As a bicyclist, of course you encounter dangerous situations on the road daily. We cyclists all know that the roads are full of distracted and negligent drivers and that the urban infrastructure is often inadequate to prevent bicycle accidents, particularly in a congested place like San Francisco. That’s why it’s important as California cyclists, we stay aware of some of the most common dangers on the road, the situations that can be particularly hazardous, and how we can avoid bicycle crashes when we encounter them. Let’s look at two common dangerous situations, the “left cross” and “right hook”, and refresh ourselves as to what we can survive these two most common causes of bicycle collisions.
The “left cross” is a perfect example of the need for both drivers and cyclists to pay attention on the road. A left cross is when a cyclist and a motorist are heading towards each other on opposite sides of the street, and the motorist turns left across the path of the cyclist or even right into the cyclist. Often, motorists are only looking out for other cars or trucks or buses and not for cyclists or even for pedestrians, and this lack of awareness can often lead to serious personal injury or wrongful death. As we approach an intersection, any cyclist should be on the lookout for turn signals, cars slowing, and drivers looking at where they’re trying to go, not at the bicycle coming proceeding straight into their path. Drivers may be so focused on making their left turn and timing the turn to avoid approaching cars and trucks and buses, that they completely miss the bike heading right at them. Always be ready to get out of the way, and give the motorist a clear path if they need it, especially if they’re not paying attention. I agree it’s frustrating to have your right of way violated by a left hook driver, but it’s clearly better to back down than to be run down.
The “right hook” is similarly dangerous to the left cross, but occurs when both the cyclist and the motorist are headed the same direction and the motorist goes to turn right over the cyclist without noticing the bike next to them. This is a common scenario in bike crashes and one that bikers can anticipate even if drivers do not. As a cyclist be sure to watch out for turn signals, the car or truck of bus slowing down, and car motion indicating a potential turn at the upcoming corner. Remember, just like the left cross, it’s always better to fall behind a vehicle and let them go ahead, than to stay next to them or in their blind spot and risk injury or worse. The “right hook” bicycle crash is even more common when large vehicles such as trucks or buses are trying to make a right turn. Oftentimes, the operator of a large vehicle may be sitting far ahead of the rear wheels of the vehicle and may not adequately account for off-tracking of the rear wheels. I am sure we all have seen when a bus is turning right and the front wheels are far out into the intersection, while the rear wheels are almost at the curb as the bus is completing its turn. A cyclist should pay extra careful attention to avoid getting cut off and perhaps crushed by a bus or truck that is turning right at an intersection.
Of course, the left cross and right hook are just two of any number of scenarios that could occur every day while you ride your bike. Learn to expect the unexpected, let the errant motorists proceed, follow the rules yourself, and make sure that above all else you’re being safe and respectful to everyone on the road. I don’t mean to preach here, but as auto fatalities are going down every year, bicycle fatalities are on the rise, and a little knowledge may go a long way some day.
Hello, I’m Claude Wyle, a San Francisco personal injury and bicycle attorney. Have an idea for a topic you’d like to see covered here? Feel free to contact me or visit www.ccwlawyers.com