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Posted by on Nov 30, 2011 in Safety | 30 comments

Classic Left Cross

Fortunately, the cyclist was not injured.

This is very similar to the one time I was hit by a car. It’s also similar to a more violent crash that occurred on Colonial a few months ago.

Keep in mind, when you are passing a queue, every gap in the adjacent traffic is an opportunity for someone to turn left across your path. It’s very likely the gap is there because a driver in the queue is leaving an opening for crossing/turning driver at a driveway or intersection. You may not be able to see the crossing/turning vehicle, but you can certainly identify the conditions. Passing a queue should not be done any faster than you can react and stop instantly (for me, that’s about 6mph).

If the queue is short, it’s safer to get in line. If it’s long, be aware of the risks and ride accordingly. Or use a different road.

More on preventing the left cross.

Remember, a screened left cross can happen when you’re controlling a lane, too.

That’s your public safety announcement for today. Carry on.

30 Comments

  1. Outstanding post. Very happy to see the rider walk away without injury and that the driver stopped to render aid.

    This is one of the gotchas of a bike lane. But it happens as well to cars in multi-lane roads/streets. Passing a queue of cars is a time for caution and a slower speed to allow for more reaction distance.

    • True. Even in a car someone would need to be cautious in those conditions. Another reason to be cautious that I’m surprised wasn’t mentioned: The white car parked in the bike lane, crowding the cyclist out and further obscuring site lines. Even without the gap in the cars, that should have been a signal to be cautious.

  2. Driving is visual.

    Think through who needs to see you and how you can be seen, and most quickly understood.

    At first this is a driving chore, an unnatural and difficult thing to do but with practice it becomes a habit, feels natural and easy.

    If you get started with pedestrian bike riding, upgrading to bicycle driving will require unlearning bad thinking, it’s behavior, and replacing it.

    My previous program was “Looking Sharp!” My concept is “I Love Traffic”. These are powerful tools that helped me shift my thinking to taking personal responsibility for my driving behavior, instead of just being angry with “at fault” motorists.

  3. Did you notice the parked car that the cyclist passed just before the collision? (See the zoomed-in replay.) It was parked half on the sidewalk, half in the bike lane, leaving the rest of the bike lane entirely in the door zone. This could have been a dooring video.

    I wonder why there happened to be a camera pointing at that spot.

  4. Yes, we should drive defensively and be wary of the limited sight lines in a situation like this, but since the cyclist was riding in bike lane, she technically wasn’t filtering forward past a queue of traffic, but was traveling in a traffic lane.

    • You can pass a queue of traffic while traveling in a regular travel lane, too. Today I rode down the left lane on a road where traffic was queued for a block in a right lane that becomes rtol. I passed the queue. Had there been side streets, I would have been looking for a potential drive-out through that queue into my lane.

      It’s legally true that a bike lane is a travel lane, but a narrow lane which doesn’t carry a threat of being t-boned by a car is less worthy of consideration by a turning motorist. That dynamic warrants recognition and extra caution.

  5. Yes, I don’t like passing traffic on the right hand side, even in a car. I hate to say this, but this was a totally *avoidable* accident on the cyclist’s part.

    Not all left crosses are so easily avoidable. Sometimes the motorist has a completely unimpeded line of sight but chooses not to notice anything too small to be a threat.

    • Had this happen to me the tuesday before last right before my thanksgiving trip. Was coming back from momm and popps, right near wadeview park. I stopped at the stop sign and was going to make a right, a car was driving the opposite direction.

      Street isn’t narrow there, so I start making my right when he turns into me. Guess he was planning on using the whole road to make his left. All I see is this mirror coming at me.

      I do a stop and jump off the saddle move i usually do at traffic lights, then lean the bike over so he doesn’t catch the handlebars with the mirror. About a 1/4 second later he lurches to a stop.

      After he asks me if I’m ok, I yell at him a little bit, shine my headlight in his eyes. I check my eggs lashed to the baskets in back, didn’t even break one. I figure it was a case of cell phone blindness. 2 people across the street ask if I’m okay. The seemed shocked that he couldn’t see me, considering how i keed my bike well lit at night.

  6. The last time I experienced anything close to this while on my bike (website link), I played the role of the motorist that hit Ana, while the role of Ana was played by an SUV driver. Luckily, my “Ana” was protected by a “motorist” who understood the collision potential. A previous incident in which my Jaguar sustained several thousand dollars of damage suggests Jason’s aversion to passing on the right is well founded.

  7. This is exactly how I was tagged by a car last April! Except there was no other car blocking the turning car’s view, I had just emerged from shadows where the turning driver also had the sun in her eyes. I watched her turn and knew the moment her front wheels began to change direction that I was a goner. Oh well. To say that I am now paranoid of anyone appearing to turn left across my lane is an understatement.

