Sunday, February 21

Lane Follies

Stephen, in a comment on "Daily Violation," wondered if was truly a violation of the law in Texas to move into a traffic lane to pass through an intersection instead of going straight in a right turn lane. In fact, you actually have a choice of violating the arrow traffic direction or violating the state "Far to the Right Law." Lest you take comfort that you do not live in Texas, your situation may be just as bad and possibly even worse. You see, Texas traffic law, as is the traffic law most places, based on the "Uniform Vehicle Code." In truth, the UVC is not the law of the land anywhere, but it forms a model that States usually follow, often adding their own variations. It's a big reason why you can go to another state and pretty much get along with the local traffic.

In his book. John Forester gives his version of how the current "Far to Right" laws came about, along with the exceptions. To hear him tell it, he got irritated and failed to tell the committee that a cyclist should NOT be required to stay in that right lane when an intersection was coming up. The story, as he tells it, takes up most of a page in his book on page 290 of the latest edition. Anyway, if you look in the exceptions to the "must stay as far to the right as..." law, in most places it will NOT include an exception for cyclists continuing straight that are approaching a right turn only lane. There is a guide to the laws in every state here, though I can't say if it is up to date. If I believe it, the ONLY places in the US where it is legal to ride in lane 2 when going straight through the intersection are California, Virginia, and nine states that have abandoned the "Far to the Right Law" entirely. Those nine are: AR, IN, IO, KY, MA, MS, NC, NH, PA.

If we eliminate those eleven states, things COULD BE MUCH WORSE than in Texas. If you happen to live in 13 states, in theory if you wanted to make a left turn, you'd have to make it from lane 3 rather than lane 1. Oklahoma (say it ain't true, Ed!), Louisiana, and New Mexico being amongst them;  in one sense, Texas is surrounded. Lest you think this is some bizarre Southern thing, Alaska is amonst those 13. Stephen mentioned New Jersey. According to Bicycle Driving, New Jersey is amongst the states that does not have a FTR exception for cyclists preparing to make a left turn. It also lacks an exception for cyclists that approach an intersection with a RT Only lane that are intending to go straight. On the other hand, if you're coming up on an intersection in NJ and you want to turn right, they've got you covered!

As far as I know, mostly, even people that are hostile towards cycling have enough common sense to not prosecute cyclists that are not following laws that are really crazy from a safety standpoint. Motorists all get trained EVERY DAY to do what the signs tell them to do. It would never even occur to them that those signs conflict with something else they want a cyclist to do. In newspaper comments when people complain about cyclists running red lights and stop signs, they NEVER complain about them NOT turning left from the right lane as the law requires some places (not Texas!) It's why I would NEVER use lane 3 if I were proceeding straight through an intersection. If some benighted ticket campaign began to ticket cyclists so doing, I would avoid such intersections whenever possible. When I was unable to do so, I'd get OFF the bike and walk it across. Pretty soon, ticketed cyclists would win acquittals since disobeying a traffic signal is a worse sin than not "getting off to the right." I think Keri would concur that my logic is entirely consistent with her precedence comment in "Daily Violation." Still, one wonders why cycling advocacy groups don't try to get this kind of stuff cleaned up before fighting for three foot passing laws. It really OUGHT to be legal to ride a bike safely, without having to worry about whether this law or that one is more important.


Rantwick said...

Wow, you have been prolific with the posts lately. In large part I agree with what you've written over the past few days.

I don't know what it says about where I ride, but I never think about what the law is, but rather what makes sense. I'm a good driver. I'm a safe cyclist. I haven't EVER had even a discussion with a Police officer over anything bike related, even twenty years ago when I rode without a light at night and stuff like that.

If I ever get charged with anything, I am sure I will get very interested in the law as it pertains to cycling. For now though, I proceed as I see fit, blissfully unaware.

Steve A said...

I guess the Chip thing has me thinking about it.

I also don't usually think about it much. Mostly it's what we learned in driver's Ed, adjusted for a real underpowered motor.

Besides, only you and I would be interested in my Canada/US Olympic Women's Curling observations.

Richard Masoner said...

When I lived (and rode) in Texas many years ago, I had people tell me all the time that I'm nuts for making left turns from the left turn lane. They absolutely could not imagine why I would do something as "crazy" as a vehicular movement through traffic.

Keri said...

Here's a choice comment from the focus groups for the civility initiative:

"A pedestrian wouldn’t stand in the middle of a left-hand turn lane. A bicyclist shouldn’t ether."

Clearly this (51-year-old) woman had never taken a moment to think through how a bicyclist should make a left turn. Or that a motorcyclist also stands in a left turn lane while waiting to turn.

Steve A said...

I bet that woman would think about it a whole bunch if a person on a bike swerved across six lanes of traffic to make a left turn from the right lane. I make lefts from such roads every time I ride to work. In point of fact, working my way left across the traffic has proven to be one of the highlights of the ride. It is also a situation in which motorists have proven to be uncommonly courteous and, apparently, understanding of what and why I'm doing what I'm doing. Maybe it is only my own motorists that are such, but I have never encountered any exceptions.

If anything, it seems much safer than the same actions in the Land Rover, probably because I have better visibility and maneuverability in that situation on the bike. The biggest problem I have is I have to be careful about not making my left signals too soon, because sometimes I want that car to go past before I move left a lane and they'll often freeze once they see that left arm go out.

Apertome said...

Most of the FTR laws I've read had some language similar to "as far to the right as practicable" -- intentionally vague, leaving room for using your judgment.

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