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#1 2014-04-12 10:45:51

btrettel
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Registered: 2013-10-01
Posts: 35
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Reflections on my biking after a near head-on collision

Recently I had a near head-on collision that totally caught me off guard. See the video of it linked to below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jygwd3BCjY

The wide angle lens makes things look farther away than they were in reality, by the way.

Is there anything I'm doing egregiously wrong here? (No, seriously, be honest.)

The most I can think is that I should avoid riding on Gaudalupe even more than I already do, and that I should quadruple check for boneheaded moves before heading through an intersection. Neither should be necessary, but we live in an imperfect world.

What bothers me the most, however, is that I briefly confronted the driver, and she seemed totally insincere. I'm sure that if she actually did hit me she would have claimed I ran a red light, and probably got off with that too. Good thing my video doesn't lie.

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#2 2014-04-12 12:34:43

RedFalcon
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Registered: 2013-10-10
Posts: 127

Re: Reflections on my biking after a near head-on collision

It might not have been a good idea to ride back against traffic and through a cross walk to chase her down.  I get the impulse, I really do, but if you had collided with someone you would now be the one at fault in a separate incident.  And if they had had a camera, YOU would be the one on youtube.

The best thing to do is just post it on youtube and try and let it go.  I know I haven't always followed my own advice, but chasing them down never really brings the satisfaction I hope for, and it adds considerable risk.

I ordered a Ride Eye camera that I read about on one of these postings a few months ago.  It hasn't arrived yet, and I can't wait for it to get here.  I'd like to have a record of the near death experiences I get on my daily commute.

And yeah, bad stuff can happen even when you are technically doing everything exactly right.  I was once hit and run even though I was absolutely in the right.  The cops even sent a chopper to hunt the guy down.  I learned that some roads are best avoided at certain times, even though I know how to ride taking the lane yaddah yaddah and all that.   My goal is now to just arrive alive and avoid situations where I will have to debate the traffic code with an oblivious idiot in a 2500lb killing machine.

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#3 2014-04-12 15:55:03

MichaelBluejay
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Re: Reflections on my biking after a near head-on collision

You didn't do anything wrong.  Sometimes there's nothing that can be done when a driver makes a beeline for you.

The driver's flippant attitude just added insult to injury.  Just the fact that she honked at you, like you were in her way or something, said it all.  I don't know what's worse:  that drivers so many drivers aren't careful, or they don't care if they actually hurt or kill someone.  Austin does have an abnormally high rate of hit-and-run's.

I did see that you got onto the sidewalk to go back, that you didn't ride against traffic, by the way.

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#4 2014-04-12 17:07:39

cycling74
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Registered: 2008-09-28
Posts: 60

Re: Reflections on my biking after a near head-on collision

Nice camera. I find that confrontation doesn't work unless you say "I got you doing that on camera" and they totally know they are guilty when evidence like that exists. Keeps them feeling guilty for a little while at least, like the cops are going to come knocking.

So in this scenario, she was running the left turn light and in this town red light runners are the norm. I expect people to run the red and not the other way around. Once you expect that, maybe close calls like this can be avoided. (Just be sure to still yell at them as they do it)

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#5 2014-04-12 18:10:49

MichaelBluejay
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Re: Reflections on my biking after a near head-on collision

Oh, I didn't catch that the light had just turned red for the turners.  Yeah, I definitely expect drivers to run those, and act accordingly.  Don't these law-breakers realize that they're giving all drivers a bad name?  If drivers want respect then they need to follow the law like everyone else. (sarcasm)

Anyway, I'm so jaded I didn't even snap to the idea that you have video evidence.  Will you be pursuing this with the police?  I wouldn't expect them to take action, but when someone nearly AND NONCHALANTLY takes your life, it seems like it's worth a try.

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#6 2014-04-12 20:37:14

RedFalcon
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Registered: 2013-10-10
Posts: 127

Re: Reflections on my biking after a near head-on collision

MichaelBluejay wrote:

You didn't do anything wrong.

He didn't.  I tend to err on the side of the cyclist, but it did look to me like he was riding, rather than walking, as he went back against traffic, and that he turned left through a cross walk to confront the flippant idiot that nearly ended his life.   I'm not blaming, in the heat of the moment I probably would have done the same, or worse.  My patience for this kind of crap has run out.  The OP was nearly killed by an idiot.  He certainly didn't do anything wrong in the initial incident.   He was a lot more polite than I would have been when confronting the killer. 

