You are making a right turn from a side street onto a very busy, 40 mph speed limit road (with 50 more common). The road has three lanes of dense traffic in each direction, and about a quarter mile up you need to turn left.
Oh, and about a quarter mile up this busy road is a freeway service road interchange. There are occasional gaps in the traffic but always a chance of a right turn on yield coming off the freeway.
How do you approach such a scenario?
Our gentle reader who authors the excellent blog Beginning Bicycle Commuting has asked the above question.
I would like to see a Google map of the area, but I doubt it would change my advice.
My strategy would be to wait for a gap large enough to to turn directly to the left lane when I entered the street. The key to left turns on high-speed busy roads is to merge early. Way early!
I suppose I would also turn into the center lane and then merge left as soon as I could if there were no gaps big enough to reach the left lane at the start.
I also do not wait for a gap that is so long I will prevent a motorist from braking. I am not going to accelerate to their speed, so no matter how big the traffic gap, they will have to slow down or merge. I just look for a gap big enough that they have the space they need to slow down for me.
Riding in the left-most lane will be confusing to many motorists, but they will merge right to overtake you. It is perfectly within the law to take the left lane when you are preparing to turn left. On high-speed streets, you have to get left early, so early that until you get used to doing it, it seems insanely early. If you wait, you can get trapped in the right lanes and be unable to merge. Merging across early is far less stressful.
While it doesn't show an early merge across multiple lanes, this video does demonstrate merging early and shows the reaction of nearby traffic. And besides, who doesn't like watching Keri ride her bike?
Photos by Fred Oswald © Copyright 2005-2008 LAB Reform. Material may be copied with attribution.