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The following is a google maps image of a busy intersection I need to take during my commute:

enter image description here

Traffic mostly comes from 2 sides: the South and the West. At the time I pass this intersection, there is a lot of traffic from both sides. There are bicycle lanes on both sides. Most traffic from the south heads west (about 4 in 5 cars) and most traffic from the west heads east (again 4 in 5).

When I come from the West and need to go via Diepe Roet (that small curvy street to the South), there is a cycling lane up to the intersection. However, I find it hard to judge the traffic situation, because there are usually 4 or 5 cars waiting from either side, and they don't usually use their indicators properly. There's also not enough illumination to completely cover the intersection.

The solution I've found is to head north along Heistraat. If it's not yet dark, I try to cross at the Frans de Cortlaan, which doesn't have nearly as much traffic. However, there's not much light there either, so if it's dark (in the winter), I drive another 50 meters or so further North. There is a school there with clear illumination on both sides, no perpendicular streets, a long speedbump and a zebra crossing. Both crossings are in my opinion far safer to cross, because it's much easier to see oncoming traffic in both ways. After having had an accident in the dark when crossing at the marked intersection, I rarely cross at that street, except during the holidays when there's no school traffic.

However, I need to drive on the left hand side bicycle lane for this, and I'm not quite sure how dangerous or legal this is. I'm not the only cycler who does this on that intersection, and I feel like I got enough justification to do it. However, if I get into an accident, I could get into trouble for not following the normal flow of traffic.

Is driving against the flow of traffic an appropriate maneuver to counteract the danger on that intersection?

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I can't figure out from your explanation why you need to ride against traffic. There's a saying in the USA "wrong way fred gets dead." –  Fred the Magic Wonder Dog Jun 12 at 16:51
    
Where in the world is this? –  andy256 Jun 12 at 22:38
    
@andy256 Belgium (see his google map link to my answer) –  gerrit Jun 12 at 22:48
    
I don't know if this differs by country, but in Germany, it is definitely illegal, and I got fined for it. In my case, the bike lane was on the boardwalk, not down on the car lane, and it was wide enough for two bicycles going in opposite directions to pass each other without either having to leave the lane. And because I emerged onto the street between two crossroads and needed to turn left, it spared me a 200 meter ride to the next crossing to the right where I could have turned. Even these circumstances didn't impress the policemen though. –  rumtscho Jun 12 at 23:06
    
I think the question should be: "How do I make a left turn in Belgium if I'm required to use the cycle track?" –  Michael Hampton Jun 12 at 23:17

4 Answers 4

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Riding against the flow of traffic is dangerous and illegal.

If an intersection or a set of intersections does not permit you to ride safely, walk your bike.

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Agreed. Don't be Alec Baldwin. –  Alan Gerber Jun 12 at 17:02
    
even if I'm riding against the flow on a bicycle lane? the lane is elevated and separated from the main road. –  Nate Kerkhofs Jun 12 at 19:42
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@NateKerkhofs Is it a bicycle lane or a bidirectional bicycle path? A photo could be useful here. If it's bidirectional then it's not against the flow of troffic. –  gerrit Jun 12 at 21:06
    
link to the google maps location: google.be/maps/place/Heistraat+192/@51.1765358,4.393187,18z/… –  Nate Kerkhofs Jun 12 at 21:43
    
If the cycling lane is on the wrong side and not explicitly marked as bidirectional, cross the street and ride on the street. The street looks like one where that seems quite doable. –  gerrit Jun 12 at 22:36

Am I required as a biker to use the bike lane on the right side of the road?

According to one bicycling guide for Belgium "Cyclists have to use the cycle track if there is one available on the right side of the road or one that is designed for driving in both directions. "

However that same guide lists a number of fines when a violation occurs and does not list a violation of this in its section on fines. Further, wikipedia indicates that "some European countries, including Germany, France, Denmark, Belgium, and the Netherlands have defined liability legislation. Thus there is a legal assumption that motorists are automatically considered liable in law for any injuries that occur if they collide with a cyclist. This may hold regardless of any fault on the part of the cyclist and may significantly affect the behavior of motorists when they encounter cyclists."

That won't help you if you are badly injured or killed in an accident, however it suggests that cyclist safety is paramount in any case. It may be that if you are fined you can explain the situation and reduce or have the fine waived due to the circumstances in that particular section of the city.

Is driving against the flow of traffic an appropriate maneuver to counteract the danger on that intersection?

No. Unless you are a pedestrian you should not go against the flow of traffic. If, for the purposes of navigating that intersection safely, you determine that going against the flow is safer, then dismount and walk your bike as a pedestrian. Follow the relevant laws and signage for pedestrian traffic.

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In Belgium at least, you are required to take the bicycle lane on your right if it exists.

Yet, sometimes, safety would be higher somewhere else. You should always prioritize safety, and it sometimes requires to do barely legal stuff. In that case anyway, people (and most likely cops) will be understanding if you have a good explanation.

Keep on mind though that the roads are usually designed to be as safe as possible, and the guys who designed it had a better overview than you have right now. (Most of the time)

But never, ever go on a bike lane in the wrong direction. You would endanger yourself and other unsuspecting users.

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Cops will be understanding — are you sure? I've heard of German cops enforcing anachronous laws where minimum bicycle light requirements are expressed in the power of the generator — rendering battery-powered lights OR modern hub generators technically illegal. –  gerrit Jun 12 at 17:39
    
That sounds weird... Lights are a pretty sensitive and important thing, so they may have a reason, but as far as traffic lanes are concerned, i care more about keeping my legs than avoiding a fine. –  Antoine_935 Jun 12 at 17:43
    
Whether or not cops, and people in general, will be understanding depends entirely on the individual. The culture in a given locale will likely influence the people/officers there one way or another, but whether or not they will be understanding nearly always boils down to the individual's biases, opinions, temperament, mood, etc. –  jimirings Jun 13 at 18:21
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@gerrit By a recent amendment of German traffic law, some anachronisms went away. During 20 yrs of almost daily bike riding, with approx. 10 yrs using an illegal battery light, I was never stopped by a cop to enforce the stupid part of German traffic law. However, stupidity as anachronism very much is in the eye of the beholder ;-) –  StefG Jun 14 at 8:36
    
@Antoine_935 Yes, it did not only sound, it is sometimes weird and based on the (technological) situation of 10-20 or more years ago. Meaning, the weirdness is explainable, which does not improve things. –  StefG Jun 14 at 8:40

Always keep in mind the true purpose of segregated bicycle facilities. To keep bicycles out of the roads that motorists think belong to them. They are not built for safety. In fact they are usually more dangerous than riding on the road. I always avoid them and ride on the road instead, that is my recommendation.

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This looks like flamebait. Assuming good faith, you must live in a totally different part of the world where cycling infrastructure is mostly subpar. The google streetview shows pretty good quality bicycle paths here. –  eldering Jun 17 at 21:13

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