I guess my take away was that having a camera is a two edge sword.  I'll have to remember this when I start using one.   What you do is recorded and can be used AGAINST you as much as it can be used FOR you.  It looked like to me like he was riding back against traffic on a pedestrian crosswalk.  I wasn't there, and could be wrong.  Again, I'm not trying to lay blame.  I'm just saying that it looked bad for a few seconds and that I worry that it could have been pivotal if this hit the news.  Again, maybe I'm wrong.  I'm really not trying to pick a fight, I just want our side to win.

Cycling in Austin sucks. I have been commuting to work by bike for 8 years.  I have been car free or car light for most of those years.  I live in the suburban wasteland north of Hadrian's Wall (183).  I see more motorists run stop signs in a day than I see transportation cyclists in a month. This is not hyperbole...I have counted.

Just watching that video got me all shook up.  I have a grandson now, I want to see him grow up.  I hate that my choice of transportation has to be so difficult.

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#7 2014-04-13 14:12:39

btrettel
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Posts: 35
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Re: Reflections on my biking after a near head-on collision

Thanks for the responses, everyone.

RedFalcon wrote:

It might not have been a good idea to ride back against traffic and through a cross walk to chase her down.  I get the impulse, I really do, but if you had collided with someone you would now be the one at fault in a separate incident.  And if they had had a camera, YOU would be the one on youtube.

This is a fair point. I usually unmount and walk through crosswalks, but this time I rode through it on impulse. I'm not sure if this is illegal at this location, as it's the border of UT, but it certainly is risky.

cycling74 wrote:

I find that confrontation doesn't work unless you say "I got you doing that on camera" and they totally know they are guilty when evidence like that exists. Keeps them feeling guilty for a little while at least, like the cops are going to come knocking.

Good strategy. I'll modify my typical script. Right now I try to focus on how dangerous their driving was, and if they deny it, I'll mention the camera. No one has denied driving dangerously after I mention the camera, so mentioning it early on should save some time, too.

cycling74 wrote:

So in this scenario, she was running the left turn light and in this town red light runners are the norm. I expect people to run the red and not the other way around. Once you expect that, maybe close calls like this can be avoided. (Just be sure to still yell at them as they do it)

Given my past experience, I should have figured this out by now. Some drivers seem to get POed if I don't take off like a rocket when the light turns green, but I figure that's their problem.

MichaelBluejay wrote:

Anyway, I'm so jaded I didn't even snap to the idea that you have video evidence.  Will you be pursuing this with the police?  I wouldn't expect them to take action, but when someone nearly AND NONCHALANTLY takes your life, it seems like it's worth a try.

I'll look into it, for the sake of seeing what they'd do. Does anyone have any recommendations about how to proceed? I'm thinking I could call 311 and see if they could get me in contact with the right person in the APD. I tried this route before for recommending locations to enforce the local texting-while-driving law and the officer I was in contact with seemed receptive. No idea if anything came of it.

Last edited by btrettel (2014-04-13 14:13:05)

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#8 2014-04-13 15:37:08

MichaelBluejay
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Re: Reflections on my biking after a near head-on collision

I think back-tracking on the sidewalk for a few meters is entirely appropriate in a situation like this.  I certainly would have done it.

Yes, I think 311 is the proper avenue.  Say that you want to report reckless driving, that you have video evidence, and that you'd like to file a report with an officer.  They'll likely take your info and say that an officer will get back to you.  Whether they actually do is another matter.

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#9 2014-04-13 20:45:37

RedFalcon
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Re: Reflections on my biking after a near head-on collision

"I think back-tracking on the sidewalk for a few meters is entirely appropriate in a situation like this.  I certainly would have done it."

The blood of the Irish runs in my veins, and I'm 99% sure I would have too.  I'm just saying that if he collided with someone in those few meters (meters? MB you really are ready to leave the USA, aren't you?)  it might have gone badly given the unfairly biased anti cyclist culture we live in.  But, he might have a cooler head than me and perhaps he was being extra careful.  Again, I'm not trying to pick a fight, I'm just cautioning against picking a fight. Maybe my response is more for me than anyone else.