  8. This is why I always slow at every intersection wherever visibility is unclear. LAB teaches the ‘instant turn’ and ‘quick stop’ maneuvers as if these stunts can prevent something like this, rather than teaching the correct speed for visually blocked or spatially tight situations. This is just one of the reasons I quit the LAB instructor course before completion. I just think LAB’s instant turn and quick stop maneuvers give cyclists a false sense of security and encourage unsafe speeds. The woman in the video had absolutely no chance to start a quick turn or quick stop maneuver because she was going through a blind intersection way too fast and she had no visibility.

    I don’t know what Cycle Savvy instructors teach, but in my view, the instant turn maneuver is especially dangerous. It forces the wheel towards the danger and puts the cyclist in a potentially dangerous unbalanced situation. A skid during an instant turn could easily place the cyclist under the wheels of a truck. I know the instant turn has a long history and is supported by John Forrester in his book ‘Effective Cycling’, but I believe it is far more dangerous than simply managing speed based on the situation. There is no need for a cyclist to enter every road situation at a steady 15+mph. We have brakes for a reason.

    • By which I mean that brakes are not just for stopping – they’re also for modifying speed.

    • Ian, we do teach the instant turn in CyclingSavvy; not so much as an actual safety strategy, but as a way to build confidence. We introduce it by saying if they use proper lane and intersection positioning they’re very unlikely to ever need it. In over 150,000 miles I’ve yet to use it in traffic.
      For this crash the instant turn wouldn’t have been the emergency strategy; it’d be quick stop instead (something I have used a couple times in traffic).

      • If you look closely, you can see her attempt to turn. Her wheel turns to the right about 6ft before she hits the car. There’s a slight wobble about 6ft before that, when she’s right next to the orange car – that’s probably the result of her shock at seeing the red car turning into her and an instinctive attempt to turn. But because she doesn’t instinctively lean into the turn at that point, the bike corrects itself until she consciously starts to try to evade – far too late as it happens.

        Given her speed, and the fact that she may have only seen the car 12ft and a split second before the collision, I doubt that a quick stop could have done anything to help.

        In my view, the only way she could have avoided this collision was if she had been moving slower, as she surely should have been when approaching a driveway with what must have been a visible gap in traffic to her left-front. As Keri says, it’s a danger sign she should have seen.

        Personally, I would probably have kept myself in the line of traffic. I’m rarely in that much of a hurry that I feel the need to overtake traffic on the right. If I ever do, I do it at a snail’s pace (and only then if I know I’m in a place where it’s legal to overtake on the right). Then again, I’m the kind of nutter who avoids roads that have bike lanes, because I find them dangerous and in Maryland we have a mandatory bike lane use law.

        • You’re probably right about a quick stop not being effective. She was simply going too fast for the situation. Perhaps her turn was just in the hope that the car would stop and she’d have been able to swerve around it.

  9. Where I work has a continious right turn lane. There’s more glass in the driveway. Exact same danger as a bike lane on most streets.

    Being aware of blind spots like this is the best defense. I’ve had this scenario play out in my car, not on the bike, and because I was aware, I was going slow enough to avoid a collision.

  10. This Left Cross is similar to a Drive Out in which a motorist exiting a driveway or intersection with a visual obstruction on the corner violates the right of way of a crossing bicyclist. Neither participant sees each other until it is too late.

    In a Drive Out, the bicyclist is typically too close to the side of the road and is going too fast for the available sight triangle. A countermeasure (besides going slower) is to move further into the lane to improve sight triangles and therefore afford more reaction time and stopping distance for both parties before the impact point. A bicyclist in a bike lane as in the video cannot improve sight triangles.

  11. Similar collisions can also happen with pedestrians who walk through stopped traffic — or in a sidepath to the right of parked vehicles. Also with other bicyclists.

  12. A local chief of police told our bicycling advocacy board members that riding a bike in downtown Mystic was unsafe because there wasn’t sufficient room for a bike rider to ride between a queue of cars and parked cars, thereby forcing bike riders to ride in front of cars as part of the queue.

    ???????????????????????????

    Thank you for posting videos and articles like this on your site. It gives me hope.

    • Unbelievable! I hope the bicycle advocacy group showed its indignation and explained some state and local traffic law to him.

