Motorists: Turn right…right.
The Right Hook. It occurs when a motorist turns right in front of a cyclist at an intersection. It can stem from impatience, a misjudgment of the riders’ speed, or the belief that the rider should yield to an automobile. Even though this is a problem faced by cyclists in relation to the action of motorists on the road, both sides can play a role in reducing the chance of an incident.
- Do not pass a cyclist close to an intersection if your intention is to turn right. Remain behind the rider, and allow them to enter the intersection, completing your right turn behind them. This holds true regardless of the riders’ lane position – be they to the right or in the center of the lane. Use your turn signal!
- If you have recently passed a cyclist, carefully check your mirrors before you merge right and prepare to turn. Make sure you have left plenty of room for the rider to respond to your intention to turn. Use your turn signal!
- When a bike lane is present: you will likely (but not always) see the lane markings change to a dashed line – an indication that this is the appropriate zone to merge into the bike lane and prepare to turn right by moving as close to the curb as possible to make your intention to turn obvious. Numbers 1 and 2 above still hold true here – as you need to look carefully for cyclists in the lane, and signal your intention to turn before merging.
- When cars pass you near or in intersections – be vigilant and prepared. Look for the clues. Turn signal? Don’t always rely on this, as it could be burned out or just not used. Consider looking at the front tire of the car for the angle to change, a reduction in speed, and other indicators that the vehicle is turning. Continue carefully and cover the brakes in case you need to slow or stop quickly. Be prepared to take an unintended fast right turn to avoid injury!
- Take the lane. As you approach the intersection – check for traffic from behind and then carefully merge to the center of the lane so your intentions to continue straight are known. This will prevent cars from passing you and then cutting right in the first place.
- Avoid being next to large vehicles and/or semi-trailers at intersections. These vehicles can mislead you, as they often need to go much further into the intersection before they turn right. And, anytime you are stopped at an intersection – make sure your lane position or location in the situation keeps you visible to drivers.
One last thing for both drivers and riders – don’t forget driveways! Business entrances and residential driveways are mini-versions of what is described above. The frequency of turns may be much lower, but the opportunity for conflict is still there, so be aware and prepared to avoid trouble.