From the Forum – Bike lanes and right turns

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Bike lanes and right turns:

“While driving , how am I suppose to make a right turn from a street with a bike lane? I’m very cautious sharing the road with bike riders but had a near miss recently.”

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63 Comment

    • Yes yes yes. And, most important of all, signal. This part really can’t be overstated.

      Signal, signal, signal.

      Whenever I’m riding in a right-side bike lane and I see a car looking to make a right turn, I move out of the bike lane and pass the car on the left so that we don’t cross paths. Works harmoniously every time, so long as all parties clearly indicate their intentions.

    • Thanks for this link. (And thanks for the question). I always wondered about this and wasn’t sure what to do. Does the same rule apply if I’m the first car at a red light? E.g. I’m headed East on Euclid, turning Right onto 16th Street and the light is red. I’m always unsure whether I’m supposed to take the bike lane/block it for bikers a half block back, or whether I’m supposed to leave it open. I assume the former?

      • If you’re the first one there, then cross the bike lane (when no bikes are in it) to the space to the right of the bike lane in front of the parked cars.

      • A lot of people honestly don’t know what to do in this situation, and are confused about other bike-related and non-bike-related rules, as well.
        This is why it would be nice if a driver’s license came with some continuing education requirements. I got mine at age 16 after one week of driver’s ed and in a different state with a very different mix of streets and traffic and rules. It’s a little amazing that that is all the “training” I’ll ever need to operate a vehicle.

  • Yield to the bike(s) until it/they pass. If the lane has a dotted white line, you can then move over to the right (into the bike lane space) to make the turn.

  • You merge right into the bike lane – as far right as possible (usually there is an area with dashed lines for you to do this). After you have merged right, then you turn right.
    It prevents bicyclists from moving up along your right while you’re making the turn. It does not prevent bicyclists who don’t understand this concept from getting mad at you for driving in the bike lane even though that’s what you’re supposed to do.

  • Assuming you are talking about a bike lane to the right of one or more driving lanes.


    1. Check to ensure there are no cyclists in the lane you wish to occupy (just like you do for cars).
    2. Signal your intent to take the lane
    3. Move into the bike lane
    4. Make right turn (obviously after ensuring it is clear to turn).

    Any cyclist should then pass on your left side, as your indicator is on signalling you are intending to turn right.

    • They don’t always do that. I’ve had many close calls at the 4 way stop at New Hampshire and S. They see the signal, my car is over the dotted line, I’m next in line to turn, they are supposed to STOP and guess what happens? I get my car slapped by a biker trying to squeeze between me and the parked cars while I’m legally turning.

      • I think some of the drivers who have commented didn’t read the above comments very clearly.
        1) Drivers need to YIELD to bikes (we have the right of way in bike lanes).
        2) Then CROSS the bike lane and get to the right edge of the road. Although it’s not shown in the SF link, most of the bike lanes in DC are bordered by parked cars, thus there is room for the car to pull all the way over to the right, and leave the bike lane clear and car free. While this is almost never done in practice (cars typically kinda merge into the bike lane and turn right when still in the bike lane), as long as you signal, and get your car out of the bike lane quickly, you shouldn’t endanger or annoy any cyclist.
        3) Regardless of how you turn right, please, please, please check your blind spot on the right side. There are a lot of DC cyclists who are not very experienced, and have no clue to look out (or what to look out for) during these situations.
        4) Don’t block the lane. Just like don’t block the box. Just use some common sense.

        • if people have no clue about blind spots they shouldn’t be riding bikes in the city.

          • If people have no clue about blind spots they shouldn’t be riding cars in the city (or anywhere). It’s the car that has a blind spot (not the cyclist) and it is the car that is liable for causing an accident if they cross into a bike lane and strike someone.

          • “Blind spot” is an unfortunate term. Blind spot from the mirror, yes, but a driver ABSOLUTELY needs to turn his or her head before changing lanes. “You were in my blind spot” is not an excuse for changing lanes into someone (car, bike, pedestrians getting in a car, whatever).

        • I bike through the intersection that anon at 2:44 is referring to just about every day and he/she is correct.

          Typically there is a good amount of traffic there at rush hour so more than one car will be backed up at the stop sign waiting to go through the intersection (which also has heavy pedestrian and dog traffic). Cars turning right will, correctly, move to the right into the bike lane. But then they will have to sit there for a bit, waiting for peds and other cars to cross. During that time, bicycles will repeatedly come up around them to the right, preventing them from turning and generally messing up the traffic flow of the intersection.

