Sunday, February 5, 2012

How to Make a Right Turn at a Cross Junction while Cycling

Would like to share something here regarding cycling safety. Most of the time, cyclists dread turning right at a junction because it is dangerous and difficult to do so. For a single rider, it is not so difficult as you can filter right when it is safe. However, when in a group, it is necessary to ensure that the whole group can filter right safely at the same time. The proper procedures for filtering right is listed below.

Step-by-step guide to making a right turn at a cross junction:
a) First, the cyclist has to look backwards to check that the traffic is clear before filtering to the right turning lanes. This is difficult for less experienced or less skilled riders as they may not be able to keep moving in a straight line while looking back.

b) The cyclist should occupy the leftmost right turning lane as this will put the cyclists nearer to the left lane once the right turn is completed. If the cyclists goes to the rightmost turning lane, this will make it difficult for the cyclist to filter to the left upon completing the right turn. The cyclist should also occupy the entire right turning lane as this will prevent any other vehicles from squeezing you during turning.

c) Then, the cyclist has to slowly move forward as the vehicles in front of you inch along the right turning lane guides. This may be extra tricky if the cyclist is using clipless pedals.

d) The cyclist also has to judge if they are able to right turn when the right turn green arrow is not out yet. For me, I usually wait till the right turn arrow is lighted before turning right, just in case the bike gets stuck in the junction during the turn and the vehicles in the opposite lane are still passing straight through.

e) After the right turn, filter to the left lane as quickly and safely as possible.

This right turn on the road is possible only if the traffic is relatively light and you are able to filter across to the right turning lanes. This is usually not a problem for 2 lane roads. However, on a wider 3 or 4 lane road, there will be too many vehicles passing through, making it very difficult to filter across safely. In this case, it will be safer to make use of the pedestrian crossings to help you make the right turn.

A sketch showing the 2 different ways of making a right turn using the pedestrian crossings

Please refer to the sketch shown above to understand the 2 different ways of making a right turn with the help of the pedestrian crossings. For both methods, the cyclists first go onto the traffic island by passing along the left turning slip road and then turning right onto the traffic island. Care has to be taken to make sure no vehicles will pass you on the right during this manoeuvre.

Method A, shown in red:
The red circle 1 is the first holding area for the cyclists. The cyclists will obey the traffic lights for the pedestrians, and travel from red circle 1 to red circle 2 when allowed. Red circle 2 is the second holding area.

Some cyclists may choose to stop at red circle 2A (holding area 2A) instead, in front of the waiting vehicles on the left of the picture. They will then point their bikes to the right of the picture and prepare to move off.

When the green light for the vehicles to travel from left to right is given, the cyclists at holding area 2 and 2A will move off with the vehicles. And this is where the conflict takes place.

Moving off from area 2A, the cyclists are likely to hold up the vehicles behind you, especially if there is a group and it takes a while for everyone to move off. This is inconsiderate to the vehicles as it holds them up unnecessarily, and creates unwanted conflicts.

As for moving off from area 2, the vehicles are free to travel from left to right of the picture without obstruction. However, it is dangerous for cyclists to transit from the pedestrian crossing to the road, as they may not check their blind spot, and there may be too many vehicles preventing the cyclists from moving onto the road. This is strongly discouraged as this unpredictable cycling behaviour puts everyone at risk.

Method B, shown in green:
In Method B, the green circle 1 is the first holding area, same as for Method A. The cyclists will then travel from green circle 1 to green circle 2 (holding area 2) along the pedestrian crossing when allowed.

When the green light is given for the vehicles to travel from the top to the bottom of the picture, the cyclists will then move off from holding area 2, along the pedestrian crossing. Halfway across the pedestrian crossing, the cyclists will turn right and continue along the road.

Potential hazards include the vehicles coming from the slip road, shown by the blue arrow at the top right of the picture. They may not expect you to transit from the pedestrian crossing to the road. Another thing to watch out for is right turning vehicles as shown by the blue arrow in the middle of the picture. They may attempt to make a quick right turn ahead of on-coming vehicles. This is usually not a big problem as there are usually also pedestrians on the crossing, and straight moving cars moving from top to bottom of the picture.

For Method B, the risk of conflict between vehicles and cyclists is much lesser, as you will not hold up traffic and transit dangerously from the pedestrian crossing to the road.

Hopefully the sketch helps you to understand these 2 different methods of making a right turn using the pedestrian crossings! Personally, when I need to make a right turn using the pedestrian crossings, I always use Method B, even if it means waiting for the next round of traffic lights. It is much easier, safer and less stressful to rejoin the road without backing up a whole line of vehicles behind you as shown in Method A.


  1. use the pedestrian crossing

  2. Thanks for the detail description. very clear! In a large group situation, it is possible that both method A&B are being use, depends on the time the group reach the 1st holding area.

    1. In a big group, the usual problem is that the traffic island is not big enough to hold all the cyclists. To clear the junction fast, of course both Methods A and B can be used, together with the more experienced cyclists using the right turning lane on the road. However, this might create confusion for the drivers as they see cyclists moving all over the junction!

    2. I will avoid causing confusion to drivers as much as possible, given the widespread disgust against cyclists on roads. Being a driver myself, I think what pisses drivers most is when cyclists still expect to be treated as fellow road users when they don't obey traffic laws.

  3. The issue with both methods is the transition from "vehicle" to "pedestrian", and that is dangerous because motorists do not expect a "fast pedestrian" like what you mentioned.

    The safer (and legal way in other countries) is to do a "Hook Turn". Do not enter the slip road on approach but continue on the road with the traffic when the light is green and pull off the road at 2A. Then continue from Method 1 above.

    When riding in large groups, I think it's sometimes better to dismount and wait for traffic to clear to avoid conflicts with drivers, even though we might be in the right of way.

  4. Yes that is a good way, to continue straight on the road but stop at 2A. Thanks for your input!