My commute takes me along a fairly busy road, with 4 lanes of traffic and parked cars along most of it. There are no bike lanes, but in some places, it's wide enough that I can easily pass traffic on the right (which is legal in my state, as far as I can tell), and in some places, there's actually a whole extra lane on the right for a block or two. However, the conditions change from block to block. On some of the blocks, there is not enough room to pass safely on the right of cars, and there are some places where the extra lane on the right no longer exists across the intersection or is filled with parked cars.
There are several times when I've passed cars on the right, either in a full lane or in the room between a lane of stopped cars and parked cars, and then realized after crossing through the next intersection that I need to merge back into the next lane. What is the etiquette of merging back into the next lane in such circumstances?
There are a few possibilities that I've tried, and all of them seem unsatisfying in certain ways.
- Continue to travel in the lane that will run out until it actually does, then stop and wait for a gap in the traffic before merging in. That can sometimes require stopping and waiting for quite a while, due to busy traffic.
- Signal to the left in advance of running out of the lane, check for a reasonable gap in the cars while still moving, and merge into that gap once I've determined it's safe, or fall back to the first option if that doesn't work. The problem is, this requires a good deal of judgement to tell when there's a good enough gap in traffic to merge back in, I can only glance back quickly and not make good eye contact with drivers in the lane I'm merging into since I need to be paying attention to what's ahead of me as well, and I'm not sure if I'm cutting people off too closely.
- Pass the cars on the right, then pull up in front of them at a stop light so I can take the lane when it turns green. This makes me feel like a jerk, like I'm cutting in line.
- Simply stay in, and take, the lane that doesn't keep disappearing. This is what I would do if I were driving a car. The problems are that I get stuck in stop-and-go traffic which slows me down, I have to breathe in the smog of trucks and busses in front of me as I wait, and I hold up somewhat more traffic as I don't take several of the block-long opportunities to make it easy for cars to pass me.
- Run red lights. This way, I can actually get into the lane I need to before I have to contend with cars. The disadvantage is, of course, that I'm running red lights.