"Whether they actually do is another matter."


They probably wont, but I think it is worth reporting this anyway.   A few years ago my daughter was hit and she didn't report it, even though I tried to get her to.  She was so burned out she just didn't think it was worth it.

I think the point of reporting these things is NOT necessarily to get some justice for the specific incident, but to help establish a pattern.   If we all just stay silent about these near death experiences, the authorities will be able to brush us off.  We need to report each and every incident.  We need to make it known that the streets of Austin are dangerous for cyclists.  We need to get everything on the record so that the record can be referred to as evidence in our cause.

Last edited by RedFalcon (2014-04-13 20:47:17)

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#10 2014-04-14 11:56:40

Jack
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Registered: 2013-03-27
Posts: 195

Re: Reflections on my biking after a near head-on collision

I don't think you did anything wrong with only the possible exception of not focusing on what that driver was up to.  Sometimes you notice and sometimes you don't.  Turn signal was on, yes?  She also seemed to be using too little caution for cross-walking peds.  I didn't see that you had a lot of warning.

It seems like you were the first one off the line at the intersection--quicker than the car next to you.  Was that car turning right?  I imagine her focus was on that car, not you.  If you position yourself to the right of a car that might turn right, you might get hit when you move forward and the driver turns right.  Obviously, you avoided that hazard.  I usually position myself behind the turning car to avoid that problem.  Maybe staying behind the front car can also help prevent something like just happened to you.  Not that you did anything wrong.

The bike lane is supposed to give you confidence that motorists won't hit you from behind or leave you too little room when passing you.  The room it gives you also makes it awfully tempting to jump ahead of a line of right turners, but it isn't really designed with that sort of manuever in mind.  Jumping ahead of right turners can surprise right right turners, who usually don't have to look out for overtaking traffic on the right before turning.  That time you probably surprised the left turner, though maybe she saw you and meant to bully you into giving way.  I've even seen near collisions from drivers turing left across a gap in the traffic surprising the bike lane cyclist who was passing stopped traffic to his left (and the left turner who has no good way to anticipate that) and near collisions with passengers exiting into the bike lane, which is thankfully rarer.*  From a pure safety standpoint, you are probably better off getting out of the bike lane and waiting your turn behind a car in the right-hand traffic lane, but that sort of delay in that sort of traffic is just too much to prevent me from taking my chances just the way you did.  We need to be aware of what we are risking when we do that.

*But not rare enough.  Illustrative example:  Passing on the right in a bike lane can also be perilous at driveways. See   http://vimeo.com/32887898

Last edited by Jack (2014-11-21 12:13:26)

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#11 2014-04-14 13:01:02

btrettel
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Re: Reflections on my biking after a near head-on collision

I called 311 and spoke with someone in the APD very briefly. When I said the incident occurred last week, they said there wasn't much anything they could do about that, but they did forward me to the district police office if I wanted to talk to someone else, where I got voicemail. I didn't leave a message.

Seems that the proper procedure would be to call 911 immediately after reckless driving and let the police handle it from there. This is what the police suggested when I lived in Maryland, incidentally. I'll try that next time a particularly egregious near hit occurs.

(I did call the police once when riding on my bike to report a street fight, and they responded within 2 or 3 minutes. That's the level of service I'd expect. Not sure if I'd get it.)

Jack wrote:

I don't think you did anything wrong with only the possible exception of not focusing on what that driver was up to.

To be honest, I didn't even see her coming until she was right in my face.

It's not that I didn't look. Seems that she switched lanes right before she made her turn, and because she was behind other cars in that process, she never registered to my brain.

Jack wrote:

Was that car turning right?  I imagine her focus was on that car, not you.

That car went straight.

Jack wrote:

If you position yourself to the right of a car that might turn right, you might get hit when you move forward and the driver turns right.  Obviously, you avoided that hazard.  I usually position myself behind the turning car to avoid that problem.  Maybe staying behind the front car can also help prevent something like just happened to you.

I'll stay behind if I see a turn signal. Unfortunately, turn signals are not always used. I try to position myself in front of their car, but I see now behind would be better, especially given that they car could shield me from illegal left turns.

Jack wrote:

I've even seen near collisions from drivers turing left across a gap in the traffic surprising the bike lane cyclist who was passing stopped traffic to his left (and the left turner who has no good way to anticipate that)

Here's an example.

