Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Roundabout we go...

I think I'm pretty confident on the bike, even on busy roads, but I am never happy negotiating a big roundabout with multiple lanes.

Part of the problem is that I'm not sure what route I should take. Following the inner track means having to cross every lane twice - once on the way in, and once on the way out; while following the outer lane means crossing every exit; and all at a lower speed than everyone else.

I suspect that the proper way to negotiate a roundabout on a bike is to follow the same path as a car would: using the inside track, but taking proper control of the lane, rather than trying to sidle up to the kerb. However, this approach always feels a bit hairy - particularly on a large roundabout, where there often isn't much lane discipline. Rightly, or wrongly, I am always tempted to stay near the outer edge. It feels safer, even if it probably isn't. (I believe that most cycle accidents on roundabouts happen when crossing the junctions).

It was going through this roundabout in Newbury at the weekend that got me pondering about this (at least I think it was this one - the picture is from Wikipedia, but it looked very similar). That was the first time that I had encountered such detailed cycle lanes on a roundabout. Presumably the tracks are intended to let cyclists stay near the edge, while giving them priority over cars where the lanes cross. It wasn't very busy when I went round, so I couldn't really tell how this works out in practice.

Where there are no marked lanes, I'm still left wondering: are the only answers

  • always take the first exit on a large roundabout, and go where it takes you; or
  • wimp out, get off, and push the bike round the footpath

Or is there a good way to negotiate a large roundabout on a bicycle, that everyone else knows, but I haven't figured out yet?


disgruntled said...

No answers on this one, I'm afraid. Taking the same lane as the cars is what you're supposed to do but it is hairy and you do have to be able to keep pace with traffic or you will feel like you're being attacked from all sides. The lanes that go round the outside like that look pretty dangerous to me because they encourage cyclists to basically be in the way of cars coming off and on the roundabout. I'm afraid I bottle these - either walk my bike, or change my route, unless I'm getting straight on one exit and off the other.

There's this (from my old blog) but I recommend that one even less!

The official planning guidance for bikes and roundabouts is to make all roundabouts single-lane only and to let bikes share the road. That would be nice...

kimbofo said...

I'm the same. I can negotiate busy traffic and have no problem/fear of it, but give me a roundabout with multiple lanes and I lose my confidence. I've only fallen off my bike once and it was on a roundabout -- fortunately I only got a few minor scrapes and bruises but it makes me even more wary whenever I come to big road systems like this. Depending on the flow of traffic, I tend to follow the same route as cars, but if it looks really hairy/too busy, I wimp out and walk along the footpath!!

disgruntled said...

One exception I just thought of btw - traffic light controlled roundabouts. These are generally fine, especially if there are bike reservoirs at the lights as well.

Nick said...

Your picture here has just given me hiccups. I came on your blog more or less at random and, browsing through, thought it looked familiar. And yes, sure enough, it's of a place (Newbury - well, Wash Common actually) where I lived for a short while over 30 years ago. Thanks for reawakening the memory.

Gregory Marler said...

That's impressive with the cycle lanes, even 2 lanes side by side for the cyclists it looks like.

I used to go on the pavement and pedestrian crossings as a rule. But I'm growing up now and learning some roundabouts (which lane I want to leave in, how traffic flows), which really helps.
I should probably remember to wimp out more often when i approach a roundabout new to me.