Avoid a right hook. Don't pass on the right.

The classic right hook, a motorist passing on the left and then turning right in front of a bicycle, can be discouraged with assertive lane position. Here’s a variation on the right hook that is even easier to avoid.

When faced with a long line of cars at a red light, it’s tempting for a bicyclist to snake up to the front using the narrow space between the cars and the curb. But as you approach the front of the line, the car at the front could turn right and collide with you. (If cars are parked on the side, you are also at risk of being “doored” by a suddenly opened car door.)

This is an easy one to prevent. Don’t pass on the right! The Second Layer of Crash Prevention is “Follow the rules of the road”, and the rule of the road says we pass on the left, not right. Take your place in line at the red light or stop sign.

Motorists should be aware that cyclists and pedestrians may try to fill that narrow space to the right. As a motorist, you can prevent this kind of right hook by checking for traffic to the right.

A few bicyclists scoff at this. “The point of bicycling is that it’s faster than driving,” they tell me. But there are a lot of great reasons to bicycle besides being faster. They break all the rules—riding on sidewalks, running red lights, riding where motorists can’t—to get there faster. Not only does this put them at risk, it antagonizes motorists, pedestrians, and other cyclists. Because they are noticeable, flaunting all the rules, people think all cyclists are like that.

In a similar scenario, a bicyclist using the right turn only lane (RTOL) but going straight through is also at risk of a right hook, since motorists in the RTOL are turning right. In Kirksville most intersections are simple with one lane for each direction of travel, so this situation doesn’t come up often.

The same principle of “Follow the rules of the road” applies to the RTOL. If you are turning right, use the right turn lane. If you are proceeding straight, use the straight-through lane. Sometimes the right turn lane doubles as a straight through lane. But don’t use a RTOL unless you are turning right.