This is our first installment in a new series we are calling ask the LCI. Want to know more about what an LCI is, and what kinds of questions you might ask? Check out our previous posts on the topic, and start asking.
Dear IDS Commuter:
Thanks for your question. The 6th Street/2nd Ave. intersection can be challenging; I used to ride through this one all the time when I worked downtown. The trouble here is that there are two “right turn” lanes on this street, and 2nd Ave. is a major one-way going south. Also, there are a lot of pedestrians and people waiting at bus stops here as well, so it’s pretty congested.
Riding effectively through this kind of situation comes down to being in the proper lane and using lane positioning to send a message to motorist about what you are going to do.
Generally speaking, cyclists should be in the right-most lane that serves their destination. In other words, stay in the right lane unless that lane does not go where you want to. At this intersection, the right-most lane is a right-turn only lane. The lane next to it is a combined right-turn and straight ahead lane. Riding in the rightmost lane increases the chance of a conflict because even if you ride straight ahead in the rightmost lane, you could very likely get a car in the next lane turning right into your direction of travel, and they would not be looking for a cyclist, most likely.
By looking over your shoulder and moving into the right-turn/straight ahead lane, you are taking the right-most lane that serves your destination and properly positioned to ride straight through the intersection when the light changes. Moving back to the right lane once you are through the intersection is easy because all of those cars to the right should be turning right, so you can move over easily. Remember to look first and signal before changing lanes, however.
When I ride in a situation like this, I also use lane position to tell drivers what I am up to and prevent them from trying to sneak around me. Here is a photo I recently took while riding through this intersection at rush hour:
It can be a little intimidating to be surrounded by cars downtown like this until you are used to it, but using this approach is safer and easy once you get used to making lane changes in traffic!