Turning right on a multi-lane roundabout

I don’t know how many other people would relate to this but I have a problem summoning up the nerve to turn right at multi-lane roundabouts. I would be interested to get advice on best way to survive this manoeuvre. I’ll only go left or straight over multi-lane roundabouts. I’m ok turning right on mini-roundabouts as I can get into the middle of the lane easily enough and thus dictate to the traffic rather than the other way round.

A good reader question and yes multi-lane roundabouts are not that fun!

My advice would be as follows: Think like a car! Something like 80% of cyclists are also drivers (or at least hold a driving licence). So you probably know what Iā€™m talking about..

Therefore, you need to be filtering into the correct lane and remembering the 7 mistakes that all cyclists make. I.e. Taking a primary position in the middle of a lane so a car cannot overtake you.

To give further advice I looked at John Franklins much quoted book: Cyclecraft.

Cyclecraft page on multi-lane roundabouts

The right way to do it

You need to start gradually moving into the right lane (arm out, filter one lane at a time) usually more than 100 metres (330 feet) before the roundabout if you want to turn right.

Just before entering the roundabout you want to be in the middle of the right hand lane. When you enter the roundabout cycling at speed can be an advantage.

On the circulatory road you should be riding on the left of the centre of the right-hand lane. When you are opposite the lane of traffic entering the roundabout before the exit you want you need to start gradually turning towards the exit road.

The key is to not make any sudden turns that drivers canā€™t predict.

In terms of your signalling the most important is to signal left just before you start to make an exit. You should aim to combine signalling with a show of intention i.e. starting to turn your bike.

As always keeping all your senses awake and ready.

Finally, when exiting you should keep the primary position until you feel comfortable letting a driver overtake you.

For more advice like this I strongly recommend John Franklins book.

Also on the topic of safe cycling:

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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.


36 Responses to Turning right on a multi-lane roundabout

  1. Kevin Campbell's Blog 02/02/2011 at 9:52 am #

    a good article that i will even take in after reading

    also an article that could even save lifes, so great post, hopefully people will learn something from this that they did not know before

    • Andreas 02/02/2011 at 11:14 am #

      Thanks Kevin – how are you getting on with the Knog lights btw?

      • Kevin Campbell's Blog 02/02/2011 at 11:36 am #

        quite well thanks, did you read my review on my blog? incase you did not here is the link http://kevincampbellsblog.blogspot.com/2011/01/knog-frog-strobe-bike-light-set-review.html

        but yeah getting on with them quite well but if i was out regularly at night i think i would have to invest in something better and brighter, i trust these lights to to the job they are meant to, but that job is mainly to get seen, so not to see down very dark roads and so on, so if my night riding increases soon i will be sure to get some more lights i think, to get me noticed more and to see further down the road, but it would just be a case of getting the right lights for a kind of tight budget


        • Andreas 02/02/2011 at 11:39 am #

          I’d conclude the same – Blackburn Flea light I’ve got a review on the way – find them pretty bright and similar tiny size. (Obviously not quite as small as Knog)

      • Kevin Campbell's Blog 02/02/2011 at 12:33 pm #

        that blackburn flea light looks cool, do you know how much brighter it is than the knog? is the blackburn more of a see the road ahead rather than just a get seen light? like the knog is?

        • Andreas 02/02/2011 at 1:33 pm #

          I’ll do a comparison soon. It’s got 4 LED’s vs Knogs 1 LED for a start and it definitely out performs it. Still could be brighter for sure but for most needs thing the Flea suffices.

  2. Mike Smith 02/02/2011 at 10:27 am #

    Spot on, Andreas!

    I usually also take the view that I, not the motorists, am the most important, yet most vulnerable user of that roundabout, so I make absolutely sure that the right lane is MINE!

    I judge my speed whenever possible so that I don’t have to stop at the give way line – getting started again will almost invariably mean a wobble, and probably some impatient type squeezing alongside you no matter how much of the road you try and command.

    I recently negotiated the Magic Roundabout in Swindon (google it – it’s great fun!) in the rush hour, and by using all the tips in your article survived to do it again on the way back!

    I regularly use major roundabouts around Liskeard and on the A30 and A38, and doing it properly makes it 95% safe – you just have to watch out for the loonies, but that’s par for the course!

    • Andreas 02/02/2011 at 11:16 am #

      Exactly right on trying to pre-judge a roundabout before entering it. Starting off without speed is a real pain. Of course only pre-judge it if you have a clear view.

      I think tackling a huge roundabout is a big confidence thing like most things with cycling. You have to get in there, claim the full lane and clearly show your intentions to drivers.