A left turning driver shouldn't make this maneuver if there's a bike lane, period. You're right. There is no good way for a bike lane cyclist to anticipate this (see if you can catch it the first time you watch my video). With that being said, I don't think riding in the lane avoids this problem, given the numerous times I've been nearly hit when I intentionally put myself in the middle of the lane. For example; I've had this sort of near hit like 5 to 10 times now at this particular intersection. Not sure why, as the visibility is great, especially if I take the lane. Some drivers might think I have to stop, but there's no stop sign or line or anything in my direction, so I'm doubtful of that.

I think it comes down more to the invisibility of cyclists to many drivers than anything else.

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#12 2014-04-14 14:28:54

Jack
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Registered: 2013-03-27
Posts: 195

Re: Reflections on my biking after a near head-on collision

"It's not that I didn't look. Seems that she switched lanes right before she made her turn, and because she was behind other cars in that process, she never registered to my brain."
That's what it looked like to me too.
On the rest, I agree that a lot of it has to do with driver inattention--even if a driver "sees" you, the driver might not "register" you.  Better lane position helps a cyclist get noticed and bright colors also help, but in the end it seems drivers also tend not to register that a cyclist is there or to underestimate how quickly a cyclist covers distance.  If the 'safety in numbers' effect is real,* it probably comes from drivers more frequently having to observe and predict cyclists' movements.

*See http://aseasyasridingabike.wordpress.co … n-numbers/

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#13 2014-04-14 15:07:53

MichaelBluejay
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Re: Reflections on my biking after a near head-on collision

btrettel, it's easy to avoid that kind of collision with the driver turning right across stopped cars:  Don't pass on the right.  I say that in 3 of the 10 Ways to Not Get Hit by Cars.  If you must pass on the right, you have to do it with an incredible amount of care.

Jack, I found another article on the site you mentioned that was priceless:  "The terrible journalist's guide to writing an article about bicycles".

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#14 2014-04-14 21:15:20

btrettel
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Re: Reflections on my biking after a near head-on collision

MichaelBluejay wrote:

btrettel, it's easy to avoid that kind of collision with the driver turning right across stopped cars:  Don't pass on the right.  I say that in 3 of the 10 Ways to Not Get Hit by Cars.  If you must pass on the right, you have to do it with an incredible amount of care.

Ah, thanks. I had read that perhaps 3 or 4 times now, but it seems when I took that advice in the past was context specific. When I'm in "bike lane" mode, I'll pass cars. This is usually when there are bike lanes, though not always, as some are too terrible to use. When I'm in "vehicular cyclist" mode (usually on roads without bike lanes) I won't ever do that. I didn't conceptualize passing in the bike lane as the same as passing on the right, but there are no differences. I should get in the habit of queuing.

I might suggest linking to some relevant helmet cam videos for each example. It's one thing to see an overhead view, but the helmet cam view can really drive the point home. I watch many of those videos with an eye on what people did wrong.

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#15 2014-04-14 23:23:50

MichaelBluejay
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Re: Reflections on my biking after a near head-on collision

Oh, yeah, I'm totally there about the video examples.  When I saw your videos, I thought, "Wow, I need to use these and others like it to illustrate the article."  There was no YouTube when I wrote it in 1998.  Ever since then I'd been planning on staging and shooting my own video version but still haven't gotten around to it, so using others' videos will do nicely in the meantime.

It's definitely tempting to pass on the right when there are lots of stopped cars, especially if you're in a bike lane and there's a full block of cars ahead of you.  I might do it myself, slowly and carefully, but if there were ever a break in the cars, that's when I'd be prepared to stop completely.

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#16 2014-04-15 13:29:20

Jack
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Posts: 195

Re: Reflections on my biking after a near head-on collision

"I didn't conceptualize passing in the bike lane as the same as passing on the right, but there are no differences."  Absolutely!  Not passing on the right prevents a wide variety of things that can go wrong when you do.  So, if you do, slow down and watch out. 

