The cyclist’s left-turn dilemma solved?

These police officers are acting legally

These police officers are acting legally

The Gazette’s Max Harrold looks into an issue I’ve wondered about since I started urban cycling: If a cyclist is always supposed to keep to the right, how do you make a left turn on a multi-lane road?

Either go to the next intersection and cross there or, if and only if there aren’t many cars around, signal you are shifting lanes with your left arm and move into the left lane and then turn at an intersection, like a vehicle would, said Suzanne Lareau, head of the cycling advocacy group Vélo-Québec.

Vélo-Québec is an advocacy group, so its interpretation isn’t legal, but it seems to indicate that when it comes to left turns, cyclists should act like drivers and move into a left lane (except when there are lots of cars around, making multiple lane changes more difficult). Which means that the police officers on bicycles above that I spotted earlier this summer on Côte Vertu Blvd. were making a legal turn.

Of course, that doesn’t stop drivers from honking at you.

12 thoughts on “The cyclist’s left-turn dilemma solved?

  1. Anonymous

    My understanding has always been that bicyclists have the same rights ( and responsibilities ) as motorists. The cops in your picture are doing the right thing. And if the light turns red before you can make the turn don’t sq

  2. Chris

    One thing I often do is stay right and cross the intersection then wait with the other cars and bikes at the red light going the other way. It works especially well if you hit the first light just before it turns yellow then you get the green just as you get positioned going the other direction.

  3. Anonymous

    …squeeze over to the side of the left-hand turn lane or else when you do make your left turn , you’ll be in no man’s land.
    Like the cops in your picture, take the whole lane so that when you do make your left turn, you can comfortably slide off to the right-hand side of the road again.

  4. Kyle

    If car traffic’s light, I’ll do the as-the-police-do left turn lane, but if it’s heavy I’ll take the wait for crossing light to go green method, as mentioned by Chris. Sometimes I’ll mix in with pedestrian traffic if it seems to work, and I don’t get in anyone’s way.

    As a guy who cycles, walks, drives, rides transit, etc. I find it somewhat insane that bicycles are supposed to have the same restrictions/responsibilities/duties as vehicles. How is a bicycle more similar to a semi-truck than a pedestrian? IMHO, cyclists running red lights should be in the same boat as jaywalkers, and cyclists should also be able to use vehicular lanes if the situation allows, such as the picture above, but not on an inner-city autoroute.

  5. Maria Gatti

    I did that yesterday – corner St-Laurent et Jean-Talon, but I not only signalled but shoulder-checked – lots of trucks barrelling up St-Laurent.

    As for police, I was riding home the other day and two young police officers on bicycles shot through a red light, and no, they weren’t in hot pursuit of a culprit. I have also seen them riding through street sales when we were (rightly) admonished to get off our bikes and push them. But the police officers could have hurt a pedestrian as much as any other cyclist could have…

  6. wkh

    I don’t mean to be pedantic but I thought “stay to the right” was a safety recommendation and not a legal edict? I was honestly puzzled at the left turn question. Get in the left lane and turn, like the cops in the picture, since bikes are to function as cars, no?

      1. j2

        To me it seems more about relative speed – slow traffic keep right – well and not to mention dumbass montreal drivers. Generally the car traffic is faster than the bike traffic – except in the core areas where the block of a lane ( double-parking etc) reduce thoroughfare effectiveness by 50%. [1] But not so much for cyclists.

        Speaking again to relative speed – my understanding is that La Vitesse Tue! isn’t strictly true, its speed differentials [2]. This is more that dictates my usage of non-right lane biking, if the traffic is difficult to cross safely.

        [1] – I have in mind a study from Carleton University.
        [2] – I can’t find a citation in 2s of looking, however.


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