9

In the pictured intersection the two traffic lights on the right are often green, while the lights for the two left turning lanes are still red. What should I do as a cyclist if I want to turn left?

Intersection

  1. Stop at position A and wait for the (left turn) light to be green. This would make sense, as I am using the area marked for bicycles. However, I am then in the way of the buses and taxis, which continue straight on green in the bus lane left of the bicycle lane.
  2. Stop at position B. In this case I am not in the way for buses and taxis, but it seems weird to stop on the right, when I want to turn left. I am also in the way of other cyclist who want to continue straight ahead.
  3. Cycle in the left turning lane and stop at position C. This seems okay, although I am not using the marked area for bicycles.

I have also seen people turn left from position A, while the left turn traffic lights were still red. I guess that is against the rules, but I am not sure.

The intersection is in Germany.

12
  • 2
    Welcome to the site. How confident are you as a cyclist? This is a car-centric intersection, and it's reasonable to suggest "find a better route" (though that doesn't address the question, thus comment)
    – Criggie
    Sep 28, 2023 at 23:13
  • 4
    It is not clear to me what the turn arrows in the respective lines are, they are cropped by the lower margin of the image. You should never ride against those. The option to see the whole intersection would really help. Consider just using the pedestrian crossings. Or go with the cars in their lane if allowed. But follow the line usage rules. Sep 29, 2023 at 6:49
  • 2
    In the UK you can legally occupy the centre of an entire lane, and essentially block traffic. Then all you need to do is turn at your leisure, ignoring the shouts and horns behind you.
    – Richard
    Sep 29, 2023 at 9:57
  • 4
    4. Write to the city to fix this intersection.
    – gerrit
    Sep 29, 2023 at 15:26
  • 1
    I see there's a bike box in front of the bus lane but not in front of the left turn lanes. I started to ask if it's possible to ride in the bike lane up to the bike box, then across in the bike box to sit in front of the left-turn lane, but then I realized that if the right-hand lights are green, that means the bus has a green also, so that just won't work. Upvote for suggestion to write to the city to fix the intersection.
    – shoover
    Sep 29, 2023 at 20:36

5 Answers 5

20

View of junction from further back, showing road markings

The markings (ahead of the car in the image above) clearly indicate that you are only allowed to go straight ahead in the bike lane. For turning left you have two options:

  1. You behave like a car, and use the middle of the second left lane.
  2. You take the parallel road, dismount and use the underpass for pedestrians. These underpasses form an X under the crossing.
5
  • 1
    This is the right answer. How did you find the location? I only asked for the bigger picture in the comments. Sep 29, 2023 at 7:28
  • 2
    @VladimirFГероямслава The address, Roermonderer Strasse 3, is in OP's screenshot. The first suggestion in the Google Maps search results was the right one in Aachen.
    – BrtH
    Sep 29, 2023 at 7:31
  • 2
    I see, it even contains the exact coordinates. I was blind. Sep 29, 2023 at 7:39
  • With a bike the underpass is much more cumbersome. It would be better to use the regular pedestrian crossing instead. Or better even, look at my answer. ;)
    – YPOC
    Sep 29, 2023 at 16:03
  • the bike marking on the ground is in a blue circle, which if I understand it correctly should indicate that the cycle lane is mandatory, i.e that cyclists are not allowed to use other lanes (and therefore not allowed to behave like a car)
    – njzk2
    Sep 30, 2023 at 22:03
14

I'd disagree with the other answers. Unless you prefer a Copenhagen turn / box turn / Indirektes Linksabbiegen (legal, probably safest, but slow) I'd suggest C and take the entire lane (!), exactly like a car. This has worked well for me (so far) in Germany.

Motorists are often confused by cyclist's behavior (even when it's correct) and fail to act properly. They understand car behavior and intuitively react correctly. Therefore, act like a car which will make them treat you like one.

