A freeway entrance can create an intimidating road configuration for cyclists. It often involves a long right lane which diverges into an on-ramp. Cyclists operating with a typical far-right-curb bias can find themselves suddenly cut off by high-speed, right-turning traffic. Some will ride a foot to the right of the thru lane, blocking the right-turn lane. Others will ride the line between the thru lane and the diverging lane, inviting close-passing on both sides. Safe and easy navigation of this road feature requires assertive, vehicular lane position, awareness and thinking ahead about where you need to be.
The following video was shot by Brian DeSousa on his visit to Orlando last month. This is the Princeton Street & I-4 intersection. It’s not a particularly complicated freeway exchange, but it’s a common configuration found around Winter Park and Downtown Orlando.
On the first pass, we came from northbound Orange Ave., turning left onto Princeton. Turning onto the road a block before the interchange allowed us to enter the lane we wanted immediately, without needing to merge. We turned directly into the center lane on Princeton, because the right lane ends at I-4. As you can see, the thru-traffic on Princeton used the left lane to pass and the traffic headed for I-4 East used the right lane.
The second pass was at rush hour, there’s considerably more traffic. We had come from 17-92, so we crossed Orange Ave in the right lane and then needed to merge to the center lane before it becomes a right-turn-only lane. The best time to merge is before the traffic gains speed. It’s not legal to merge in an intersection, or across a solid line, so we waited until were across Orange Ave., then began negotiating as the car beside us advanced. The motorist in the center lane allowed us to merge, we moved over, waved “thank you” and controlled the lane.
This is a very easy maneuver. It does not require speed. It requires the ability to ride in a straight line, take a hand off the handlebars to signal and maintain control of the bike while looking over your shoulder.
It takes some comfort with your bike to work up the nerve to ride assertively in a complex traffic environment. But it’s rare that using a road like this would be your only option, especially in the downtown area. This might be the most direct route, but going a few blocks north or south offers a quiet, residential street. In this case, we have New Hampshire St. to the South and Winter Park St. to the North.
The urban core of Orlando has a good grid of low-volume streets which gives a novice cyclist many options. We increase our options by increasing our comfort on the bike and learning the skills and techniques to safely and confidently handle more complex roads. Sorta like most of us learned to drive a car.