          The correct way to cycle through there would be to go to the left of the turning car, and stop at the stop sign. I’d say only half actually manage that. Though to be fair there are a good number of cars that turn right there without merging into the bike lane and without signaling, so it’s not just bicyclists behaving badly. But because so many drivers make those unexpected and unsignaled turns I typically try to either make eye contact with, or hang significantly behind the car to my left to avoid the hook. Less experienced riders (bikeshare in particular) will just blow through there and regularly have near misses.

          • But at this intersection, there is space for a car between the curb and the bike lane. Drivers are legally required to FULLY cross the bike lane and turn from the curb. Yes, there are some stupid cyclists, but if the drivers were doing what was legally required, the dumb option (biking right of the car) wouldn’t even be an option.

          • to sunsquashed – there really isn’t a whole lane for a car at this particular intersection due to parked cars. Just like anywhere along T, R or Q streets too.

  • This is a very good question. I assume it’s ok for me to turn right at a stop sign when it’s my turn in the line up but, many bikers feel it’s ok to not stop and sneak up on my right side as I’m starting my turn. It’s pretty freakn’ scary because I a super cautious as I don’t want to hurt anyone. I’ve been a victim of being hit by a car while in a crosswalk with a green light and white blinking walk sign and don’t ever want to cause that pain to someone else.

    • You should move as far to the right as possible (merging into the bike lane) if you are turning across the bike lane. Of course, you should use your turn signal when doing so.

  • Thanks so much for your question. I don’t have an exact answer, but please, please, please, please signal every turn. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve almost been hit on my bike going on Q through 14th St when drivers don’t signal their right turn.

    Due to the high quantity of cyclists in DC, it’s just a good practice to signal every lane change and turn even if you’re 100% positive there’s no one in your blind spot.

  • Good question. Judging from my nightly experience at NH and S NW, a lot of drivers don’t know. Take the bike lane! Also, please make sure to use your blinker, so bikers know to get to your left.

    • Also, if you’re using your blinker, no sensible cyclist will try to pass you on the right as you’re trying to turn right.

      • Not true. See my above post. I know my blinker isn’t broken. How does that song go? You saw my blinker b****

        • That’s why I had the “sensible” caveat – any cyclist trying to squeeze between you and a parked car when you’re turning with your signal on (and have moved as far right as possible) is a freaking moron.

          I’m an avid cyclist and there is absolutely no excuse for that behavior – so incredibly dangerous and rude.

          • i wish drivers would get in the right hand lane to make right turns, bike lane or not.
            as both a driver and a biker, it’s very annoying and the wrong way to drive.

      • the assumption that people riding bikes are sensible is not supported by experience on the streets of DC.

        • It’s not an assumption. Some are / some aren’t. Just like drivers, pedestrians, and jet-packers.

    • I find it interesting how NH and S has come up twice in this post when NH and T seems like it has been designed to accentuate this very conflict. The bike lane on NH heading North towards the NH and T intersection is on the right side of a right turn only lane, and the majority of bicyclists who use that lane are heading straight. I’ve been honked at for not using the bike lane there on numerous occasions when to me it makes absolutely no sense to ride on the right side of a right turn only lane when going straight.

  • I follow the “street law” principle. Give cyclists the same respect they give you as a driver……cut them off, don’t signal and stare at them with a puzzled look as you speed by.

    • If your overriding experience with cyclists is that they’re giving you puzzled looks, consider that the common thread is you.

    • Do unto others as you WOULD HAVE them do unto you… not as they actually DO unto you.
      The latter pretty much ensures chaos, rudeness, and discontent.

      • The latter also pretty much ensures a few dead or severely injured cyclists. Not defending irresponsible cyclists by any means, but when they disregard traffic laws or just common decency, they are putting themselves (and pedestrians, I suppose) at risk, when a driver does it, they threaten the lives of others. A car does a lot more damage than a bike.

    • After many years of biking in this city, I’m pretty inured to surprise at random car behavior. I do my best to anticipate and bike defensively. My “puzzled looks” are therefore reserved only for the truly nuts/hazardous moves. If you are truly getting a lot of these, well…

  • @Anon 220
    You should not make a right turn from the main car lane, do as Identified says and safely merge. Still gotta be careful of those sneaking around to the right, but taking the bike lane is the proper thing to do. (Otherwise you can cause what is called a right hook)

  • Signal – when clear, make your turn but DON’T STOP in the bike lane. Stop in your driving lane until it is safe to turn. Too many times Ive had a driver stop in the bike lane with traffic continuing to flow on the left. One day it will kill me.

    • no no no no. this is wrong. safely merge into the lane.

      • Merge = switch lane while continuing to move, not switch lane and immediately stop. If there is room to move all the way over to the right and clear the bike lane it should be done. If there is a vehicle up against the curb, then the driver should wait to merge until the area has cleared and they have space to drive into.

