The Chainlink

Traffic Rule Question: Which Side of the Left Turn Lane Should I Be on?

I always thought that when taking a left turn from a left turn lane that you should take the turn from the right side of the left turn lane (if not taking the whole lane), but riding with my wife last week, I noticed that she turns from the left side of the left turn lane. I told her that she was turning from the wrong side, but she told me, with a good deal of confidence, that it's actually me who is turning from the wrong side. Her confidence has shaken my own confidence because she does regular training rides with other cyclists and I generally ride alone. To me, it seems stupid to turn from the left side of the left turn lane because you'll have to cross the cars turning left to get back to the right side of the road, but, then again, I have seen some pretty pro looking cyclists taking lefts from the left side of the left turn lane.

Who's right? I tried googling this but most sites don't say either way (plus I did a cursory search of this forum). I did, however, find this image that seems to support my belief. The question is driving me crazy.

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That all depends. Are you married?

dan brown said:

I'm pretty certain I am correct here; but there is a very remote chance I am wrong.


Justin B Newman said:

Your wife is right. Because your wife is always right.

What was the question again?


You can still be right.  In order to reinforce authority on all domestic matters deference may be given to you on things that really don't matter such as what part of the lane to use. When the discussion of where to eat dinner, what color to paint the room, what movie to see, whether you can afford that new bike, who's parents you will see on what holiday, etc arises you will lose that argument and be reminded of how graciously you were allowed to win the all important issue of what part of the lane to use. I might suggest giving in on this issue so you can gain some leverage for those other issues. Nah,  you will lose anyway, take the win, they are few and far between. :-)


Duppie said:

That all depends. Are you married?

dan brown said:

I'm pretty certain I am correct here; but there is a very remote chance I am wrong.


Justin B Newman said:

Your wife is right. Because your wife is always right.

What was the question again?

Aren't you in the motorist's blind spot when the driver passes you while going straight too?



Thunder Snow said:
I'm with AM. I take center of the lane, as I don't want a car on either side of me in a turn. You're in the motorists blind spot as s/he passed you on your left.
Nice! Now I'll just say, "well, the League of American Bicyclists teaches..."


Brendan Kevenides said:


The League of American Bicyclists teaches to always use the rightmost portion of the lane that goes in your direction of travel.  I am certified by the League as a cycling instructor.  In practice I find that taking the lane is often the best approach.

True that. Even if I'm right, I'm wrong because even if I win, I lose. Haha


Justin B Newman said:

Your wife is right. Because your wife is always right.

What was the question again?

Yeah, I understand how you feel.


AM 9.5 said:

In taking the lane, the point is to make it so the motorist cannot pass in the turn; I'm in the same position that the car would be in during its turn, and don't go into the blind spot.  To be clear, I don't continue to take the lane once I complete the left turn.  To the extent it's safe, I go straight back to the right of the traffic lane or bike lane.  I know a lot of cyclists have encountered motorists who are less-than-pleased with a cyclist taking the left turn lane.  I have never encountered any issues.  I use a hand signal and clear the intersection quickly.

Tristan Jackson said:

Aren't you in the motorist's blind spot when the driver passes you while going straight too?



Thunder Snow said:
I'm with AM. I take center of the lane, as I don't want a car on either side of me in a turn. You're in the motorists blind spot as s/he passed you on your left.

This is a great question, and I'm pretty sure that Brendan Kevenides is correct about position within the left turn lane. The League of Illinois Bicyclists has put together an online bike safety quiz that includes questions similar to yours. It's a great educational tool on the rules of the road for both bicyclists and motorists, and I encourage everyone to take it. Even the most experienced riders tend to find a few questions challenging and learn something new. There's even a quiz for children. Check it out:

http://bikesafetyquiz.com/

As an LCI and a daily commuter to and from the Loop I am with Brendan Kevenides on this question. I usually take the lane through the turn and stay to the right if there is room once I am through the turn.   If there is not room, then I will continue to hold the lane.   Taking the lane establishes your presence on the road and avoids ambiguity.   I also find the vast majority of motorists cooperative and accommodating waiting to pass once I have moved to the right after I am through the intersection.

Great discussion. I used to stay in the right side of the lane even if it's a turn lane. Makes total sense to get out of the way of cars turning right if you're going straight.

Thanks for the tips.

If you are unsure about where to be in the left turn lane, another option would be to stay to the right and cross the street as if you are going straight, stop on the right side of the new street, wait for the light to change, then proceed down the new street. You will already be in the correct position without having to get out of the bike lane or worry about sitting in the middle of the street and getting hit, or what turning cars behind you will do.

I was in the left turn lane once and a cop pulled me over and told me to do the maneuver above instead of being in the turn lane. At first I thought it was a bad idea but I tried it out and it has worked out well for me on most intersections where there is room to sit in front of the crosswalk and not be in the way of traffic. 

I hope this explanation makes sense...

Either way is perfectly legal though.

+1. I do this most of the time unless there is very light traffic.

Corey Margulis said:

If you are unsure about where to be in the left turn lane, another option would be to stay to the right and cross the street as if you are going straight, stop on the right side of the new street, wait for the light to change, then proceed down the new street, and you will already be in the correct position without having to get out of the bike lane or worry about sitting in the middle of the street and getting hit, or what turning cars behind you will do.

I was in the left turn lane once and a cop pulled me over and told me to do the maneuver above instead of being in the turn lane. At first I thought it was a bad idea but I tried it out and it has worked out well for me on most intersections where there is room to sit in front of the crosswalk and not be in the way of traffic. 

I hope this explanation makes sense...

Either way is perfectly legal though.

Been out of town and off-net for a few days. Just getting back to this. There are situations where I think I would take the lane, the most likely being at a busy intersection where there is a left-turn lane, and to its right and turn-left-or-go-straight lane. I would most likely take the center of the latter lane.

OTOH, discretion being the better part of valor, I might just use a box turn.

David Barish said:

I often sit right on the line between the Left turn lane and  the proceed forward lane. Everybody goes and nobody gets into the other's way.

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