Cycling Street Smarts, left-hand drive version



Junctions are where all of your traffic-riding skills come together. If you ride smoothly through the junctions, you can handle almost any riding environment.

At junctions, move to the correct lane position depending on which way you’ll be going. Often, you’ll need to move away from your normal position near the left side of the road. If you’re turning left, keep to the left. But if you’re turning right, move to the centre of the road. If you’re going straight, go between the left- and right-turning traffic.

left TURNS

Left turns are easiest. Just stay in the left lane, look around for traffic and go around the corner. To avoid being squeezed against the kerb, ride in the middle of the left lane if it's narrow, just as you would to go straight. Remember that the rear end of a car cuts the corner as it makes a left turn.

At a stop sign or bypass to a left turn, yield to traffic coming from the right on the cross street. You're always required to yield to pedestrians in pedestrian crossings. Cyclists follow the same set of rules as motorists do.

A left-turn hand signal is a useful courtesy to drivers who would have to wait for you if you were going straight. Pointing with your left arm is the most effective left-turn signal.


To prepare for most junction manoeuvres, you need to change your lane position. Even between junctions or when making a left turn, as just described, you may have to move farther toward the right side of the left lane. So far, we've got by with a quick description of how to look back and check for traffic.

But when making a right turn, you often have to move across more than one lane. It's time to go into more detail. Before you change your lane position, you must always look back for traffic. Your sense of balance is in your head, so you need some practice to turn your head without swerving.

Some cyclists change lane position without looking back, because they're afraid of swerving. Don't trust your ears! Many cars are very quiet, and a bicycle behind you is even quieter.

Practise looking back in an empty car park. Ride along a straight, painted line. Turn your head to glance back, and then look forward again to see whether you're still riding straight. To keep from swerving, think about the position of your arms. If you don't turn the handlebars, you won't swerve.

Turn your head to look even if you have a rear-view mirror. A mirror can help you to keep track of the traffic directly behind you, but no mirror will show cars or cyclists at your side

The best way to look back depends on your riding position. If you're sitting upright, swivel your neck and your back. If you're in a low crouch, duck your head sideways. Some cyclists even duck their heads underneath their arms.


So now you've looked back. What next? If there's a car close behind you, let that car go by, and deal with the next car.

Usually, the next driver will have time to react to your signals. If you make your intentions clear, the driver will almost always let you into line.

Extend your right arm to signal that you want to move to the right. Wait a couple of seconds, then look back again to check that the driver has slowed down or moved aside to make room.

Turning your head to look back is a signal, too. In slow, crowded traffic, you need to keep your hands on the handlebars, ready to brake. You can usually move into line with the cars while signalling only with a turn of the head.

Look back before changing lane position (6 kB gif)

Cross a lane in two steps; one to cross the lane line and the next to cross to the other side of the lane.

Whatever signal you use, d o not change your lane position until you're sure that the driver has made room for you. Most drivers will, but there's no guarantee. Your signal doesn't make it safe to change lane position. Only the driver's response to your signal makes you safe.

If you plan your lane change early enough to have a second opportunity, you'll almost always succeed; if the first driver doesn't make room for you, the second one almost certainly will. So anticipate turns and plan for them in time.

In high-speed highway traffic, drivers may not have time to react to you. Then you need to wait for a gap in the traffic and move across all of the lanes at once.

right TURNS

To prepare a right turn, change lanes toward the centre of the street until you reach the right-turn position in traffic. This is where no cars to your right will go straight ahead. If the lane carrying right-turning traffic also carries through traffic, ride at its middle or right side. If it's a right-turn-only lane, ride at its left side or in its centreif it is narrow. On an ordinary two-lane street, turn right from just to the left of the centerline.

It may seem dangerous to move to the middle of the street, but in fact, the middle is the best position for a right turn. When you're in the correct position, the traffic you have to observe is in front of you. Since you're to the right of the through traffic coming from behind you, you are free to look ahead while deciding when it is safe to start your right turn. You can concentrate on the traffic from the right, left and front.