        • I don’t think that’s true or practical. Do you have a source for your assertion? The same is definitely not true when cars merge with other cars in general purpose lanes.

          • 1. That’s not DC
            2. That only talks about where there’s enough room to fully cross the bike lane. That is only sometimes the case in DC, and generally, only one car can fit in that space.
            Otherwise… it’s a dashed line – cars can cross it. Go around them to the left.

          • Same law applies in DC….. turn from the curb.
            MOST bike lanes in DC have room to the right. Yes, there is room for only 1-2 cars….. other cars should stay in the traffic lane until it clears, then merge/cross the bike lane into that space.

          • Sunsquashed – I’m with you except for the last part about staying in the traffic lane until the one spot to the right of the bike lane clears. I don’t expect cars to do that – I just bike around them to their left.
            You keep saying otherwise, but don’t have a basis for it.

        • Cars are allowed to occupy the bike lane while waiting for a turn. If you are the first car at a light it isn’t practical to sit in the traffic lane, wait for the signal to turn or pedestrians to clear and then make a sharp turn across the bike line. That’s why there are the dashed lines; bikes and cars have equal right to be there, assuming the driver checks the bike lane first (and, yes, from my biking experience that is a big assumption).

          • When the bike lane abuts the curve, this is correct. However, most bike lanes in DC have space for a full car between the bike lane and the curb. In this case, the car legally has to move all the way to the curb (hence the phrase “turn from the curb”) and clear the bike lane.

          • Practical in theory, not practice. There are many cases where the turn radius to get a larger car in front of the parked cars on the curb yet not be in the bike lane at all would require parallel parking maneuvers (see: the right turn from Q onto 17th, not to mention the numerous intersections where people park illegally at the corner). As long as the car is not cutting off a bike by merging right there is no issue with the bike lane being blocked temporarily until the car can make the turn. When I’m in the bike lane and a car comes up behind me to make a right turn and honks or otherwise wants me to get out of the way I remind them to think of me as a vehicle. If a car was in front of them they wouldn’t think twice about it. The door swings both ways on this one; sometimes bikes have to wait just like cars.

          • I absolutely agree that it’s practical in theory but not practice. I did note above that few (if any) cars actually do this.
            But, given the law, cars should be really careful and do everything sensible/reasonable to not block the bike lane.

    • This doesn’t make sense, it certainly doesn’t match everything I’ve heard (see link in the first comment above), and it sounds like it’s very dangerous for cyclists since cars will be turning across the bike lane from a stopped position. Sounds like you just need to learn to slow down when you see a vehicle in front of you.

  • I appreciate that you care about this issue. A couple of weeks ago a van suddenly pulled into the bike lane in front of me to make a right turn, without signalling. I came very close to running into or being run over by the van.

  • Keep moving. Be more aggressive, they will stop. I do this at stop signs esp when they try to fly through stop signs. Teaches the ones that ignore the rules to be more cautious. Bikers ignore rules otherwise. It’s their fault if they hit your car.

  • @PopVille… perhaps you could ask WABA for the legal version of what to do, rather than just posing the question and letting people spread false and dangerous information.

  • Perhaps consider planting a poisonous tree (maybe a Kentucky Coffetree?) in the middle of the bike lane.

  • DC DMV Driving Manual
    Right Turns
    • Get into the lane furthermost to the right well ahead of the turn.
    • Signal your intention to turn for at least 100 feet.
    • Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.
    • Be alert for vehicles ahead that are also turning right.
    • Yield to bicyclists traveling between you and the side of the road

  • The bike lane is a lane – and just like you wouldn’t turn right across a car lane, you don’t want to turn right across a bike lane.
    Thanks for asking, though – it’s clear there’s a lot of confusion, and the more people (drivers, cyclists, pedestrians) who know and follow the laws, the ore predictable and safe the roads will be for everyone.

  • DC Regulations:
    2203.3 Both the approach for a right turn and a right turn shall be made as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge or the roadway.
    2220.2 … [A]ny vehicle may enter a restricted right curb lane solely for the purposes of taking on or discharging passengers or to make a right turn where a right turn is not otherwise prohibited by any official traffic control device.
    2220.3 Vehicles entering a Restricted Lane to make a right turn or to discharge or take on passengers shall be permitted to enter the Restricted Lane only within the same block as the right turn or passengers are to be taken on or discharged.
    2220.4 Vehicles, other than those to which a lane is restricted, are prohibited from continuing through an intersection in a Restricted Lane.

  • A rainy day miracle, a civil and rational bike post!!

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