Changing Lanes Safely

by League of American Bicyclists

Intersections-Turn Lane Rule

Ride in the rightmost lane that leads to your destination. In single-destination lanes, ride on the right-hand side of the lane. In multiple-destination lanes, ride in the side of the lane appropriate for your destination and current traffic conditions. Riding in traffic requires knowledge, skill and confidence. You must be confident and assertive, but not reckless. In order to successfully change lanes in traffic the cyclist must:

  • Plan ahead
  • Look behind, perhaps several times
  • Signal your intention
  • Act carefully, smoothly and deliberately
  • Negotiate as necessary
  • Never move in front of another vehicle so close as to constitute a hazard

When you need to change multiple lanes and traffic is heavy and moving at about your speed, negotiate with overtaking motorists and make two moves per lane, one to change lanes and one to move close to the far edge of the lane.

Lane/Intersection Positioning

Most motor-vehicle/bicycle crashes occur during turns, but most such crashes can be avoided. When you approach a multi-lane intersection, think about where you would position yourself if you were driving a car. You wouldn’t be in the right-turn-only lane if you were continuing straight. You wouldn’t attempt a left turn from the right lane on a multi-lane one way road. Generally speaking, as a bicyclist, you should be in the right-most lane that goes in the direction you are traveling. But, as a bicyclist you are driving a narrow vehicle, so you also can choose which part of the lane is the best position. The specific portion of the lane depends on the distinct characteristics of the intersection.

Bike Lanes

More and more communities are striping bike lane on their streets. Well designed and maintained bike lanes should enable you to follow the same principles of traffic law – they are simply travel lanes for preferential and exclusive use by bicyclists. You should be prepared to merge into the regular travel lane to make left turns and to avoid debris or illegally parked cars. Pay special attention in bike lanes that are adjacent to parked cars and always ride outside the door zone.

Reprinted from League of American Bicyclists "Smart Cycling/Traffic Skills 101". For more information on good cycling tips, see How You Can Ride Better.
For more information about the League of American Bicyclists, visit their web site,, or e-mail them at

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