5. Destination Positioning at Intersections
Drivers approach intersections using a lateral position that corresponds to their destination (see § 20-153). Left turning drivers approach in a position near the center of the road. Right turning drivers approach from a position near the right edge of the road. Straight traveling drivers choose a position between these extremes. Separate lanes are often designated for these destinations; in other cases, bicyclists operating narrow vehicles must be aware of their position within a single wide lane. Attempting to negotiate and intersection from the wrong position results in path conflicts, as shown below. This sometimes happen when drivers select a lateral position based on vehicle type rather than according to destination.
When preparing to turn left, move laterally and approach the center line or use a left turn lane where available. When preparing to turn right, approach the rightmost side of the roadway or use a right-turn-only lane. When proceeding straight, stay out of right-turn-only lanes and use the thru-lane instead.
Merge into position early when preparing to turn left or when avoiding a right turn lane. If you wait too long you may be unable to merge and will be stuck in the wrong lane or position. Don’t risk swerving across the path of traffic at the last instant. It’s far safer to get in line, even if other drivers must wait behind you for a few seconds. This way other users know where you intend to go.
Use the rightmost lane headed to your destination. If the lane is narrow, occupy the center of the lane. If the lane is wide, you may decide to share it with another road user. Use the right part of a lane when faster users should to pass you on the left; use the left part of a lane when you want to allow right-turning drivers to pass you on the right.
All of the drivers in the picture above know where the cyclist is going when the light changes: left. By merging early, the cyclist was able to properly position himself. There’s really no safe or legal way for a driver to turn left from the curb in traffic, but if you prefer, you can dismount and cross as a pedestrian in two signal phases by stopping at the opposite curb.
When traffic queues at a traffic signal or intersection, get in line with the other traffic; don’t try to squeeze past on the right. Getting in line makes you more visible and predictable, deters right-hook collisions, and avoids making drivers pass you multiple times.
The cyclists shown below are about to go straight through this intersection, but they decided to pass other drivers on the right and then move onto the sidewalk. This makes them vulnerable to right-turning traffic and forces them to yield to or merge with straight traffic in the middle of the intersection before entering the narrow travel lane straight ahead. Passing traffic on the right without being in a separate travel lane is prohibited in North Carolina.
Passing or stopping on the right side of large trucks is especially dangerous, because the trailer will swing sideways and track to the inside of the turn, knocking a bicyclist over and running them over with the rear wheels. Most truck drivers cannot see bicyclists on the right side of the truck due to a large blind spot, and they don’t usually expect traffic to overtake there. Never pass on the right side of large trucks that might turn right.
[Graphic: Keri Caffrey, Commute Orlando]