I think distracted driving is less of a problem in Germany, but drivers do like to try to squeeze past cyclists. Therefore, waiting in the car lane is unproblematic as long as you take the entire lane so no-one tries to squeeze past. However, you should accelerate quickly to cross the intersection quickly, as drivers tend to get impatient. After clearing the intersection, obviously keep to the right / bike lane and give pedestrians the right of way.

6
  • 3
    Middle of the lane is also the most visible position.
    – gerrit
    Sep 29, 2023 at 15:34
  • @gerrit true, but that point is also in the center of the following car's grill. Personally I sit where I'm in front of the following driver, so about 80cm to the left/right of center. This puts me closer to not being squished if the following car doesn't stop soon enough.,
    – Criggie
    Sep 29, 2023 at 21:44
  • 1
    In Australia, we call this "Copenhagen turn" a "hook turn". It's not necessarily slow. Depending on the traffic light sequence, it can be faster, e.g. if the green arrow is given before the main green (often happens when both directions are given an arrow) and you've already missed it. Otherwise I agree, and I usually take the fastest option if I'm familiar with the sequence on each particular intersection.
    – Zeus
    Oct 1, 2023 at 23:59
  • 1
    @Zeus In Germany, traffic lights prioritize cars, so phases are long. Waiting for two subsequent greens to turn left takes forever, particularly on big crossings like this which are obviously car-centric. There are few smart traffic lights, they usually have a fixed program.
    – Erlkoenig
    Oct 2, 2023 at 4:51
  • @Erlkoenig, I bet Australian lights are not smarter. But if the intersection has a dedicated left-turn cycle (right-turn for Australia, and very common there, but I'll use EU convention), and you've already missed it - but still have green ahead, then waiting for the arrow will take longer than using up this green and waiting for the crossing green. But if everything is red for you, moving to the dedicated left lane is usually better (and fairly safe as everyone is stopped).
    – Zeus
    Oct 2, 2023 at 6:53
8

Having cycled there a few times myself, I have found the best line to take to be an indirect left turn (indirektes Linksabbiegen), as pictured in the image by the blue line: enter image description here You continue straight through the intersection, but stop at the red bar before the pedestrian crossing area, and clear of other motorized traffic passing through (purple line). You shouldn't look at the pedestrian traffic lights, you are clear to go whenever you don't impede any other traffic, since you have already entered the intersection under a green light.

Sometimes you will encounter dedicated infrastructure for indirect left turns, like in the picture in the bottom left of the intersection. This box contains a stop bar (Haltelinie), where you are required to stop unless the dedicated bicycle stopping lights show green.

9
  • Is the indirect left turn always legal in an intersection, when there are no signs specifically indicating it?
    – keszei
    Sep 30, 2023 at 14:41
  • 5
    I’m not sure exactly what would be illegal about it, since morally it’s equivalent to going straight until the curb, dismounting, then remounting on the road facing the other way Sep 30, 2023 at 19:16
  • 3
    @keszei Yes! § 9 Abs. (2) StVO explicitly allows this.
    – YPOC
    Sep 30, 2023 at 21:04
  • 1
    In theory, it allows multiple cyclists to wait at the front of the lane while the lights red, ensuring they get a head start so they’re less likely to get hit by right turning traffic. In practice they’re often unused unless it’s an incredibly busy intersection and I’ve seen lots of people prefer to queue single file in the bike lane. That said you are allowed to use them, and even if they’re not used they still provide a head start for the bikes when the signal changes Oct 1, 2023 at 4:33
  • 1
    AwkwardWhale is correct @njzk2, it is for better visibility. Usually they also allow easier left turns for cyclists, however this intersection with 4 car lanes is a very poor example for this. They are called ARAS (aufgeweitete Radaufstellfläche).
    – YPOC
    Oct 1, 2023 at 11:14
3

Depending on driving culture in your city, all of those positions range from moderately dangerous to suicidal. B (and blocking the cycle lane) is by far the safest. The other positions any car that does not move from its normal lane, e.g. due a distracted driver, will hit you. With B, the car has to be outside its lane and also have a distracted driver. I however would not use any of these positions.

You have two alternates - as suggested in comments, a different route would be far preferable to stopping where shown.

