bumper. Hwy 98 west bound between Navy and Blue Angel for anyone whom knows the area.

    Scott
    Last edited by smackay; 06-06-2010 at 05:48 PM.

  14. #14
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    One of the best pieces of advice that I have ever read (it was either on this forum or another similar board) is to make your actions as predictable as possible to drivers. Second to always be visible, this is my most important survival strategy.

    When I am in the right lane or on the shoulder and a turn lane appears, I keep going in a straight line staying in the right side of the through lane. Drivers (hopefully) have already seen me and if I keep moving in the same line they should not be surprised.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by 29Clyde

    When I am in the right lane or on the shoulder and a turn lane appears, I keep going in a straight line staying in the right side of the through lane. Drivers (hopefully) have already seen me and if I keep moving in the same line they should not be surprised.

    Let me make sure I understand. If you are on the shoulder, you continue straight in the traffic lane?

    Scott

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by smackay
    Let me make sure I understand. If you are on the shoulder, you continue straight in the traffic lane?

    Scott
    When you phrase it that way it does sound a bit foolish. I guess I should have elaborated. On my commute, on the areas where I know that I will encounter this situation I establish myself in the traffic lane well in advance so that I can continue on in a straight line.

  17. #17
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    It didn't sound foolish. I just needed some help understanding your comment. I completely understand now. Tomorrow, I will take all the advice given here and put it to use on the road.

    Scott

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