You may have to cross more than one lane to reach the right-turn position. Cross each lane in two steps. With one step, cross the lane line so you're just inside the next lane. With the next step, cross to the far side of the lane. At each step, look back and get a driver to make room for you.

Left turns (14 kB gif)

Correct paths for right turns: Right-turn only lane: cyclist (a) has turned right from near the middle of a narrow right turn lane. Right and through lane: Wait for a traffic light near the middle of a right and through lane, so a motorist won't sneak past on the wrong side. Cyclist (b) has turned right from the right middle of a right and through lane. No special turn lane: cyclist (c) turns from near the centerline of a two-way, two-lane street and enters the inner lane of a four-lane street to avoid left-turning car entering the outer lane.

When in position for your turn, yield to traffic from the right, left and straight ahead. So you don't have to come to a stop, you may move slowly out to the middle of the junction, the same way cars do. Then you can get moving faster when there's a gap in the traffic.

If you don’t make it to the right-turn position by the time you reach the junction, don’t force the situation. Go straight through the junction. Make your right turn at the next junction, or cross to the other side of the street, double back and make a left turn.

As you approach the intersection, signal as much as comfortable to discourage straight-through motorists from crossing the centerline and passing on your right. When waiting close to the centerline you may also make a slow signal with your left hand as needed to discourage a right-turning motorist from creeping up on your left. As you enter the junction, ride straight ahead a short distance so the right-turning motorists waiting behind you can pull to your right. As you start to turn, take a quick look back in case a straight-through motorist is about to pass you on your right. Follow the same path as motorists into the cross street.

It's also okay to make a two-step right turn. This way, you can turn right legally at a "no right turn" sign or handle traffic situations you feel are beyond your abilities. At the far left corner of the junction, come to a complete stop. Do not swerve right; it's never safe because you would have to look for traffic in all four directions at once. Instead, stop and walk to where you can safely reenter the traffic flow.


Going straight through a junction is easy compared with a right turn. You may have to change lanes, but not usually as many.

When preparing to go straight through, stay out of a left-turn lane or at least, keep to its right side. Make sure left-turning traffic passes you on your left. If there's a lane marked for left turns and through traffic, ride near its right side. You may sometimes have to merge into the second or third lane from the kerb to avoid the left-turning traffic. . Don’t be lulled by a bike lane to stay to the leftt of left-turning traffic.

Avoid conflicts with right-turning traffic (10 kB gif)

Keep to the right of left-turning traffic when going straight through a junction. Do not go to the left of traffic unless you are turning left.

Where cars are waiting for a stop sign or traffic light, never pass the first car. You never know for sure when or in which direction that car will move. Besides, it may hide a pedestrian or other hazard.

The most difficult junction to ride straight through is the one that looks simplest - on a small, two-lane street. Traffic in the left lane goes in three different directions - left, straight and right! Still, on a street with parallel parking, the empty space between the parked cars and the corner serves as a left-turn lane. Don't wander left, into this space. Keep going straight ahead.

On a street without parking, pull a little farther into the lane to discourage left-turning drivers from passing you on the right. With a little finesse, you can position yourself just far enough from the kerb so cars can pass you on the left to make a legal left turn on red.

Some motorists hesitate to pass between a cyclist and the kerb to make a left turn. A friendly wave with your left hand tells them you don’t mind..


You can ride smoothly and confidently through most junctions. Correct lane position is the key. Plan ahead to change lanes well in advance if needed, especially for right turns. Even when going straight, you often need to adjust your position to avoid conflict with left-turning traffic. Your practised ability to look back for traffic is essential. Using the correct lane position keeps you visible and gets you to where you can concentrate on traffic in front of you as you enter the junction. Be sure to stay alert for drivers who fail to signal, fail to yield, or change their mind about which way to go.