• This is US law and roads.
  • Drive on right side.
  • Speed Limit is 45mph (72kmh)
  • And as @Benedikt Bauer pointed out solid white lines are not supposed to be crossed.
  • In the morning though there is very little traffic here. It will be heavier on my way home but then its not a left turn.
  • I'd also point out that this isn't nearly as far as Street View makes it appear with their wonky lens. I was hoping to snag a photo this morning myself but didn't catch the red light. From the shopping center entrance to the main intersection is 500 ft according to Google.

Pretty sure while making the screenshots I figured it out but I'll ask anyways since I went through the trouble. I don't plan on taking this Left for a long time, if ever (I'll either go Pedestrian to get across here until I'm more confident or take a different route). But this is the most direct route from my place to work.

The issue is the road goes from 2 lanes and then gets a right turn lane and a left turn lane into shopping centers. Then after that it expands further to have 2 left turn lanes, 3 straight lanes, and 1 right turn lane. That's where I need to make the left.

• 2 lanes getting ready to expand with the turn lanes into shopping centers:

road 1

• This is the shopping center intersection. The light further in the distance (500 ft in actuality) is where the intersection is. Cars would typically get in the second lane (not the left into the intersection but the one after that) and then as they cross the intersection get over into the turn lane. You can see this is what the SUV is doing in the picture. I would think this would then be the safest way for cyclists to do it as well but would have to take that lane so cars getting into the left don't cross into me:

road 2

• This is the main intersection where I need to make the left. So I need to be in the right left turn lane (2nd lane from left):

road 3

• Here is a Satellite view by request. I labelled the left side is the area I'd be approaching from and the top is where I need to get to.


• Finally, its a bit hard to see but this is what it looks like from the light at the shopping center in the morning. You can see there's very little traffic at this hour and I'd actually have to leave 15-20 minutes earlier by bicycle so there would be even less.

road 4

What would be the best way to get in to the left lane? I've seen cyclists there so I know it can be done, just never seen the whole process. I'm thinking after writing this:

  1. get into the left lane right before the shopping center intersection when its still 2 lanes.
  2. staying right in the middle of that left lane forcing cars to slow down behind you if there are any cars. (Of course only taking the lane when there is ample time for the car to slow down)
  3. Get over into the (right-most) left turn lane once across the shopping center intersection.

Is this how you all would do it?

  • Just pointing out that this Qn assumes driving on the right side of the road.
    – andy256
    Mar 20, 2014 at 5:44
  • As typical in the US, this road probably has a speed limit of 65kph to 75kph. It might be relevant to mention what the speed limit is here or how fast people typically move through it.
    – BPugh
    Mar 20, 2014 at 12:16
  • @BPugh edited. with speed
    – Ryan
    Mar 20, 2014 at 12:35
  • Parts of your edits refer to some facts in the further text itself that the reader needs to know to understand the edit. You don't need to explicitly mark your edit as such but better include the things that you want to add at the places where they are needed. Mar 20, 2014 at 12:40
  • @BenediktBauer I had also edited before the second photo. Guess I should've marked that too.
    – Ryan
    Mar 20, 2014 at 12:43

4 Answers 4


Generally speaking, at least in Germany a solid line must not be crossed therefore the left turn lane begins where the dashed line between the two initial lanes changes into a solid line. That does also mean that you should be on your target lane before the solid line starts, but it is wise to try to be there not too early – if I should give some reference point I would say you should change somewhere around the last dash, if traffic allows for it.

Finding out if traffic allows for it is a matter of experience and personal readiness to take a risk. But if traffic is so heavy that cars are driving more or less bumper to bumper so that you can't expect to find a reasonable gap between them when you have to change, you better take the detour over the pedestrian crossing.

If you have decided to take the left turn lane, prepare wisely before the turn. About 50 to 100m before the spot where you have to change, start to watch more often the traffic coming from behind to find a suitable gap between the cars. Once you have chosen your gap, occupy it, i.e. do not stick to the edge of the lane you're actually in, but get more to the middle to prevent cars from overtaking you. At this point also start to signal that you want to turn left so that the drivers behind you see your intention and don't get angry at that dumb guy that takes the whole lane because he cannot drive at the side. Then, about at the beginning of the solid line (as mentioned above) switch over to your desired lane, of course after another look over your shoulder to go sure that there is nobody coming fast from behind on your target line.

The most important thing in all that stuff is that whenever you are about to leave your current direction, you do it in a way that makes your intention clear to the drivers around you. So don't just jump into a narrow gap between cars or drive in the middle of the lane without signalling. If you change into the middle of the lane, be brisk and occupy the lane so that it is clear that drivers behind you will not be able to overtake you by just slipping past you without making a wide bow.

