Cycling Street Smarts, left-hand drive version



Not all junctions are of the standard, "crossroads" type. Though the same principles of lane positioning apply to all junction manoeuvres, some situations can be confusing and deserve a second look.


Cyclists sometimes will ride against traffic or take unusual routes across junctions to get started on their way. Don't do it!

Instead, look for a good place to enter, where you can start out with a normal junction manoeuvre: a right or left turn, or a lane change to merge into traffic. The traffic laws apply as soon as you're on the road. Even< if you have to walk your bike a short distance to a driveway, a legal start is much safer. Besides, you often get started faster, since you can then move with the normal flow of traffic.

When entering the road from a narrow driveway, ride near its middle. A pedestrian could be approaching on the sidewalk from either side, and a car could be about to enter the driveway from either direction. By placing yourself in the middle, you can see in both directions equally well.

When entering the roadway, look both ways (6 kB gif)

When entering the road, look right, but always look left as well for pedestrians and overtaking cars.

Even when preparing for a left turn onto a rural highway, look right, left, right, and then left again. A car approaching from your left can pull out very quickly to pass in the lane you're about to enter.

DIAGONAL junctionS

Traffic follows the usual rules at a diagonal junction, but it's harder for drivers to look into the diagonal cross street behind them. Be especially careful of vans and lorries, which have a left-rear blind spot.

Some of the turns in a diagonal junction aren't very sharp, so cars may not slow down very much to make them. Be alert to oncoming right-turning traffic, and be sure the drivers have seen you.

slip roadS

Slip roads are found only on high-speed roadways. When a slip road comes in from the left, the Highway Code in the U.K. requires that you look back into it, merge across to the left at its start and follow it back onto the main roadway. Sometimes a cycle lane is marked to encourage this practice. Be very careful that no traffic is close behind you in the slip road before crossing. The same advice applies where two roads merge together.

If passing a high-speed slip road which joins the one on which you are riding as in (a), you are safest if you look left and ride along its left edge, as in (a). Cyclist (b) is at risk because the motorist behind him is looking back for traffic. His path is more direct, but is advised only under low-speed conditions. In a low-speed deceleration lane, you may keep your position as in (c), avoiding the need to merge left and then right again. On a higher-speed slip road, it is advisable to proceed as in (d) and merge back if continuing on the main roadway.

A exiting slip road is much like a left-turn lane, except that the traffic is faster. If you're going straight and the slip road goes off to the left, you may ride along the edge and then cross back to the main road, or under lower-speed conditions, stay in your normal traffic position, to its right. The exiting traffic will pass you on your left, and the through traffic will pass you on your right.

When you're passing a slip road, exiting drivers may hesitate to pass you. Drivers can see your hand signal for hundreds of feet behind you, so it's useful even when cars are traveling at highway speed.

A one-way roadway can have slip roads to the right side. When entering on a slip road from the right, ride along its right side, then the right side of the roadway until you can merge across to your normal lane position. When exiting on a slip road to the right, cross to the right before the slip road and ride on its right side until it is safe to move to your normal lane position.

Sometimes two roadways will join or divide, but the total number of lanes will stay the same: For example, a couple of one-lane roads can join into a single two-lane one-way road. In high-speed traffic, it's best to ride near the edge, as with slip roads. When entering or exiting from the right in slow traffic, you may ride on the left side of the right road, so you avoid having to cross as many lanes.

On lower-speed roads there are sometimes deceleration lanes before junctions that look similar to slip roads. They are not a 'ramp' in any sense as they occur only at same-level junctions. Here a cyclist should keep to the straight lane.


A roundabout is, in effect, a right-curving street with several side streets going off to the left.

Enter the roundabout in the left lane if you're going to turn left at the first exit. But if you're going past the first exit, move toward the right side of the lane as you enter the roundabout. If going 3/4 of the way around, in a two-lane roundabout, move into the lane closer to the centre. It sometimes helps to make a right-turn signal while in the inner lane; drivers then feel comfortable about passing you on the left as they exit the roundabout.

Roundabout: Stay in the outer lane if you will take the first exit, as in (b) Ride in the lane closer to the centre if going 3/4 of the way around to turn right, as in (b). Ride at the left side of the outer lane if going halfway around, as in (c). It is also possible to change lanes after entering, as at (d).

