Getting the Road to Yourself

Stress-free options keep you out of the thick of things.

Now let’s look at strategies for getting along in traffic, or even avoiding it completely.

By thinking differently about your environment and operating in a way that’s not common among cyclists, you can significantly improve your quality of bicycling.


Topic 19: Getting the Road to Yourself

In this section, we’ll apply our knowledge of traffic flow and road design to reducing stressful situations, like being first at a light that collects a lot of cars behind you, or making left turns from high-speed, multi-lane roads.

We’ll look at strategic ways to avoid heavy-traffic problem areas. Sometimes the solution is so surprising, few people would imagine it.

An Empty Road

We’ve talked about using gaps between platoons to get a busy road to yourself. This is an excellent strategy for using an otherwise intimidating road to travel a few blocks.

Using a green light to turn right onto the road can limit the amount of traffic using it with you for a minute or more. This is especially useful for short travel on a commercial highway, where riding on sidewalks or cutting through parking lots may seem tempting, but is as treacherous and unpredictable as the wild west.

Stress Release

But what if you’re traveling a significant distance on a big road?

Generally, you’ll experience waves of traffic, as platoons from upstream traffic lights pass and disappear, giving you breaks in between.

Unfortunately, sometimes those long traffic lights catch you in the worst place — right at the front of the line. In this worst-case scenario, the long red light will collect a lot of densely-packed traffic behind you.

These drivers won’t be able to pass as easily as they would if they encountered you on the open road. They will be able to pass eventually, but many of us find the situation uncomfortable.

There are a couple ways to release this traffic. Sometimes, like this example, you can turn onto the cross street itself. In moderate traffic, it may take between 10 and 30 seconds for the traffic to clear. Once the platoon is past, you can pull out behind them and enjoy the gap.

When the intersection is between two arterial roads, turning onto the cross street is not an option. In this case you’ll want to release after crossing the intersection.

When the light changes, cross the intersection then find a safe place, such as a driveway, to pull over.

Remember, you have no legal obligation to release traffic. Holding your position while traffic moves around you is not going to cause significant delay for anyone. Maybe the same 10 to 30 seconds, which they’ll make up along the way.

This is simply a stress-relief option for you, if you prefer not to be in the thick of things.