If hook turns ("Copenhagen Left" and other names) are allowed, this is by far the safest turn you can make from that road. Continue straight through the intersection on the right (on a green light). Once you are nearly across (where the pedestrians are in the photo), stop and wait for the lights to change to green and continue. In many countries, hook turns for cyclists will provide a location that explicitly gives you the right to stop while waiting and gives you priority over cars.

Choices will depend on a lot of variables - options for alternate routes, your own riding confidence and tolerance for risk outside you control, traffic densities and driver tolerance and awareness of cyclists.

Refer https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hook_turn

1
  • 2
    B (and blocking the cycle lane) is by far the safest. Huh? There's a car in the posted image ready to make a street pizza from any rider stopped at B. Stopping at C seems safe - it's just a bog-standard left-turn lane controlled by a traffic light. Of course it's no fun sucking down bus exhaust. Sep 29, 2023 at 13:09
2

This answer is based on the information from the image in the original question, where it is not visible that the bike lane is straight-or-right only. Given that extra information, you should definitely not turn left from A.

Eurgh, such intersections are horrible. Honestly, if this is a busy-traffic time then I'd recommend you don't use the marked bike lanes at all; instead follow two pedestrian crossings and only continue riding after having made it over the intersection this way.

At a calmer time of day, you should probably use A and signal very clearly that you're turning left. What I tend to do is wait for the lights to go green with my arm stretched out, then ride through the intersection keeping the arm stretched out all the time, and only at the very end put it down. Been cut off too often by German drivers to take any risk of the signal being missed. But only try that if you know you can reliably ride, turn and accelerate single-handed.
The advantage of starting at A (beside being marked as cycle lane) is that you will have been waiting in front of the driver on the car lane, who thus has plenty of chance to see and recognize you. That means you have a good chance that at least this one driver behind you will be a bit careful and you can abort the turn by going straight, if something goes wrong – though better don't count on it. Always best to ride assuming you're invisible.

If you start out at C, drivers on both lanes can easily miss you. Drivers on the bus line, because you're not in front of their face, and drivers on the car lane, because you're not in their lane. This can get quite dangerous. The advantage is that you don't need to signal that you're turning left though, so it might still be a better option if you're not comfortable riding with stretched out arm. In this case I'd select a very offensive waiting spot, diagonally to make it as difficult as possible for drivers to overlook you.

B seems the worst option, because that almost guarantees that you'll be cut off by someone. Only way I'd consider it is if you're watching all the traffic, you're prepared to cross the intersection without turning and to wait at the opposite pavement.

5
  • 1
    This answer assumes one moves to the front of the line and occupies the advance space on Red, I presume? An additional option is "taking the lane like a car" which would occupy a car-length , perhaps where the camera is viewing from.
    – Criggie
    Sep 29, 2023 at 0:30
  • 1
    Is doing A and B while turning left even allowed? What you describe as being hooked by a car can actually be "turning suicidely in front of a car where not being allowed to do that". In C you should still signal turning left at the start. Sep 29, 2023 at 6:56
  • @VladimirFГероямслава indeed it's not allowed, but this is only evident from the image in BrtH's answer. Sep 29, 2023 at 8:14
  • @leftaroundabout Making a left turn from A or B requires cutting across one or more lanes of traffic. Such moves tend to be illegal without explicitly being prohibited by signage or markings, and are deadly dangerous on a bicycle no matter what. Neither of those reasons depend on the later image. Is it ever OK for a car to make a left turn from A? Sep 29, 2023 at 16:22
  • @AndrewHenle it would not be ok for a car, but A is the spot marked for bicycles. When there are bicycle markings, one should generally stay on the marked areas as long as possible. And in this case this wouldn't be completely unreasonable, because the two car lanes on the left are both left-turn only, so you wouldn't cut any legal lane by turning left as a cyclist starting from A. The reason I nevertheless hesitate to recommend this is that even though cars must turn left on those lanes, they could nevertheless swerve out and catch you, or simply go straight though it's forbidden. Oct 2, 2023 at 7:47

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.