  3. Gaz 02/02/2011 at 10:43 am #

    If in doubt, or if you are not confident to take the lane on the right because the roundabout is fast moving and you can’t go that fast. Then an option is to keep to the left, and stop before each exit on the left and then you can look behind you, wait for a gap and cross safely to continue around the roundabout

    • Andreas 02/02/2011 at 11:17 am #

      I would say this was a little risky – when you are waiting near an exit a driver may well not be expecting you there. I guess if there’s a lot of fear there’s nothing to stop you getting off and walking around the roundabout (Assuming there is a pavement path around).

    • nununoolio 04/02/2011 at 10:10 pm #

      Gaz, that’s shocking advice mate! If you are not confident enough to tackle the roundabout in the correct way, then get off your bike and use pedestrian crossings or traffic lights.
      To everyone reading this. Stopping and starting on a roundabout would be suicidal. Don’t do it!

    • ray whitehouse 12/08/2011 at 10:52 pm #

      Never ever keep to the left, it just means cars cut you up as they turn left. They’ll cut cars up and you are an even easier target. Keep in the middle of the leftmost lane which has an arrow to allowe you to take the right route. If in doubt turning right, keep to the right come what may that means that cars will not cut you up turning left in front of you.

  4. Philip 02/02/2011 at 11:01 am #

    Having learned to drive in Ealing (lots of roundabouts) I have no problem with these. I’ve always thought it’s easier to be a cyclist if you are a driver also. Makes you far more aware of what drivers might do (good or bad). I am also convinced that you are a ‘better’ driver if you ride a bike. It’s a relationship no-brainer really — the more understanding the better the level of confidence. And cycling is 99% confidence.

  5. Justin Rolfe 02/02/2011 at 11:13 am #

    When cutting into traffic to take my position, I point my fingers and hand downwards and wave my aim very firmly at the point on the road when I am going to go. No cars behind me are in any doubt that I am changing lane, and will own that bit of space.

    As a courtesy, I also try to keep up with the traffic, which can mean sprinting sometimes. That’s fun with one arm firmly pointing outwards!

    • Andreas 02/02/2011 at 11:18 am #

      Absolutely. Indicating intentions through pointing, arm fully raised out and moving the bike slowly in the direction you want to go all lets drivers know what’s happening.

      If one handed cycling makes you wobble then it’s a good idea to get some practise on quiet roads.

  6. Alan 02/02/2011 at 11:37 am #

    All time favourite multi-lane roundabout? Arc de Triomphe – total carnage!

    • Andreas 02/02/2011 at 11:39 am #

      Hah – can’t say I’ve attempted. I’m not a big fan of Marble Arch mind you. Unless you actually pedal under it. The roundabout there is a pain coming from Hyde park and wanting to go over and first left.

  7. nicolep 02/02/2011 at 12:07 pm #

    I’ve just posted about my weekend exploit at Hyde Park Corner roundabout and how hellish it was for my partner, who’s from Antwerp. Sprinting uphill keeping my arm out to indicate my intention wasn’t much fun and being responsible for another wasn’t either. I think he thought I was trying to kill him! Horrid, horrid, horrid. I’m a pretty confident cyclist but I felt quite battered after that.

    The Arc de Triomphe, Mon Dieu! I don’t think so….

    • ray whitehouse 12/08/2011 at 10:54 pm #

      Hyde park corner is definitely one where you go straight across the middle, thats what the cycle lanes are there for.

  8. Dave Escandell 02/02/2011 at 12:44 pm #

    I echo Justin.

    It is the case that roundabout cycling is about confidence, but there is no reason why one shouldn’t be confident. Try and make yourself ‘big’ sit up in the saddle, make eye contact with all, point and wave, and always acknowledge those who allow you room.

    Statistically, few serious accidents occur on a roundabout, and those that do, often occur when vehicles fail to give way before joining the roundabout. If you’re taking the lane and dominating the space you will be seen. Have faith in your ability.

    • Andreas 02/02/2011 at 1:35 pm #

      Very true. On a roundabout near me drivers sometimes miss the “Give Way” sign. Thought fortunately this is rare.

  9. Filippo Negroni 02/02/2011 at 1:28 pm #

    One more tip from me: don’t just think/act like a driver, but as a hybrid vehicle.
    A cyclists footprint is much smaller than a car’s footprint, and we have far greater manouvering capabilities, akin a pedestrian, but faster.

    When on a roundabout, especially a multiple lane one, I try to immediately recognise my escape routes: if a driver coming round too fast doesn’t see you, as they break, they will automatically track left (loosing grip). If you are aware of that, your escape route is not towards the outside of the roundabout, but towards the centre or right exit.

    If on a roundabout you are ever in any doubt about the best time to exit, or if traffic is heavy, there is nothing wrong to STAY on the roundabout and just keep going round: chances are, at the next round the traffic will have eased or you will have found a clearer path through it.

