Of all the cycling maneuvers that I watch in our group rides, one of those that we consistently perform poorly and often dangerously, is making a left-hand turn. Ideally, in a group, these are best lead from the rear but first let’s look at the basics. To start with, watch this short video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8caeR4j_GM
Here is a diagram that summarizes the points in the video.
Note these important points:
- When making a left turn on a two-lane road, you will first need to move safely to the left of your lane. On a four-lane road, you will have to move across more than one lane.
- Never attempt to make an abrupt left turn directly from either the right-hand side of a two-lane road or from the right-hand lane of a four-lane road.
- Before you change your lane position, you must first look back for traffic. Turn your head to look even if you have a rear-view mirror. No mirror will show cars at your side and physically looking back alerts traffic approaching from the rear.
- Extend your left arm to signal that you want to move to the left. Wait a couple of seconds, then look back again to check that the drivers have slowed down or moved aside to make room.
- Assuming that the drivers behind you have time to react to your signal, they should let you into line, allowing you to proceed with the turn. Do not change your lane position until you're sure that the driver has made room for you.
- Your signal alone doesn't make it safe to change lane position. Only a driver’s affirmative response to your signal ensures your safety.
- In high-speed traffic, drivers coming up from behind may not have time to react to you. In that situation you must wait for a gap in the traffic before you move to the left.
- Traffic typically comes in waves, if you find yourself in a gap a block or two before your left turn, merge left and use the left lane for a few blocks. This is perfectly legal and much easier than trying to negotiate through a wave of traffic.
- Maintaining your left-turn hand signal, position yourself in the middle of the intersection as necessary and continue to make the left turn when there is an adequate gap in oncoming traffic or when it has been stopped by a stop-sign or traffic light.
- Make sure you turn first into the right-hand lane of the new route and then into the shoulder or bike lane if one exists.
- If you cannot safely maneuver yourself in the left-turn position by the time you reach the intersection, don't force the situation. Continue straight through the intersection and make your left turn at the next intersection.
- It's also perfectly okay to make a left turn as a pedestrian. Stop at the far right corner of the intersection and, when clear, walk across the road to where you can safely re-enter the traffic flow.
As mentioned above, in a group setting, changing lanes in preparation for a left turn is best orchestrated from the rear though I acknowledge that this requires training, practice and knowledge of the route. Watch this video to get an idea of this concept: https://vimeo.com/album/1881848/video/52474720