Navigating a Freeway Interchange

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.

Other Options

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.

6 replies
  1. Lhogue
    Lhogue says:

    You forgot to include the F-150 screaming past on the left, straddling the white line so as to pass too close to the rider, horn blaring, driver gesturing and yelling to get the *#$% out of the road. That’s what happened to me the last time I tried this technique on one of our overpasses in San Diego.

    Also, do you have cloverleaf-type overpasses in Florida? Those are a bit more difficult to navigate, and it would be nice to show how to do so.

    • Keri
      Keri says:

      One in 1000 motorists will be a terrorist. It’s a shame when a cyclist encounters one in early attempts at riding assertively. It takes time and repeated positive experience to recognize that the majority of motorists do the right thing.

      We do have a few weave-lane interchanges way out in the burbs. I plan to shoot video of those and post a more comprehensive interchange tutorial for arterial roads. The above interchange is typical of what we see in the urban area. In the meantime, you will find some helpful videos from Southern California here.

  2. Trevor Bourget
    Trevor Bourget says:

    very good visual evidence there of how driving your bike affects other traffic, for example when you change to left lane the motorist in that lane changes to take your previous place in order to overtake.

    in california many lanes are quite wide enough for sharing side by side, i wonder do you ever consider riding in the left or right side of an inner lane instead of the very middle. as i ride a motorcycle also i am quite used to lane sharing from either side of the bigger vehicles.

    • Keri
      Keri says:


      Thanks for the comments. Almost all of our inside lanes are narrow. There’s only one place I can think of where the thru lane (left of an rtol) is wide enough to share. In that spot, I’d probably decided whether or not to share it based on traffic conditions at the time.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] through a round-a-bout to learning the proper way to cross diagonal railroad tracks, to seamlessly controlling the center lane on Princeton to avoid the I-4 on-ramp, to navigating the fearsome Ivanhoe Interchange (not once, […]

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