How can we avoid the #1 cause of car/bike collisions, and the #2 cause of fatality?
A vehicle may not leave its lane until safe to do so, and MUST yield to oncoming cars, trains, bicycles, and pedestrians. If a turning car crosses a sidewalk, crosswalk, bike lane, or traffic lane to arrive at its destination, it must ensure all they are all clear. A vehicle may not enter a lane and expect existing traffic to move out of its way.
The old drivers’ ed adage applies here: “turn your head every time you turn your wheel”. Motorists are responsible for the entirety of their vehicle’s movements, yet still report not noticing a bicyclist in their path until it was too late. Studies show that drivers who expect to encounter cyclists are able to detect and recognise them more readily. Therefore increasing drivers’ awareness of cyclists has great potential to reduce collisions. Hopefully by simply reading this, you are increasing your awareness of cyclists and their movements.
In Figure 1, solid black lines represent traffic that has the right of way, and dashed red lines represent desired turning motions. Cars #1, #2, and #3 are waiting to turn. While signalling their intent to turn, they must remain in their lane until their path is clear. In this case, the path is clear when the bicyclist and pedestrian have completed their movements. Additionally, Car #1 must yield to Car #2.
When turning right, motorists must yield to bicycles travelling straight. This is shown in Figure 1, where Car #2 must yield to the bicyclist. The turn itself must not obstruct cyclists also turning right. Figure 2 shows the correct right turn movement.
Bicycle lanes are separated by solid white lines, indicating a boundary cars must not cross. Pay special attention to where white lines disappear and reappear at an intersection. When a bicycle lane is present, a safe right turn means moving straight into the intersection roughly a car’s length and then turning right, as seen in Figure 2. This is the only way the solid white boundary is never crossed, meaning the motorist remains in its lane during the entirety of its turn.
The car “hugging the curb” during its turn, as shown in Figures 3 and 4, has drifted outside its lane and is driving in and obstructing the bicycle lane. In Figure 3, the bicycle in the act of a legal right turn gets hit by a car. Figure 4 shows a car stopped in the bicycle lane in preparation for its turn. This is just as dangerous a situation as Figure 3, because it shows a complete lack of awareness. Figure 4 is often caused by a motorist looking left while inching the car to the right – often oblivious to oncoming bicycle traffic or even a stationary bicycle it’s about to collide into.
Awareness to NEVER drift prematurely into the bicycle lane, as in Figures 3 and 4, is crucial in avoiding right turn collision.