Wednesday, May 22, 2013

"Right Hook" scenerio inadvertently demonstrated

Pat Grant, of the League Cycling Instructor list, inadvertently took some excellent footage of an attempted right hook in progress. Riding up on the right in the lee of a motorist, or being overtaken by one at the last minute if you are already at or approaching the stop line, puts one in a treacherous situation. You cannot count on people to use their turn signals (at least in New Mexico) so the cyclist is  riding in the motorist's blind spot, assuming for the moment the motorist is even aware of the cyclist. At just about the five second mark of this video, you can start to see the right front wheel turn to the right. That's all the warning Pat got. Pat escaped disaster due to his low speed and as a last minute fix, the air horn.

John Allen, in the video below, is shown (on the Mass Bike Law Officer's Guide page) leaving the bike lane in such a situation and merging into the travel lane behind a car, which is the safe thing to do. In Pat's case the car overtook the cyclist in the bike lane very close to the intersection. In such a situation, I would advise the cyclist to either merge behind if practical or slow down and observe the motorist, not riding into the intersection until one is certain of the driver's destination path. If I get to the stop line when traffic is stopped, I move an additional bike length forward so I am in front of the driver rather than to the side. Just keep your situational awareness hat on and be thinking several seconds ahead and asking "what will I do if...."

This is the most common crash/near miss situation that folks have discussed with me in Los Alamos, especially since we finished the southernmost sections of bike lanes on Diamond Drive (i.e., south of Orange/Sandia) due to the numerous side streets and parking lot entrances located there. Bike lanes are nice where there are no turning and crossing problems, but they otherwise put you to the right of right turning motorists and also less visible to left turning motorists. Beware, and as the Saavy Cycling program advises, "don't let the paint stripes do your thinking for you".

Be aware and stay outa the "coffin corner".

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. I've discussed the situation with Jackie many times, including our bike ride this weekend in ABQ. I've come to the conclusion that taking the lane is the safest alternative in this situation. In addition to mitigating the right hook risk, taking the lane - especially when you're first at the light - has other value. 1) you have the best visibility of the intersection, and your view isn't blocked by another car. You also have more escape routes in the event something crazy happens in the intersection while you're stopped, along with that better view of potential craziness.

Matt Truijillo was killed after leaving the bike lane at Washington and Indian School; he was stopped in the bike lane next to a large SUV at the front of the line, waiting for the green. He started into the intersection on the green, when the meth-impaired Memori Hardwick came through the intersection. The SUV driver stated he saw the car approaching at 40-45 mph and he remained stopped. It's only speculation, but I personally think if Matt had taken the lane instead of waiting on the right, he'd have had a much better view of the developing situation and may have avoided his tragic fate.

In those circumstances when I'm not first at the light and I approach the red with other cars stopped, I still take the lane for the visibility and escape route reasons, above. When I get the green, I smoothly accelerate to the bike lane and allow the cars to pass.

Joe Martz