Topic10FBimage1 A natural followup from our last article is intersection positioning. Since most crashes between cyclists and motorists occur here, it’s very important to navigate intersections visibly and safely/defensively. For starters, know your route. When you’re approaching an intersection, you should know the direction you’re traveling through it and get in the proper lane for that direction ahead of time. (I’ve heard of cyclists who, when approaching an intersection, particularly when they’re about to come up behind a large vehicle that will obscure them from view, will stand up on their pedals for a bit, making themselves taller and more visible to other drivers at that intersection).
Topic10FBimage2 The general rule of thumb for the correct lane at intersections is the rightmost lane in your direction of travel. If you’re going straight through an intersection, and there are multiple lanes for going straight, be in the rightmost one. If you’re taking a left turn at an intersection, and there are multiple left turn lanes, get in the rightmost left turn lane. Same rule goes for multiple right turn lanes: get in the rightmost one. Because most turn lanes are narrow, it’s best for you to position yourself in the center of that particular lane.
Topic10FBimage3 For narrower roads and minor intersections which only have one lane for all three directions (straight, left turns & right turns), make your intention obvious by your position in the lane: near the center line for turning left, in the middle of the lane for going straight, and over to the right when taking a right turn. Remember, New York State law requires cyclists to use their hand signals before turning or coming to a stop. With your proper positioning and communication with other road users, there should be no question in other peoples’ minds at that intersection what your move is about to be.
Topic10FBimage4 There are two big mistakes cyclists can make when going through intersections: one is barreling through the intersection at top speed. Never go so fast through an intersection that you can’t stop in time should a vehicle turn in front of you. Go slow enough to ensure no vehicle is entering the intersection so close as to be a danger to you. Watch for turning vehicles in particular. The other mistake is being too near the right curb when proceeding straight. Hugging the right curb opens you up to right hooks and left crosses, the most common motorist mistakes. By taking the lane in the rightmost lane that allows you to proceed straight, you take those two dangerous cards out of the motorists’ hands.
Topic10FBimage5 Bike infrastructure like bike lanes and cycle tracks are great and make cycling more enjoyable and less stressful for many residents. Be aware however that some nuance is required when riding bike lanes through intersections. Sometimes bike lanes disappear prior to intersections, requiring the cyclist to merge with traffic. This allows them to maintain visibility and predictability going through the intersection. Take care when a bike lane goes all the way up to an intersection: When you’re first at the red light, it’s often a good practice to leave space on your right to allow right turning motorists to make that turn. If that means coming out of the bike lane before the intersection, so be it. It’s courtesy and prevents you from getting right hooked. Once you’re through the intersection, return to the bike lane on the other side.
Topic10FBimage6 One other note: When traffic is backed up at a red light, it can be tempting on your bike to squeeze alongside on the right shoulder to approach the intersection sooner. This just tends to anger motorists and can put you in danger. Once again, it’s inadvisable to overtake motorists on the right. If there’s a street, parking lot or driveway that they can turn right into, assume they will.