Imagine the road divided into three. Position yourself a little to the right of center if you intend to make a right turn (but not too far or drivers will squeeze you into the gutter*). Position yourself on the left third of the road to indicate you are going to make a left. Hold tight to center if you intend to go straight. Use hand signals before turning (hold for two seconds, if possible) but aim to have both hands on the handlebar grips during the actual turn. Make no apologies for taking the lane when that’s your best, safest choice.
If your city is not bike-friendly, many drivers may not know or respect your rights on the road and may display life-threatening aggression and entitlement toward you. This is criminal activity but will just about never be punished. I find using BikeNoodle (see Chapter 6: Noodle Lady in my book*) reduces this significantly because I can stay farther to the right (which seems to make these people less angry) while still controlling the three feet I need for safe access. You may want to consider trying it. I believe I am still the only person in the USA using one, and I only use it in suburban Atlanta (which was developed in the 1970s and is completely car-centric if you actually want to go places — the neighborhoods are full of enormous hills and cul de sacs and they don’t connect, and the main roads are the most direct, flattest routes but are built to maximize speed). (But to be truly honest, I hate using it and riding in suburbia is my last choice but sometimes it’s my only way to get a bike ride that day. I used to run errands on bike as #OneLessCar but have mostly given that up for reasons that are in my book).
So choose your lane position. Take the lane when needed. Oh, and stay out of gutters. You are worth more than that. If your city isn’t telling you that by the access it provides you, I’m telling you that. You are worth more. (See pages 126-127 in Traveling at the Speed of Bike, for a poem titled The Gutter of Failed Imagination. Also, see this post, No More Gutter of Failed Imagination for video of BikeNoodle at work.)
See here for links to buy my book, Traveling at the Speed of Bike, on Amazon in all global markets. I’m an indie author and your support is greatly appreciated. A portion of proceeds from the sale of all books is donated to help more women and girls ride bikes. Currently, that means funding my ability to do “Pedal Power with Pattie” Basic Bike Skills Classes for Women for free.