Because of the roundabout's right curve, what would normally be a left turn is more nearly straight, and can be made at a greater speed. For this reason, it’s especially dangerous to pass an entrance or exit of a roundabout at the outside. Stay far enough right to stay clear of entering and exiting traffic. Then as you approach your exit, merge left. Use your normal tactics and hand signals for lane-changing.

Cyclists who always keep to the left will tell you that roundabouts are very dangerous. On the other hand, you'll find it surprisingly easy to ride around if you keep away from the exits and entrances.


Sometimes you need to make two right turns quickly, one after the other; for example, if you're turning right at an junction and then turning right into a driveway at the middle of the block.

In this case, don't head for the left side of the street after the first right turn. You may not have time to change lanes to the right again. Finish your first right turn in the correct lane to begin your second right turn.


If a one-way street is two or more lanes wide, laws in most places including the U.K. allow you to ride at either side. When preparing a right turn from a one-way street onto another one-way street, it's easiest and safest to ride around the corner on the right (the mirror image of an ordinaryleft turn).

Cycle LANES AT junctionS

Cycle lanes give cyclists a narrow lane to the left of motorists. Sometimes you must ride outside the cycle lane to be safe, especially at junctions. Pass slower vehicles on the right. If you pass on the left, the vehicle you are passing might turn left without the driver's ever seeing you, and that vehicle also hides you from oncoming drivers who might turn right in front of you.

Avoid crossing paths with turning traffic in a bike lane (6 kB gif)

Bike lane left turn problems. Straight-through cyclist must cross paths with left-turning traffic. Motorist (a) must look right and ahead for other traffic and may not see the cyclist. If motorist (a) does yield to cyclist, right-turning motorist (b), who can not see the cyclist, may proceed into path of the cyclist, and motorist (c) must wait. The cyclist, not sure if motorists (a) and (c) are turning, must look both backward and forward.

Leave the bike lane if necessary to avoid conflicts with turning traffic(6 kB gif)

The cyclist has merged out of the bike lane in advance of the junction. Now nobody has to look backward and forward at the same time. Motorist (a) can make a safe and legal left turn. The cyclist and motorist (c) can both continue through the junction. Motorist (b) can see the cyclist and knows to yield. Dashing of bike lane stripe indicates to left-turning motorists that they should merge left.

When turning right, merge right before the junction as described earlier in this booklet. When going straight through, don't let left-turning traffic get on your right and "hook" you. Unless the bike lane goes to the right of a left-turn lane, this means moving right (out of the bike lane) before the junction, merging into line with the cars. When turning left you can usually stay in the bike lane.

Some motorists may think that the bike lane is "your space" and you should stay in it. Your safety is more important. Bike lane or not, follow the lane positioning guidelines in this booklet.

advanced stop lines

Bicycle waiting areas with advanced stop lines attempt to make cycle traffic flow more smoothly when there is heavy motor traffic. There are two kinds.

Pedestrian c) has a "don't walk" signal but there is no such signal for the cyclists. Cyclist a) is at risk if the truck turns left. Cyclist b) is at risk because the traffic signal has just turned green when she reached the waiting area after the advanced stop line. Car d) is accelerating but the truck hides them from one another. Avoid these risks unless you are sure that the light is not about to turn green.

An in-line bicycle waiting area is possible only where there is a traffic signal, and has two stop lines: one for motorists and another, closer to the junction, for cyclists. If the traffic signal is green, the cyclist approaches the junction as usual. If the signal is red, the bicycle waiting area invites the cyclist to overtake the first motor vehicle on the left and then to swerve right. The cyclist is at risk if the motor traffic starts up. Avoid the risk unless you are sure that the signal is not about to turn green.

A cross street bicycle waiting area, placed between the pedestrian crossing and the junction, is unknown in the U.K, but found in some other countries. It assists with two-step right turns (or left turns in countries where traffic keeps right). The cyclist enters the junction on a green light as if continuing straight ahead, then steers slightly left into the waiting area, turns right and waits for the signal to change. This can be more practical for right turns across a very busy and congested street. If the two-step turn is mandatory, however, it can unnecessarily slow cyclists when traffic is lighter.


And there they are - the difficult junction types. Once you can handle these, you can ride just about anywhere. You can even figure out how to handle junctions not described here by using the principles of lane changing and positioning on which all junction manoeuvres are based.