Lane choice at intersections, revisited
I had some errands to run near Mall St Matthews today, and as I was riding there, got to enjoy stopping at the light where New LaGrange Road meets Shelbyville Road. New LaGrange has four lanes—two in each direction. It is illegal (and decidedly difficult, given the median construction on Shelbyville Road) to make a left turn from New LaGrange, which may or may not have been a factor in the exchange I am about to relate (map link here: http://goo.gl/maps/fMLJI).
As I was waiting for the light to change, I noted another cyclist nearing the queue in the right lane (I was in the left lane). I hailed this other rider, indicating that the right lane was marked for mandatory right turn into the Interstate system (Watterson Expressway ramps are a few hundred feet west of the light in question), and inviting the rider to join me in the lane I was using.
The rider declined, saying it wasn’t necessary, since she was making a right turn. I was puzzled, as I use the intersection pretty often, and find the left lane preferable for a number of reasons.
I watched this other cyclist after departing the intersection, and noted that she had to negotiate with at least one motorist so that she could cross the lanes leading to the Interstate.
My own path through that intersection has been guided by the fact that the right lane of New LaGrange Road feeds into a lane that is marked “Right turn only” immediately upon exiting the traffic light-controlled area. To continue westward on Shelbyville Road instead of entering the Watterson Expressway, it really does make sense to use the left lane, so as to not need to negotiate a merge, regardless of one’s vehicle choice. This other rider may not have known the intersection well, and was using the right-most lane, rather than the “right-most lane that serves one’s destination,” as the cycling education mantra goes.
I ride through that interchange (Shelbyville Road at the Watterson) regularly, as I often shop at businesses in the segment of Shelbyville Road just west of Mall St Matthews. As I exit the intersection from New LaGrange Road, I often find that I have Shelbyville Road to myself for a tenth of a mile or more at a time, once road users queued behind me at the lot works past me (which is easy enough for them to do, given that there are three lanes from which to choose). If I am going to Whole Foods, I simply move to the left lane while I have the road to myself, then set up for the left turn pocket serving Sherburn Lane. If I’m going to Feeder’s Supply at the Shelbyville Road Plaza, I may use the right lane a bit longer, or may not, depending on traffic conditions.
One of the things I’ve long taught in the League cycling program, and will continue to teach in my work with Cycling Savvy, is that keeping to the edge to the point of getting caught in a right turn only lane makes for an unpleasant journey. At the very least, it adds to the cyclist’s work load to have to negotiate for a lane to exit the right turn only lane. It’s easier for me, and demonstrably safer, to control the correct lane a bit earlier. That often means taking the correct lane into an intersection, so that I am in the correct lane as I exit the intersection.