  13. Ian, I’m going to defend the teaching and use of the old ‘instant turn’.
    I’ve had to do this for real, once in forty-some years od cycling.
    But I’ll offer some advise with doing it and teaching it.
    Most people (and instructors!) don’t do the manuver correctly. They do the countersteer, then correct their balence, then turn.
    Which is wrong- but it is a very unatural feeling to make yourself fall over.
    Here’s a way to do it faster and more naturally- and it’s simple-
    At the same moment you countersteer, look into the direction of the turn. So you are turning the handlebar in one direction whilst looking in the other. What will happen is that countersteer will be a split second, as you fall into the direction of the turn your conditioned response will take over and steer the bike back under you in that deep 90 degree turn. I’ve seen quite a few LCI’s who never learned to do this the right way- becaue they were never shown how to do it the right way. Yes, it does work, not something that you use every day. Proper lane positioning is the way to avoid getting set up for a right hook, but the instant turn is the defense if you do get a right hook done to you. Remember, you only have to be ran over once.
    gears to you…leo Stone

  14. The problem I have with the instant turn is not that it doesn’t work. It works great for some folks, and I hope they have the presence of mind to know when to use it, and I hope they have the ability to use it, if they ever get into a situation in which it might help.

    Part of the problem is that it is unintuitive, and in a dangerous situation, performing unintuitive moves that involve sharp movements is asking for trouble. There are situations where it might make things far worse. For example, in wet weather, it could end up killing a cyclist by causing him to lose traction, throwing him under a turning truck’s wheels. In my opinion, the instant turn asks the bike and the rider to perform too close to the edge of the envelope.

    In the one instance I might have needed it (which was decades ago), the truck that was performing a right hook next to me was way too close to the handlebars to allow the necessary countersteer. But my real problem at that time was that I invited close passes because I was riding too far right. If I had been riding properly, that truck would never have attempted to turn through me because he couldn’t have overtaken me in the same lane.

    A regular commuter is not going to practice it enough to be competent at it. Most have a few tries at it during a cycling course, but whether they do it or not, only a very small percentage will keep practicing it, because it requires an unusual set-up on a quiet street or parking lot. Who has time for that? Looking for potential problems, however, is something the average cyclist is always practicing, and enhancing this innate ability will pay off much better than teaching cycling acrobatics.

    My real issue with the instant turn is that it encourages a lack of foresight: it is, in effect, a cure – and a dangerous one at that – for poor planning. In my view, the thing to teach should be prevention. After all, it’s not like it’s impossible to anticipate the kind of situation in which an instant turn might be necessary. Why not teach ways to prevent the conflict – slowing through intersections and checking conflict areas, etc. – and consign the instant turn to the bin?

    Finally, I fear that the instant turn has become something of a narcissistic exercise for cycling instructors, who will end up being about the only people ready to do it if the necessity ever arises (and the necessity for them, will never arise, because most of them know better than to allow themselves to get into the sort of stupid situation where it would be useful).

    • A friend of mine used the instant turn when she was deliberately right-hooked by a van turning from the left lane (she was controlling the right lane). Having practiced the instant turn probably saved her.

      While it’s true most right-hooks are encouraged by poor lane position, I have been hooked from the left lane several times over the years — never close enough, nor was I going fast enough, to require an emergency maneuver, but certainly required me to use some brakes.

  15. This is very disturbing, the cyclist did nothing wrong, the vehicle turning left would be in violation of several vehicle codes here in california inculding unsafe turning movement, illegal left turn.
    Did anyone notice (I did not read all the responses) that the left turning vehicle cross a double yellow line to make the turn.

    • The cyclist may not have done anything illegal, but in my view she certainly did at least two things wrong:

      1. Entering what was effectively a blind intersection way too fast.
      2. Filtering on the right of traffic and thus making herself less visible to oncoming traffic.

    • It’s not illegal here to turn left across a double yellow.

      • I can’t imagine it being illegal anywhere. You wouldn’t be able to turn left into a driveway in many neighborhoods if that was the case.

  16. Both the cyclist and the motorist drove beyond their sight lines, and both contributed to the collision. While the motorist is most likely to be found at legal fault, do not confuse legal fault with personal safety obligations. If a cyclist is riding to the right of stopped traffic on a driveway or intersection approach, they are in a blind spot to left turning drivers and should slow and very cautiously approach such blind locations.

    Here is another similar scenario where both the cyclist and the driver drove beyond their sight lines in the UK:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqCwjC2VIXw

    And here’s a publicly available photo set where we discuss this crash:
    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1631092508559&l=1974e005ca

    • Looking at what the cyclist said about the collision, it appears he was distracted – that can happen to any of us. If he cycled like that everyday, I reckon he would get hit once a month. Riding in London, you can get intersections like that every 50m, with stationary or slow moving traffic often on your right. This could mean on a yearly commute you could pass 10,000s of intersections. The fact that you negotiated 99.99% of the intersections with the appropriate level of hazard perception counts for nought if a cyclist’s lapse of attention coincides with another road user failing to give way.

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