The bike lane stripe makes it *seem* like a special place where passing on the right is safe, but there is no difference.  And the target user of a bike lane is the user who is less aware of the problems.  Doubly so with "protected bike lanes" such as are being put up more and more in this city.  The "protected" bike lane makes it nearly impossible not to be to the right of traffic that will turn right across your path and makes it harder for you to see the turning traffic in time or for the turner to see you.  The normal, safe, and usually mandated behavior of a motorist turning right is to merge toward the curb before turning right--that leaves no room for a cyclist to overtake on the right while the driver is doing so and also better signals the driver's intention to turn and often gives room enough for a cyclist to pass on the left.  The plastic pylons or curbs or planters or what have you prevent the driver from doing the safer thing and lures the unaware cyclist into more danger. It's like what you might design if you were given the job of laying the streets out to increase turning collisions.  Stripes have a similar, if lesser effect on drivers and what's more I have been told that Austin by ordinance actually prohibits a motorist merging to the curb across a bike lane stripe before turning.  Legislated foolishness, if true.

I don't mean to drift off topic.  "Did I do something wrong?" with a clear video of something not good is a great way to discuss these things and thinking about how a bike lane may have (in a small way) 'helped' you get close to being clipped reminds me of how much we (as a society) are depending on infrastructure "fixes" that ignore the traffic dynamics that lead to operator errors.  Better would be to follow the example of the Dutch and Danes--educate the kids in public schools about how to operate a bicycle safely in the streets, over the course of several school years.  Many will ride well and many will be drivers who 'get it.' 

'Jack, I found another article on the site you mentioned that was priceless.'  It's worth a look through its many good pieces.

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#17 2014-04-15 15:14:09

rich00
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Registered: 2010-01-18
Posts: 166

Re: Reflections on my biking after a near head-on collision

So, APD has evidence of a careless, dangerous driver and says they can't do anything about it? What happens if this lady kills someone next week for doing something stupid?

We need to get dangerous road users off the roads. They are the problem. This lady belongs taking the bus for the next few months.

No surprise she's in a Ram1500.

This is why I hate riding busy roads like Guadalupe. Just too many interactions with cars.

You didn't do anything wrong either.

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#18 2014-04-15 21:28:17

ggw
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-27
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Re: Reflections on my biking after a near head-on collision

MichaelBluejay wrote:

btrettel, it's easy to avoid that kind of collision with the driver turning right across stopped cars:  Don't pass on the right.  I say that in 3 of the 10 Ways to Not Get Hit by Cars.  If you must pass on the right, you have to do it with an incredible amount of care.

@Michael

I (re)read the 10 suggestions. If you authored it all, then kudos to you. It is well written.

Can I assume that by "Passing on the right" while in a bike lane is a short hand phrase that leaves out the assumption that a car in the line of cars you are passing CAN turn right?  We are NOT talking about when there are no roads, alleys, nor driveways, yes?

More than one pathway I take in my commute between 44th & Speedway and Metric & Braker at times will have a line of cars and my bike lane will have been present for some distance and is marked all the way to an intersection. I can cite the specifics, but at a max speed of 17 mph in those conditions, I won't be passing any cars. *IF* I am already (practically) in the crosswalk, waiting for a light, my going when the light changes doesn't count as "passing", yes?

I am quite familiar with cars (apparently) not thinking that 17mph is THAT fast and make right turns in front of me (for whatever reason). But.. that is off topic.

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#19 2014-04-16 00:19:09

dougmc
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Posts: 513

Re: Reflections on my biking after a near head-on collision

We are NOT talking about when there are no roads, alleys, nor driveways, yes?

Even if cars can't turn right ... they could possibly move into the bike lane/shoulder -- to park, because of an emergency, etc.  Granted, it's a smaller issue, but just because there are no driveways or intersections, that doesn't mean you're in the clear.

I am quite familiar with cars (apparently) not thinking that 17mph is THAT fast and make right turns in front of me (for whatever reason). But.. that is off topic.

No, that's exactly on topic, if the topic is "why you shouldn't pass on the right" or "if you do decide to pass on the right, you need to do so with extreme care" -- because that's exactly why.

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#20 2014-04-16 10:34:31

Jack
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Registered: 2013-03-27
Posts: 195

Re: Reflections on my biking after a near head-on collision

ggw wrote:

. *IF* I am already (practically) in the crosswalk, waiting for a light, my going when the light changes doesn't count as "passing", yes?
.

