Safety: Motorist errors
Here we look at the most common motorist errors (and also some no-fault situations where visibility is limited):
Here are the typical crashes where motorist errors (or visibility) play a role:
1. Drive Out
This crash occurs when a motorist is entering the roadway from a cross street or driveway and fails to yield to a bicyclist. Why does the motorist fail to yield? This type of crash is sometimes due to cyclist error, but not always. The motorist may misjudge the cyclist's speed, may think she is stopping just because she is coasting, or may simply not be paying attention.
What to do: Scan the road ahead for vehicles entering and assume that they may drive out without yielding. Attempt to make eye contact with the driver. Be prepared to stop or take evasive action such as slowing or turning.
2. Motorist Overtaking
This crash occurs when the motorist hits the cyclist while passing. This crash has a few different causes:
a. Poor visibility. Most of these crashes happen at night or in situations of extreme glare, often on narrow, high-speed roads in rural settings. These crashes are far above average in terms of danger to the cyclist.
What to do: Anticipate how visible (or invisible) you will be to drivers, and take appropriate action. Don't ride at night without ample front and rear lights. When possible, choose well-lit roads over dark ones, and wider roads over narrow. Avoid riding directly into the sun, and be aware when sharp curves conceal you from passing traffic.
b. Misjudge passing space. Some motorists simply misjudge the amount of space needed to safely pass, especially when opposing traffic limits their ability to move left.
What to do: On narrow roads, don't give motorists the opportunity to squeeze you between their vehicle and the road edge. Instead, take the lane. This ensures that the motorist will wait for a safe place to pass. A rule of thumb is to avoid riding in a lane position where you don't have enough room to move right if you should need to avoid a car. Maintain a consistent lane position
c. Bike and/or vehicle swerve. Swerves may occur in a mistaken attempt to avoid a crash, or they may occur when the cyclist attempts to re-enter the lane after riding in a gap (eg., between parked cars).
What to do: Ride in a predictable, straight line whenever possible. It is generally better to take the lane and keep it, rather than moving in and out of the lane whenever gaps along the edge open up. (An exception may be when going very slowly uphill.)
3. Left Turn Into Oncoming Bicyclist
This crash occurs when the motorist fails to yield during a left turn to a bicyclist coming from the opposite direction. The causes are similar to Drive Out: the motorist may be looking for cars not bikes, or may misjudge the cyclist's speed.
What to do: Assume that any vehicle waiting to make a left turn is likely to do so in front of you. Attempt to make eye contact with the driver. Be prepared to stop or take evasive action.
4. Right Hook
This crash occurs when the motorist during a right turn fails to yield to a cyclist travelling in the same direction. It can occur because the motorist fails to check her blind spot, but possibly even more common is that the driver drives right past the cyclist and simply turns as if he/she is not there. Motorists are not trained to see bikes or judge their speed. Sometimes this crash occurs because the cyclist is passing slower moving traffic on the right.
What to do: The best defense against the Right Hook is to take the lane. Motorists making a right turn will be in the lane behind you, not alongside you. Otherwise, when approaching an intersection, check for traffic behind you that may be preparing to turn and be prepared to stop or take evasive action. Be extremely cautious if you are passing slower moving traffic on the right.
Here are four less common, but significant crash types:
5. Motorist Right On Red
This crash occurs when a motorist hits a cyclist while making a right turn after stopping. The vast majority of these crashes occur with cyclists riding against trafficright where the motorist is not expecting them to be. But they also happen to cyclists riding correctly.
What to do: When you approach an intersection where a motorist is looking to enter the roadway, assume that he may not notice you. Attempt to make eye contact. Be prepared to stop or take evasive action.
These crashes occur in parking lots and driveways, where there are often visual obstructions and travel paths are not well-defined. Many of the cyclists involved are kids or teens.
What to do: Use extra caution when cycling in these environments.
This crash happens when a person opens the door of a parked vehicle right into the path of an oncoming cyclist. Aside from the impact, there is the danger of being thrown into the path of traffic.
What to do: Avoid riding within door width (3'-5') of parked vehicles. Often, this means taking the first traffic lane, rather than riding within the parking lane. Take the lane. The only possible exception is when riding very slowly uphill. Often times "doorings" can be anticipated by scanning through the windows of parked cars to determine if there is a person in the driver's seat.
8. Obscured Intersection
This crash occurs when the cyclist enters a multi-lane intersection that appears safe to cross, but visibility is obscured by standing traffic.
What to do: Remember that if you cannot see into one or more lanes, vehicles in those lanes cannot see you. Just because one vehicle has yielded, it does not mean the intersection is safe to cross.