Are box turns legal in PA?
The PA Bicycle Drivers Manual seems to say that they are.
From Page 21:
It’s also okay to make a left turn as a pedestrian. This way, you can turn left legally at a “no left turn” sign or handle traffic situations you feel are beyond your abilities. Be sure to come to a complete stop when you reach the far right corner of the intersection. At this point, you have to look for traffic from all four directions at once;
there’s no safe way to do so while you keep moving……
Hrm. It’s not that explicit though. It seems to assume that you’re doing it as a pedestrian, but that’s kind of vague.
Can I just queue at the front of the right lane, legally?
What if there are right turning lanes, I wouldn’t want to be attempting to stop on the corner, I’d stop at the front of the last ‘straight ahead’ lanes and not in the ‘right turn only’ lane. Can I do this legally?
I’m not sure that counts as “explicitly legal”, since the legislature wasn’t involved. PennDOT took an existing bike safety manual and reprinted it with their name on it. Maybe they carefully modified the manual to remove any provisions at odds with PA law, maybe not.
I don’t think there’s anything in the law that makes such a maneuver more legal for a bike than for a car. My guess is it’s a violation of Title 75 section 3331.
3331. Required position and method of turning.
(a) Right turn.–The driver of a vehicle intending to turn right shall approach the turn and make the turn as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway.
(b) Left turn.–The driver of a vehicle intending to turn left shall approach the turn in the extreme left-hand lane lawfully available to traffic moving in the direction of travel of the vehicle. Whenever practicable, the left turn shall be made to the left of the center of the intersection and so as to leave the intersection or location in the extreme left-hand lane lawfully available to traffic moving in the same direction as the vehicle on the roadway being entered.
You could dismount and walk your bike in the crosswalk to the opposite corner. I don’t think there’s any prohibition against then mounting your bike while in the crosswalk in front of the waiting cars. But I don’t think you can legally ride to that point.
However, if you wind up arguing the point with a cop or a judge, I would certainly wave the PA Bicycle Drivers Manual around and insist that it’s perfectly legal. Might work, might not.
Box turns are great for the uninitiated and in some tough situations with high traffic pressure. I sure would wave the manual around if questioned. One would hope not necessary, but that assumes common sense about biking here… yeah.
Slightly off topic, but the similarity in names, box turns, bike boxes got me thinking. Bike boxes are nice, but seem a little weird. The idea that someone will, by virtue of the bike box necessarily have safe passage over to a left lane for a turn, or that getting ahead of the cars is necessarily the safest place to be if you got there, via a lane leading up (blessed filtering)… it seems weird and really a timing sensitive thing (which is how I judge filtering), but inviting the uninitiated to do it, which is maybe dicey.
I think the best use of bike boxes are actually for these box turns. For sure, if you get there from a road at 90 degrees on it’s light cycle, the cars behind have the red. In the box turn scenario, instead of having to go over to a sidewalk and then have to merge left, there’s a place, just for you, and full flexibility about where to go after the light turns. And maybe that’s what people do if the light turns before they can get in lane position in the bike box of the initial road they were travelling?? Is that officially sanctioned/blessed where bike boxes are used?
Just getting more curious about this stuff since I assume bike boxes will be a part of the green lane project. Please feel free to curse the thread derailment and move along in the initially intended direction of conversation…
This is one of those places in the law where the text of the law was clearly meant for cars, and do not scale down to accommodate bicycles. As with a bunch of other things (Idaho stops, taking lanes, groups riding together), some level of subjectiveness could use clarification, but the easier thing to do (which won’t happen) is for law enforcement to turn a blind eye to the practice. No harm, no foul, right? One hopes…
As someone who watched a judge throw out a four foot passing law conviction because the cyclist (me) was in the middle of the right lane and “shouldn’t have been there” I don’t know that we can count on much help from the judiciary. They seem to be uninformed.
byogman wrote:Bike boxes are nice, but seem a little weird. The idea that someone will, by virtue of the bike box necessarily have safe passage over to a left lane for a turn, or that getting ahead of the cars is necessarily the safest place to be if you got there, via a lane leading up (blessed filtering)… it seems weird and really a timing sensitive thing (which is how I judge filtering), but inviting the uninitiated to do it, which is maybe dicey.
They use these a lot in places where bikes have separate traffic signals, which is pretty common in places in Europe with well-planned bike infrastructure. I’ve seen the two work together very nicely in Sweden.
If there’s a group of cyclists approaching an intersection in the bike lane, they can all move up into the box instead of standing single-file. Then the bike signal turns green first, giving you a head start through the intersection and time to find whatever lane you want and get well clear of the intersection before the cars get their green light. A left turn would be very easy with this set-up, even for a beginner.
Without the signal, I think the box would still make it pretty easy to make a quick left during the brief pause when the lights are red in both directions.
I spent a few months in Copenhagen and this move seems to be accepted practice on the major routes, although I don’t remember any areas specifically marked for it. I hadn’t ever thought of this before seeing it in practice over there, but it feels pretty intuitive and seems like a great way to improve overall traffic flow/safety for cars AND bikes. Of course, designated signals and the fact that drivers are always aware of cyclists improve the whole experience.
I’ll have to dig up some of my photos of the infrastructure in Denmark, it truly is inspiring.
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