    In all circumstances your safety is above anything else: there is nothing wrong with cutting a mini roundabout and turn right if that means avoiding a SMIDSY.

    It is essential also to realise that even the slowest cyclists can be just as quick off the line as the average car, and our greater visibility advantage allows us to spot merging paths into the roundabout way before a car driver can: use that to your advantage and anticipate the driver’s behind you: chances are they are looking right, NOT in front, and could easily hit you from behind if they spot an opportunity to merge with the traffic before you.

    Sometimes, I found myself on roundabouts where each lane is marked for a specific direction but where traffic essentially ignores those directions: my advice is to either follow what the traffic does, which can be an issue in case of accident, because you are then in the wrong, or, better still, in such circumstances, and especially with heavy traffic, keep to the right, go round the roundabout once and then exit the roundabout following the traffic already on it: this traffic will keep you protected from the traffic trying to join the roundabout.

  10. Knit Nurse 02/02/2011 at 1:49 pm #

    Great advice and very useful. Indicating your intentions is particularly important, especially when exiting the roundabout. It can be difficult to master riding with only one hand on the handlebars but it’s well worth practising till you can do it confidently.

  11. Craig 02/02/2011 at 4:11 pm #

    There is always of course the alternative route for a right turn on a roundabout – follow the pedestrian route. Not always fun as it is generally slower and involves walking but often infinitely safer. šŸ™‚

  12. John 02/02/2011 at 5:42 pm #

    The only thing is a proportion of the drivers on a roundabout know where they are going but have no idea what lane they ought to be in, so your never really sure where to expect someone to be coming from / going to.
    Your method is text book perfect and should get you on and off fairly easily, It just needs to be posted on some motoring websites as well for drivers to learn where they should be as well.


  13. AJ 02/02/2011 at 6:28 pm #

    Can’t imagine why we only have 2% modal share when articles like this are necessary šŸ˜›

  14. Ryan 02/02/2011 at 6:45 pm #

    Spot on!! I agree starting from a standstill can be a right pain but if you take the centre of the lane it usually works. Unless some tw@t undercuts you which can be a little unnerving. Marble is fun, Hyde Park is plain suicidal. Coming down park lane then heading down constitution hill is bad enough :0

    Diesel is ALWAYS my main concern on roundabouts. The worst place you want to hit the deck.

  15. Ryan 02/02/2011 at 6:46 pm #

    Spot on!! I agree starting from a standstill can be a right pain but if you take the centre of the lane it usually works. Unless some tw@t undercuts you which can be a little unnerving. Marble Arch is fun, Hyde Park is plain suicidal. Coming down park lane then heading down constitution hill is bad enough :0
    Diesel is ALWAYS my main concern on roundabouts. The worst place you want to hit the deck.

  16. Paul Lowe 03/02/2011 at 9:17 am #

    hi Andreas, Multi Lane Junctions and roundabouts are what we teach in a L3 cycle training lesson. Happy to arrange one for you if you are interested.

  17. Mike Smith 03/02/2011 at 10:23 am #

    Re Arc de Triomphe

    I’ve done it twice as part of a charity cycle ride, and although there appear to be dozens of incoming roads, and cars, lorries and buses heading everywhichway but sideways, there is one essential difference between the Arc de Triomphe and ANY British roundabout – in France, in my experience, the drivers don’t actively ignore you or try to roll over you.

    I was very impressed with the French drivers’ attitude to cyclists – even English cyclists!


  18. Peridot 03/02/2011 at 5:09 pm #

    It’s not so much the lack of familiarity/balance/confidence that makes me wobble sometimes when hand-signalling, it’s all the blessed potholes.

    • Fran 04/02/2011 at 3:20 pm #

      Yes you’re very right there – even if you’ve got everything else down – it’s always the potholes!

  19. Michael 05/02/2011 at 11:41 pm #

    Love it! Very nice to picture cycling something like a large roundabout in the left lanes (I am in the US).

    I also witnessed the Arc De Triomphe – as a pedestrian it made me nervous.

  20. Murray 11/02/2011 at 10:22 am #

    At least ten percent of the occasions that I go through mini roundabouts a driver will totally ignore the fact that I have the right of way even though I am using the road correctly as described above. Always take mini roundabouts with extreme caution!

  21. Louise 11/02/2011 at 3:44 pm #

    I would also recommend taking up cycling training – I believe they are still offering this free for those working or living in a London Borough.

    I had three sessions last year- having not cycled since a child and never on the road, and I came away a much more confident cyclist and the right-hand turns are much easier now.

  22. Alis 12/08/2011 at 6:41 pm #

    Thanks for posting this. If we all read up on road rules and implemented them more carefully we could save more lives.

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