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How To Turn Left On A Bike (Safely)

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Do you lack confidence when turning left on a bike?

Perhaps you’re unsure of the safest way to proceed?

This article tells you how to turn left on a bike safely, even in heavy traffic.

If you live in the UK or any other country that drives on the left, you can mirror the same maneuvers for turning right.

Option 1: Turn Like Cars & Other Traffic Does

The first option we’ll look at is making a vehicular left.

In other words, you’ll be turning in much the same way as you would if you were in a car.

Step 1 – Check For A Gap In The Traffic

Look over your left shoulder for a big enough gap in the traffic for you to move left.

Take the speed of cars into consideration.

Make this check at least 25 yards before the left turn or intersection.

If there is no safe gap in the traffic, either wait on the shoulder/curb or consider another way to turn.

Many drivers will slow down when they see you looking over your shoulder, anticipating your next move.

But, don’t take this for granted.

Step 2 – Signal

If you feel you have enough time to steer left, signal left by extending your left arm.

Keep checking behind you and signal with every lane change you make.

Step 3 – Maneuver

Take the center of the left lane if there is a turn lane, or occupy the left third of a regular lane before turning left.

Enter the cyclists’ bike box if there is one.

Don’t put yourself at risk by sitting at the extreme left near oncoming traffic.

Turn left when it is safe to do so and continue your journey!

Pro Tip: U-turns are a way of turning left without having to stop in the middle of the road.

If your side of the road is clear, ride past the left turning and turn 180° when you see a safe gap in oncoming traffic.

Option 2: The Box Turn (Copenhagen Left)

The box turn is often a safer option than crossing multiple lanes at busy intersections (or crossroads in the UK).

It keeps you on the right side of the road.

Step 1 – Stay Right

When you approach the intersection, stay right and slow down a little as you prepare to stop.

Be aware of other cyclists or pedestrians nearby.

Step 2 – Signal Right & Maneuver

As you enter the intersection, the goal is to stop at the front-right of the lane that is facing the intersection on your right-hand side.

Signal right before moving across to the above-mentioned position.

Do not signal too early, as anyone behind you will then expect you to make an immediate 90° right.

Step 3 – Positioning

In some places, you may see a bike box where cyclists wait to cross.

After crossing the front of the adjacent junction, turn your bike left and stop (inside the bike box if there is one).

Wait for the green light and cross the intersection.

Video: The Box Turn (Copenhagen Left)

Option 3 – Turn As A Pedestrian

A third option for making a left turn is to use the intersection crosswalks (pedestrian crossings) as a pedestrian.

Step 1 – Dismount & Cross

As you approach the first right-hand corner of the intersection, slow down, dismount and climb onto the curb.

Once on the sidewalk, wait for the pedestrian walk light before crossing by foot to the far side of the intersection.

Step 2 – Cross Again & Rejoin Lane

Once on the far right of the intersection, you’ll wait for the walk light again so you can cross to your desired left-hand side.

Having crossed, you can jump back on the bike and rejoin the road or bike lane.

Read more: Are cars able to enter bike lanes?

Video: Turn Left As A Pedestrian

Common Questions On Bikes Turning Left

Here are some of the questions often asked about making left turns on a bicycle:

How Do You Make A Left Turn When There Aren’t Any Bike Boxes In Your City?

In the absence of any bike boxes, you can still make left turns in the ways described in this article.

You may feel less comfortable about making a left vehicular turn, in which case you can go for the box turn or cross as a pedestrian.

Why Are Bike Hand Signals Important?

Hand signals let other road users know what your intentions are before changing position or direction, so they’re vital to your safety.

However, don’t signal unless you have enough space and time to make your move.

What Is The Best Way To Turn Left On Busy Roads?

The best way to turn left on busy roads is probably the box turn.

The risk factor is inherently smaller when you don’t have to change lanes amid heavy traffic or sit in the middle of the road.

Can Bikes Turn Left On Red?

In most US states and other places worldwide, it is illegal for a cyclist to run a red light, even for safety reasons.

That being said, the “Idaho Stop” allows cyclists to legally turn left on red in Idaho and Indiana, for example.

Are You Supposed To Walk Your Bike Across A Crosswalk?

Normally, it is legal for a cyclist to cycle across a crosswalk.

However, this is unwise unless it’s done alongside pedestrians, as motorists are not obliged to yield to cyclists crossing the road in this fashion.

Finishing Up

The most important thing when making a left turn on a bicycle is that you trust your instincts and do whatever feels safe.

Don’t take risks because you’re running late or you feel pressured to do what other cyclists are doing.

Stay aware of other road users and pedestrians at all times.

Use whatever accessories or clothing you have at your disposal to see and be seen.

We hope you enjoyed this article.

Please feel free to share it with family or friends and leave any comments you wish to make.

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Mark Whitley
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Mark is the founder of BikePush, a bicycle commuting website. When he's not working on BikePush, you can find him out riding.

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