Double take on the right hand turn
Warren Sutton crashed with a bike rider when driving across a bike lane and writes hoping that others can learn from his experience.
Recently I was involved in a collision where I turned in front of a cyclist causing him to hit and subsequently somersault over my car. It was a shocking experience, which, if not for some fortuitous aspects, could have otherwise resulted in a tragedy or significant injury. In this instance the cyclist survived and although taken to hospital in an ambulance he was released later that day and was able to collect his damaged bike from the local business that had stored it for him. I was issued a police infringement notice for failing to give way after the incident, and have the bill for the insurance excess. I obviously regret what happened and would like to explain the details in the hope that other motorists and cyclists might learn from my experience.
I take reasonable care around cyclists on the road but the scenario which caused this incident was one I was not prepared for. It involved me completing a right hand turn into the driveway of my daughter’s day care facility in Bendigo, Victoria. As I approached the driveway the cyclist struck the left hand side of my car near the front wheel causing his bike to smash into the car and the cyclist to roll over the bonnet. I have spoken to many people about this and they generally agree that if they had been driving the same thing would have occurred. To understand why you need to understand some other aspects of the turn I was completing. These were:
- I was turning against a single motor lane of peak hour traffic.
- The bike rider was travelling in the bike lane positioned between the oncoming traffic and parked cars against the curb.
- The cyclist was not visible to me when I commenced the turn as he was hidden behind the stream of oncoming vehicles.
- I wasn’t anticipating a cyclist as the cycling lane takes minimal traffic at that time of the morning.
- I initiated the turn when a driver in the oncoming traffic provided a break in the traffic and signalled me to proceed with the turn.
- The location of the turn was near the base of a slight decent for the cyclist.
- I don’t know how fast the cyclist was going when we first spotted each other but he was on a racing bike in cycling attire and was likely travelling between 20 to 30 km/h when he struck my car.
I can see this crash could have been avoided if I had made the right hand turn slower and not completed it until I had a clear view up the cycling lane. The problem is, as I have alluded to, other drivers would likely have done the same thing I did. They would not have expected a bike to suddenly appear in the bike lane nor would have they slowed when making the turn so as to allow for a clear vision up the cycling lane. Most drivers do not do a double take when completing this type of turn in this location. They do not look up the bike lane for a rapidly approaching occasional bike rider part way through a right hand turn but rather they are focused on the oncoming motor vehicle traffic and a range of other things—driving is complicated which requires a range of observations by motorists and unfortunately awareness of cyclists is not always high on that list.
So the warning to drivers is do a double take when you are doing a right hand turn across a bike lane, slow down as you complete the turn and peer up the bike lane as it comes into view. For cyclists the reality is in specific situations like this drivers may not look for you or see you—so travel at a slow speed in heavy traffic and be prepared to stop and evade vehicles.
I would be interested to know what experience others may have had in similar circumstances. Unlike other well documented instances of drivers cutting off cyclists when making a left hand turn and the dangers of drivers opening a door into a bike lane I don’t recall specific mention of something along the scenario which I was involved in.
A University of Adelaide study published in February 2013 found “drivers undertaking a right turn manoeuvre were found to pose the greatest threat, particularly those turning across multiple traffic lanes and in peak hour traffic conditions.” From bit.ly/17i1MUa.
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