Well, right, that's not "passing"--presumably, if you are waiting for a light and you are at the intersection, you either arrived alongside the car next to you, arrived before the car next to you, or you filtered up (already passed) other slow or stopped cars to get there.  So to get there past slowed or stopped cars, assuming you don't want to take your place in the queue behind the motorists instead, you have to filter up carefully.  Now, once there, going when the light changes doesn't count as "passing."  However, if you go when the light changes and a car to your left also goes when the light changes, sometimes that driver is clueless to your being there AND is turning right.  Watch out for that--you have placed yourself to the right of right-turning traffic, even if you weren't aware you did it (maybe the driver didn't have a signal on and maybe the driver never thought about turning right until the split second after the light turned green).

Also, if filtering up to get to the front while the light is red, remember that the light might change before you get there.  That's bad if you end up in the path of the guy turning right when the light changes.  That's why the "bike box" -- painted to encourage filtering to the front (often a bad idea) -- was found in Portland to increase collisions.

So, waiting at a light at an intersection, you can place yourself far enough forward that the right-turning driver is sure to see you (sometimes you have to doubt how sure that is)  or you can place yourself far enough back that you won't have your path crossed by the car if the driver does turn right.  If there's a line of cars, far enough back for one can be far enough forward for the other, if you follow me, but to be surer you are seen by that next car, right behind the front car is much more certain.  If you arrive first, you can easily place yourself in the lane far enough left to prevent the car behind from trying to pass you on the left to turn right (and even far enough to the left to let the car turn right to your right).

All of this applies whether or not there is a bike lane.  While a bike lane should be painted where you normally should ride (as far to the right as practicable), don't let the bike lane tell you to be where you are worse off. 

Since you described your position as "practically" in the crosswalk makes me want to add this--crossing on a bike in the crosswalk puts you in the position of the pedestrian--far to the right of motor traffic that might be turning right.  Note that pedestrians are hit by cars way more than cyclists are, and that's one of the reasons why.  If you are actually crossing an intersection at the crosswalk or near it instead of in the traffic lane, you are upping your chances of being hit by the turning driver.  See MBJ's type #3.  The illustration has the rider riding against traffic, but it's also bad to ride the sidewalk (and crosswalk) in the same direction as traffic. 

BTW See http://www.bikexprt.com/streetsmarts/usa/index.htm or the LAB's www.BikeEd.org for more on lane positioning, if you are interested.  Also, a video with some comment on riding in or out of a bike lane:  http://vimeo.com/92095170  Note the conflicts with right turning traffic.

Last edited by Jack (2014-04-16 11:10:38)

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#21 2015-03-10 22:46:58

Jack
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Registered: 2013-03-27
Posts: 195

Re: Reflections on my biking after a near head-on collision

Another good video of using the bike lane to pass and a bad result:  http://john-s-allen.com/blog/?p=6420

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#22 2017-09-13 14:42:01

Jack
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Registered: 2013-03-27
Posts: 195

Re: Reflections on my biking after a near head-on collision

Jack wrote:

Another good video of using the bike lane to pass and a bad result:  http://john-s-allen.com/blog/?p=6420

Like deja vu:  http://john-s-allen.com/blog/?p=7220

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#23 2017-09-13 15:16:05

MichaelBluejay
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Re: Reflections on my biking after a near head-on collision

Ouch.  Watching the videos, as the camera approached the problem areas, my Spidey-sense tingled.  I think I just have something in my blood that makes me sense impending doom when those kinds of collisions can occur and I slow down accordingly.  Apparently not every cyclist has that same kind of internal radar.

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#24 2017-09-13 17:42:53

RedFalcon
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Registered: 2013-10-10
Posts: 127

Re: Reflections on my biking after a near head-on collision

MichaelBluejay wrote:

Apparently not every cyclist has that same kind of internal radar.


You have experience.  The catch 22 is that to get that level of experience, so you can see this situation coming, you have to spend a lot of time riding without it.  Maybe some tech genius could come up with a 'cycling simulator' the way we have flight simulators.  What if we could 'gamify' cycling education so that people could get that sense of impending doom without the pain.  I was cringing from the very start of the video.   That cyclist was going too fast in an area where car drivers suddenly had to slow down.  I was expecting an impatient driver to whip into the bike lane to pass on the right.  I would say either merge into the car lane or slow down and match the speed of the cars while staying in a gap between two cars so as to be more visible.  Or take the bus.

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