One of the most common accidents involving a bicyclist and a motor vehicle is the right-hook. This can happen a couple different ways. Sometimes a cyclist will ride along the right side of traffic, either in a bike lane or just in the narrow area near the curb, and take a front position at the intersection. In this case, the cyclist arrives last, and the vehicle that is about to go right hasn’t noticed the arrival of the cyclist. This is particularly dangerous when a big truck is involved due to the blind spots.
There are a couple defenses in this scenario. If you do make it to the front of the intersection, get into a position where the lead vehicle can see you, and even make eye contact if possible. If there is no bike lane, I like to take my place in line in traffic. When traffic starts to move again, I move back over to the right. Drivers have most likely seen me now, and won’t turn in front of me.
Another variation of the right hook is when a vehicle overtakes a cyclist, and then makes a right turn in front of them. This happens either because the motorist failed to notice that they passed a cyclist, or that they misjudged the velocity of the cyclist. This situation is a little trickier because it is more unpredictable while you’re in motion. Anticipating a right hook and being ready to respond is your best defense in this situation.
My friend Jason got right-hooked on his way to lunch today, getting caught in a scenario similar to the second example. He was riding west on 5th Street, planning to turn right to head north on Curry Street. Jason anticipated the truck turning right as it passed him, so he kept his turn tight in case the truck turned too. Sure enough the truck did turn right, but cut the corner really tight. Jason put his left hand out to push off from the truck, but there was nowhere to go. The rear wheels of the truck actually went over the curb as it made the turn, pinching Jason off, and sending him crashing onto the sidewalk. The driver of the truck drove off, not even knowing what he had done.
Jason followed the guy to a nearby restaurant, and let the guy know what had just happened. “Excuse me, but did you know you just ran me over?” The guy had no idea what had just occurred and was very apologetic. No further action was taken. Luckily both rider and bike sustained minor damage. And after hearing Jason’s story and seeing the scrapes and bruises, I cut him some slack for being 5 minutes late to lunch.