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The right way

8 August, 2011

Make hook-turns your default manoeuvre and never worry about turning right again, writes Emma Clark.

Right-hand turns can be one of the harder parts of navigating your way through traffic. Intersections require extra care at the best of times, with drivers more likely to take risks to avoid stopping at red lights. Every intersection will be different: they might have arrows, turning lanes and median strips; or they might have none of these. It is important to assess the risk of each intersection to decide which manoeuvre you will use.

Moving from the bike lane on the far left side of the road into the centre lane to turn right can leave you open, exposed and vulnerable. You might find it tricky to get from the bike lane to the far right lane, drivers can (and will) try to move past you on the left and, if there is no green turning arrow, you risk life and limb by positioning yourself in the middle of the intersection at the mercy of oncoming traffic. Drivers are generally looking for other vehicles, not bike riders, and will not expect to see you in the middle of the intersection.

However, you do have a few options: you can jump off your bike, walk it across the intersection and jump back on when the traffic is clear; you can move into the right-hand turning lane, wait for the road to clear, and turn right; or you can do a hook-turn, which allows you to make the right turn without leaving the bike lane.

Hook turns are usually the best option, as you stay in the flow of traffic and are visible to vehicles travelling in all directions. They are not compulsory, but are often a safer and more convenient option on heavily trafficked roads than moving from the bike lane into the centre of the road and turning right. It is a good idea to make hook turns you default right-turn manoeuvre

To do a hook turn, continue straight through the intersection from the bike lane. Stick to the left and stop in front of the queued cars waiting to go straight ahead (see diagram above). Be careful if pedestrians are crossing the road alongside you. Riders doing hook turns are not required to signal.

If there is room, pivot the bike around enough so you can easily move forward once the light turns green. A 45 degree angle should be sufficient. If space is a bit tight, you can stay perpendicular to the waiting traffic, but make sure you can quickly change direction when the lights turn green.

Most cars go (illegally) on the orange light, but bikes should wait for the green light. For intersections with traffic lights, wait for the lights to turn green and move forward into the intersection and continue on your way.

For intersections without traffic lights, give way to any vehicles in the intersection. When the road is clear, ride across the road.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. traff permalink
    8 August, 2011 9:58 am

    We need a driver education campaign on the fact that it’s legal for bicycles to make hook turns. I have been nearly run off the road several times when doing a legal hook turn and having the driver who I end up in front of throwing a tantrum.

    • 8 August, 2011 10:57 am

      I agree – some drivers aren’t sure what you are doing when you turn in front of them. This morning I had a guy wave his arms at me when I pulled up and then sped around me once the lights went green. Crazy. Hopefully, more riders doing hook turns will lead to more awareness and more relaxed drivers!

  2. 8 August, 2011 5:23 pm

    Always use this technique when turning right at signalised intersections, and seems to work well: offers you plenty of certainty and cars plenty of room. Never had any dramas. Turning left, on the other hand… : )

  3. No need to inflame permalink
    8 August, 2011 6:58 pm

    “A good thing to note is that you can use a hook turn at intersections with ‘no right turn’ signs to sneakily (but legally) turn right.”

    Is it really necessary to state a hook turn that is perfectly legal is acting sneakily?

    “A good thing to note is that cyclists can use a hook turn at intersections with ‘no right turn’ signs to legally turn right.”

    • 9 August, 2011 1:08 pm

      Well spotted! We have edited the post to remove that phrase. It is a timely comment, as since this article was published we have heard of people receiving police warnings for doing hook turns when there are ‘no right turn’ signs. The laws surrounding this issue are confusing and slightly contradictory, so we are investigating the issue further.

      • Elizabeth permalink
        9 November, 2011 4:46 pm

        Have got any updates on this? My understanding is there has to be a specific sign banning bikes doing hook turns for it to be illegal. i can’t find the relevant part of the road traffic act though, so it might be an urban myth!

      • 15 November, 2011 2:36 pm

        Our understanding is also that there has to be a specific sign banning bikes from doing hook turns for it to be illegal. As far as we can tell, from talking to our riders’ rights lawyers and the Vic police, the law hasn’t been tested in court and there is no legal precedent so it remains a grey area. Unless the law is tested and then clarified, there is no way of clearly defining the rule. Sorry we couldn’t be more helpful! We will keep updating this article if we get more information.


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