  • That solid line law exists here in the States too, and sounds like a good rational for getting over before the shopping center light since the lines are solid after it. I'll edit my question to include the law and see what others say/vote for.
    – Ryan
    Mar 20, 2014 at 12:00

Simply: no. Move over only once there is a left turn lane. My preference is to arrive there towards the start of the left turn lane because that’s what other road users are expecting.

There are two parts to the answer. First, the law allows you to use the left turn lane, and in most places requires you to do so if you make that turn. But it also requires that you keep to the right as far as practicable, which means not moving into the left lane in anticipation of the left turn lane.

Second, safety. Your idea of crossing as a pedestrian is the best way if you’re not confident. Better is to ride across the road you’re on, then stop and wait for the lights to change. When they do, start riding when it’s safe, even if you haven’t walked all the way across that road.

When the road is that busy, I’d be looking for gaps in the traffic and trying to move when those occur. A lot depends on your speed relative to the motorists. (edit) So if you can, cross those lanes when the lights are red. Stationary cars rarely hit anyone :)

When there’s a big difference, even experienced cyclists will often fake hook (see below) or pedestrian across. But if you can sprint up to a near-enough speed, or the motorists are kind to cyclists, it’s usually quite feasible to switch lanes over to the turn lane. I find signalling works a lot of the time, and it’s worth trying. Put your arm out, see if someone slows down.

There are a few useful guides on how to do this. The one from the Canadians seems reasonable, and this guidance seems sensible

Note that in some places hook turns are legal. They’re common in Melbourne, Australia and are used in a few cycle-friendly cities around the world. Some people like them as a cycle safety measure, but in my view they’re insanely dangerous unless motorists are expecting them. If someone “runs the orange” they will hit anyone making a hook turn. Motorists do that a lot in some places.

Cars regularly get them wrong in Melbourne, but relatively rarely with fatal consequences, as you often get when a motorist hits a cyclist. You’re better to do a “fake hook” — ride most of the way across with the pedestrians, turn and stop in front of the cars that are about to get a green light. Technically, that’s illegal, but it’s safe and easy.

  • 1
    I disagree that "Cars regularly get [hook turns] wrong in Melbourne", and that the "fake hook" turn is illegal. Do you have a reference for that? As for people running the lights, that is always something to watch for, whether you're turning or not.
    – andy256
    Mar 20, 2014 at 5:51
  • 1
    BTW, what couldn't you do as a low-rep user?
    – andy256
    Mar 20, 2014 at 5:51
  • 2
    @andy256: Post more than two links. Mar 20, 2014 at 11:39
  • @andy256 I lived in Melbourne for a few years and commuted down Elizabeth St for a year or so. At least once a week the afternoon rush would be fouled up by a failed hook turn. Usually minor, just glass on the road and happy panel beaters. But seriously, at least once a week.
    – Nuі
    Mar 20, 2014 at 22:05
  • @TRIG: thanks for editing in the links. Low-rep users can only post 2, like Jörg says.
    – Nuі
    Mar 20, 2014 at 22:06

If I were in your shoes at this intersection, my plan off attack would vary greatly depending on the time of day, the weather conditions, and the specific traffic conditions.

If it were particularly dark and/or rainy, I might cross as a pedestrian even when I'm familiar with the intersection and I have good lighting, just to reduce the risk of losing some skin.

During the day, depending on the speed limit, I would probably use a convenient gap in traffic to take the middle of that lane I need to turn left. Or, I'll often time it so that I can blend in with a line of stopped/slow moving cars and smoothly take the middle of the lane, most of the time the other drivers will get the idea ( you're going to occasionally run into a few jerks no matter what you do, don't take it personally ).

Just take your time and feel it out, you'll get the hang of it.

  • 1
    I really agree with this. I see too many cyclists get all in a huff that cars wouldn't let them in, and they were unable to make a left turn. Some times it's just easier to just bike/walk straight through, and then set yourself up to go straight when the light changes. It might take an extra minute while you wait for the light to change, but in some instances it might even be quicker. If the advanced left green has already finished, you often still have time too go straight through, in time to adjust your positioning so you can go straight on in the other direction.
    – Kibbee
    Mar 20, 2014 at 12:43

Judging by the road and the suggested speed limit of 45 mph, I'm betting people are flying down this road at 50+ mph. Unless you are there at a time with virtually no car traffic I would side with safety. Cars doing 45+ mph don't mix well (or at all) with bikes doing 12 mph. This also looks like the south- maybe Florida, and recent bike safety studies showed that the most likely places to get into a car - bike accident were in the south.

I, personally, would stay in the right lane (not the right turn lane) through the intersection. I would stop at the cross walk on the other side of the intersection, move my bike onto the sidewalk, and wait for a light (and pedestrian signal) to cross. At that point you can walk or ride your bike and merge back onto the new street.

Note that judging by the street views you provided the first road is a two lane road with fast moving traffic and no shoulder. I would not normally ever ride on that type of road. You are a slow moving blip forcing the faster moving cars to merge and flow around you. That's a recipe for disaster.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.