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10 Secrets to Cycling with Traffic: Part 4 of 10

10 Secrets to Cycling with TrafficToday we continue a series of 10 posts about cycling with car traffic. These are things we have learned from years of riding in downtown Toronto. Some of these tips you may have seen before in other places, and some will be new.

This is not meant to be a complete list… there are more secrets out there… but here are 10 that you’ll find very useful.

NOTE: These are geared towards downtown cycling, since that’s what I’m most familiar with. These all assume that you already know about proper lighting and safety (ie. helmets are useful, stopping at red lights is advised, etc.) precautions, and know that riding on sidewalks is one of the most unsafe things you can do, for both pedestrians and yourself.

Past tips are found at the bottom of this post.

4. Avoid The “Stoplight Squeeze”

Avoid The “Stoplight Squeeze”The next time you get to a red light before cars do, DON’T put your right foot down on the curb. I know it’s tempting as it’s a handy little footrest, but if you’re right beside the curb, any drivers that come up behind you will drive up beside you on the left (often too close) and you’ll be “squeezed” when the light turns green, having to wait for that car to go before you can.

Instead, when you get to the red before cars, swing out a little to the left (I usually stop about 1/3 of the way between the curb and the next lane), and lean over to the left, putting your left foot down. This forces drivers to stop behind you, and gives you “first dibs” when the light turns green.

Check out the full “10 Secrets to Cycling with Traffic” series:

  1. Drivers Don’t Want to Kill You
  2. Ride in a Straight Line
  3. Play by the Rules
  4. Avoid the “Stoplight Squeeze”
  5. Signal Sensibly
  6. Take That Lane
  7. Make Them THINK You’re Unpredictable
  8. Ride With Others
  9. Avoid the Right Hook
  10. Practice Your Route


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  • wwwhitney

    Good tip. What do you think about stopping at the very front of the cross-walk (such that people crossing the street are walking behind you but without you obstructing them)? Of course this only works at intersections with large painted cross-walks, but I’ve found this be the most effective way of getting a slight head start when the light turns and prevents you from running into any pedestrians who may try to dash across the intersection at the last second when the light turns green.

  • Adam

    This is good, except some drivers will want to make a right turn on the red light. Look over your shoulder and check. If they gesture politely, make some room for them. If they yell obscenities and have bloodshot eyes, smile and pretend you saw nothing.

  • This one has been a dilema for me, in circumstances that Adam referred to earlier. I may take my space in the right hand lane behind, say 3 or 4, cars turning right. While the light is red, they make their turn and I end up at the line blocking the cars behind me from turning right. I have accomodated this by staying to the far left of the lane, at which time a car going straight inevitably pulls up on my right, sandwiching me between 2 cars going straight! Other times, I will stay to the right and then negotiate my way out of the mess with the car turning right when the light changes. I will confess as well, that where there is a LONG line up downtown and it may take several light changes to get through the intersection that I will cheat and ride up between the cars and the curb to the “front of the line”, which put exactley where I shouldn’t be!

  • Hey Nodders,
    I think if you change your way of thinking a bit you’ll see that #4 is one of the best ways to survive on Toronto streets.
    I know that you are just trying to be considerate to the drivers behind you that want to make a right turn but I think we need to remember that we do have as much right to the road as the cars do. If cars wanting to turn right get stuck behind you at a light that’s kind of the way it works – they aren’t getting stuck because you are a cyclist getting in their way – they got stuck because another vehicle got there first. They really aren’t any more stuck than they would be if you were another car that got there first.
    I’ve never tried staying to the extreme left as you suggested – that sounds a bit too scary. For me I think it’s more important to make sure I’m in a safe position and cars around me know what I’m doing by where I am in the road.
    I have never had any trouble using this tip. I have found drivers patiently wait behind you as they would any car in front of them.

  • I tend to stop about 2/3 of the way to the left in the right lane at a light. That gives me enough room to move over a bit to let a right turning person out, but puts me close enough to the middle to keep those going straight from passing.

    I’m with Amy – most drivers are happy to wait behind another vehicle be it a car or bike to make their right turn. I think twice in the past three years I had an impatient driver honk repeatedly behind me. But both were at Bathurst north of Wilson and fewer people there are even sure what a bicycle is, let alone how to behave with it. So as usual I just interpret the honking as a greeting and smile and wave :-)

  • Matt

    I think also the LEFT leg out thing is good, never thought of that. If you have a right leg out- the car to the left is more likely to try to squeeze. With your left leg…. they are less prone to want to risk hitting the leg…and therefore less likely to squeeze. Great idea.

  • Driver1

    As a driver, I see this manoeuvre sometimes. The cyclist will not pay attention to the drivers who want to make a legal right turn on a red, and sit there unaware or whatever is going on in their head. Sometimes a little old lady or male driver will not see such a leg, and will proceed to knock the cyclist off their bike. As a Trauma room Nurse, cyclist keep us very busy in the summer. Remember, a helmet will not keep you from breaking you neck, or fracturing your spine. I gave up cycling on Toronto streets after starting my trauma room job.

  • Ryan

    Are u serious ? Wtf – so basically u are effectively blocking any car from doing a right turn and putting yourself in major danger – in order for a car to make a right turn on a red they will have to swing out into the lane to the left of them in order to get around u – what happens in try get hit by a car turning left or from behind ? They slide right into u ? And you are dead .
    It’s very simple – stop at the red and the furthest point of the sidewalk and curb – u are then in front of all cars in that lane who can clearly see u and u leave them room to turn right on the red – if u are laying attention u will be the first one through the intersection – it’s impossible for cars to squeeze u out and they won’t even try because u are in clear site in front of them and you are not being a dick blocking a perfectly legal turn for them

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