The Dreaded Right Hook

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.

Only a flesh wound
Only a Flesh Wound

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.

9 thoughts on “The Dreaded Right Hook

  1. Been there, done that, ripped up the t-shirt in gravel and pavement. Glad Jason is relatively okay.

    Another possible defense for right turns that’s worth mentioning — take the lane. Nobody should be passing you in the turn anyway so it’s not like you’re getting in anybody’s “way” any more than if you’re driving.

  2. Jeff is totally right “Anticipating a right hook and being ready to respond is your best defense in this situation.”
    I actually assume everyone is going to “door” me, right hook me or I’ll get rear ended.

  3. I don’t think I have ever in 16 years, been a victim of a right hook, however I have had just about ever other rude/ignorant thing done to me, My solution the yellow n blue Nevada 3 ft stickers on my messenger bag or panniers, Lots of 3M Scotchlite AND a (base model) GoPro mount On top of my helmet, Where ever I go, you wouldn’t Believe the respect I get

    1. And unfortunately it is comments like this that give cyclists and cycling a bad name. We do, well the good ones, abide by the same rules of the road as every other “motorized” vehicle.

  4. Glad Jason is ok. Hope you at least apologized by offering to buy him a beer!

    I too have been a victim of the dreaded right hook but have anticipated enough that I have only “wobbled” but not fallen. Too many times I have had that “sixth sense” of someone zooming up behind me only to glance and see a truck/car next to me as they fly to make the turn.

    So far the only one that has caught me off-guard and caused a crash was a “left cross”. Guy pulled out of the driveway at the CVS on Winnie going west as I pulled onto Winnie going west. Made eye contact with him as he began to pull into traffic, only to suddenly realize he was pulling ALL THE WAY across to make the parking lot of the bar directly across the street and down about 200ft.

    He ended up doing the same that happened to Jason and pinching me between the curb and the side of his 80s Dodge Caravan (wood side paneling too). I had enough time to yell and slam my fist against his back window before I crashed only to watch him pull all the way to a spot right in front of the bar.

    Unfortunately, we are seen as nothing more than “Sprocket Jockeys” that believe they above the rules of the road so people will intentionally ignore us.

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