You are cycling down the street, but can you use a bike lane to pass a vehicle turning left in front of you? Is it allowed?
Whether it is legal to pass on the left side depends on whether you can do so safely and whether any signs indicate otherwise. Many questions arise, such as whether you should pass on the right first and then move into the bike lane if there is room for your bike? Should you just wait patiently? Or is there an exception where you can get passed before bypassing on the left?
It is perfectly legal for cyclists to pass a vehicle turning left in front of them. However, the rules are not that simple regarding bike lanes. If a bike lane is present and available, you have to use it safely, and as always, some caution is warranted.
When you use a bicycle lane, you are using it as though it were a regular traffic lane. That means you need to stop behind any vehicle stopped at an intersection or crosswalk. If a driver has signaled their intention to turn left and has slowed down, they are just like any other vehicle stopped at an intersection or crosswalk, and you must treat them as such.
But what if it’s not safe? If there isn’t enough room in the bike lane to get around the turning car without running into something or swerving into traffic.
How Do Bike Lanes Work?
When drivers approach an intersection and see a red light, they'll often slow down and try to make a left-hand turn. That's when bike lane advocates like to say, "Hey! You're about to go left!" Since you have a green light, you have the right of way to enter the bike lane and head toward the intersection safely. In most cases, there will be no oncoming traffic to worry about.
If a driver does turn left from a bike lane in front of another vehicle, it usually won't matter because the car won't be able to stop in time. If there's an oncoming vehicle approaching behind, that might be another story.
Bike lanes are designed for safety; they're for people who want to ride bikes and don't want cars squeezing by them. Drivers who want to park in a bike lane or turn left from one should be aware that they're putting themselves in danger.
What to Do If You Are Stuck Behind a Car Waiting for Them to Make a Left-Hand Turn?
It is safer to wait behind the turning car than to cut in front of it. A good rule of thumb is to wait until the vehicle has completed its turn before passing on the right.
Sometimes this isn't possible. If there are multiple lanes of traffic, with cars waiting in each lane and no bike lane, it would be safe to pass on the left. Make sure that you have enough space between yourself and the stopped traffic so that they don't open their doors to you while making their turn. It is always best to pass on the left so that your path stays as predictable and easy for drivers to anticipate.
Tips to Consider
Here are some points to factor in before you decide to pass a vehicle in a bike lane:
- If you are riding in the bike lane, you are considered part of the traffic. You should follow the rules of traffic as much as possible.
- You can't simply pass a vehicle that has already entered an intersection - even if they have not completed their turn yet - unless no pedestrian traffic or other vehicles is coming at you from the opposite direction.
- Don't ride in the bike lane to avoid being stuck behind vehicles making left turns. Instead, ride your bicycle where cars belong - in the center of the lane with traffic flow. This will force drivers to wait until it's safe to turn left while giving you enough room to make your way through intersections safely and without fear of being struck by a vehicle turning left in front of you.
Are There Exceptional Occurences
When a vehicle driver approaches an intersection and is going to turn left, they must yield to oncoming traffic. However, it's not that simple if a cyclist is in the bike lane. If that bike lane extends through the intersection, does the cyclist have to stop behind the turning car?
The cyclist can pass on the left in several circumstances:
- If there is a green arrow for the cyclist, it allows them to go through the intersection without worrying about cars turning left.
- If there are two or more lanes of traffic going straight through the intersection, there is space in those lanes to pass on the left of a turning car.
- If they are riding in a dedicated bike lane that goes through the intersection and doesn't force them to merge into traffic going straight.
- If they can merge into another lane before passing a turning car, such as when a right turn only lane goes straight through an intersection. This can be dangerous for cyclists, but it happens occasionally and is legal.
- One of these situations has to be in place for a cyclist to legally pass on the left of a car making a left-hand turn.
What Is the Law for Passing a Vehicle Turning Left In Front of You?
As a cyclist, you must follow the same traffic rules and regulations as drivers, including the right of way. A vehicle turning left in front of you can cause a crash, but the laws for passing a vehicle turning left in front of you vary by state.
The law for passing a vehicle turning left in front of you using a bike is that you must yield the right-of-way to the turning vehicle.
In many states, it's illegal not to yield the right-of-way to a turning vehicle when riding your bike. But there are exceptions, such as if there is an established bike lane or if you are lawfully within a designated crosswalk. Be sure to check your state’s traffic laws before taking to the road on your bicycle.
In any case, you should never assume that a car turning left in front of you will yield to you. That's not the law, and it's not a reasonable assumption to make.
It's illegal for a car to turn left in front of you. If a vehicle has stopped and is waiting in the left turn lane, you must wait for it to pass before turning.
When making a right turn, it is also illegal for a car to move into the bike lane. This applies even if there are no cars in the right lane. If you are riding next to the curb in the bike lane and someone wants to turn right, they must wait until you have passed them before they can move into the bike lane.
The danger comes when a car changes lanes without looking and hits you. The car might have had an unobstructed view of you and could have seen you clearly but they chose not to look. If this happens, then they are at fault.
Codes According to State
The short answer to the question is: It depends on where you live. Different states and cities within those states have other laws about whether it's legal to pass on the right. Here are a few examples:
Passing on the right is illegal in California, except under these circumstances:
- When the vehicle ahead is making or preparing to make a left turn.
- When there are two or more marked traffic lanes going in your direction and you're driving in one of those lanes nearest the right curb, or are driving in a bike lane located adjacent to such a traffic lane.
- When the roadway is wide enough for at least four vehicles moving lawfully side-by-side.
It's legal to pass on the right in Texas if you're not driving on a shoulder, sidewalk, or bike path, and if:
- You can do so without crossing or driving on any part of an unpaved roadway, including any shoulder.
- The vehicle ahead isn't about to turn left and you aren't driving in a lane designated for slower traffic.
You can't use bike lanes for passing under any circumstances.
Pass on By
Don't impede traffic by using a bike lane to pass another vehicle turning left. If you have to pass somebody, it's better to do it in a way that doesn't block traffic.
About THE AUTHOR
Mountain biking is more than just a hobby for me - it's a way of life. I love the challenge and excitement that comes with it, and I'm always pushing myself to go faster and ride harder. Some people might think that mountain biking is dangerous, but I see it as the only way to live.Read More About Danny Lawson