Do You Know How to Navigate Your Bike Around Large Trucks?

Video Transcription:

Jim Dodson: Hi it's Jim Dodson, The Florida Bike Guy. Welcome to our live stream. Our guest today is Keri Caffrey from CyclingSavvy in Orlando. We wanna talk about, do you know how to navigate around large trucks? And this is particularly helpful for anyone who operates on a road where you're gonna engage trucks, particularly if you're riding anywhere on any of the arterial roads or in the cities you're gonna run into this problem all the time, and many cyclists are quite frankly uneducated, unaware of the dynamics of dealing with trucks and buses, and the off-tracking that occurs when they make their turns, and Keri's got a lot of information, as usual, and Keri, I told you before we started that you hold the record, we had the highest viewership of any of of our live streams on our last conversation, it had to do with lane position and what happens, so welcome back to our live stream program.

Keri Caffrey: Well thank you for having me on again, I appreciate it.

Jim Dodson: Let's bring up the first image, Kati, on wide turns, and I think we all know intuitively that trucks make wide turns but what we're not thinking about all the time is exactly where the trailer is gonna go in relation to the cab, and they are not close to one another, so why don't you talk about this slide a little bit, Keri.

Keri Caffrey: Yeah, so what happens is you have to also understand that before the truck makes a turn it looks different. If you didn't notice the turn signal or if the driver failed to use the turn signal, that truck actually looks like it's going straight through the intersection, and it may have even moved left and partially into the next lane over in order to give enough room for the trailer to off-track and not go over the curb. So the truck is pretty far away from the edge of the road, leaving a really inviting space there, and that's the risk for a cyclist who doesn't really understand these dynamics and may not recognize that the truck is actually going to be turning right.

Jim Dodson: It's actually deceiving because you feel, you look at it intuitively and it's moving away from me, creating a wider space, more room for me to operate, this has got to be safe for me, particularly someone who hasn't encountered this before, and you move into that space, and then it really begins to narrow up quickly and you have a hard time getting out of the way.

Keri Caffrey: Exactly, and the other thing that could happen is say for example the truck starts to pull through the intersection, is really far from the curb, and then stops. Well as the cyclist, if the cyclist doesn't recognize all of the dynamics of the intersection the cyclist might think oh, the truck driver's waiting for me. Well maybe the truck driver is actually paying attention to a pedestrian in the crosswalk. There may be some other reason or maybe because there was a car approaching on that cross street and the truck driver was waiting for that car to back up or not pull into the box he needed, so again, you can easily be deceived by these dynamics and the way things happen, really so slowly that a cyclist can easily catch up and get into that spot, and as you said, once you get into that spot, once that truck starts to turn, that trailer's gonna come across really fast, and what happens, sadly, tragically, is that cyclists that get into that spot end up getting knocked over and then run over by the rear wheels of the truck, and it happens way too often. It should never happen.

Jim Dodson: So let's talk about slide two which has the issue with the blind spots. I think most people, I looked at this honestly, myself, and if you look at the shaded area of the blind spots it's really amazing. I think intuitively, again, I think that we as cyclists believe that this driver has a much broader area that they see and do see us, and than they actually do. Why don't you talk about this a minute.

Keri Caffrey: Yeah so, now some of these blind spots are being rectified somewhat by Trixi mirrors, and cameras and some of the newer technology, but just generally it's possible for a truck to have enormous blind spots, in which, because the driver is sitting up really high they can't see in front, they can't see to the side, and they can't see down that right side of the truck, and in addition, they obviously can't see the stuff that's immediately behind them as well, so while we would expect the truck driver to check all of those spots before making a turn, especially if there's a bike lane or some other bike facility involved, there may be areas in which the truck driver simply cannot see what's there, and you don't wanna be lingering in that area, so you should always be aware that any time you're along the side of a truck you could be in a place where you're not being seen so you should never go into that position or linger in that position if for example a truck were to pass you and then slow down, it's best just to get the heck out of there.

Jim Dodson: And I can't tell you the number of people that I've talked to who assumed that they thought they put themselves in a position where they were to be seen by the driver, they assumed they had been seen but quite frankly they were not being seen, and I think the takeaway from this image to me is you never assume they've seen you.

Keri Caffrey: Right.

Jim Dodson: You know, you just can't make that assumption because you're gonna have another image here in a minute talking about all the things that are going on in the cab at the same time as well.

Keri Caffrey: Yeah, so this is another wrinkle. Even if that truck was equipped with all kinds of extra mirrors, or video technology or whatever, the truck driver has a humongous workload, especially in an urban environment where things are slow and where bicyclists easily can travel faster than cars, and it's very easy for a bicyclist to catch up to a truck. So the truck driver, when he's making the turn, and I mentioned this before, he's looking for pedestrians. First of all he's gotta make sure he doesn't off-track over the curb, the near-side curb, where there could be a pedestrian standing. He's gotta yield before turning. He's gonna have to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk who have the right-of-way, so he's gonna have to wait for them to cross, and then, when you're turning with really tight turning radius or a narrow street, the truck driver is probably going to have to use a good portion of the oncoming lane on that cross-street to turn, and so he's also looking down that street, hoping that nobody goes into that space, and probably communicating, I know I've been, as a driver, been in a position where I've seen a truck coming and the driver is communicating please don't pull up into that box, or getting drivers to back up out of that box so that he can complete the turn.

Jim Dodson: That sort of leads us into slide number three which talks about the high workload.

Keri Caffrey: Yup.

Jim Dodson: And sort of, I want you to alert people to all of the things that a driver is doing. You know, and the one thing you mentioned a minute ago, when they see, they're making a wide left turn and they see that lane is open to the right, human nature sometimes takes over and says I wanna move this truck before somebody gets there, when they're not looking a second time for a cyclist, or a pedestrian or someone on the corner, so.

Keri Caffrey: That's an excellent point, because --

Jim Dodson: The workload of the driver.

Keri Caffrey: Yup. Yup, and there are things that create a sense of urgency which then decreases awareness of other things that are going on. It happens to all of us on the road, when we see a gap and we wanna go for it.

Jim Dodson: Well honestly, that mentality accounts for a great number of the cases we've seen, particularly someone who's turning left into a parking lot, or trying to turn left at an intersection. All they're waiting for is a gap in traffic.

Keri Caffrey: Yes.

Jim Dodson: And they see that gap and they go, you know, and they many times have not looked again or ever looked the first time. So human nature, whether it's a truck driver or a car driver, we're all kinda doing the same things, and as cyclists we, as you and I were talking before, we can only control what we can control, and we can't control what these other people are doing.

Keri Caffrey: Right, that's one of our lessons in the CyclingSavvy class that we talk about drivers making left turns, and especially with sidewalk riders but also with bike lanes. If they're turning left across a multi-lane road, and they're looking for that gap in traffic, the place that's gonna lose their attention is the sidewalk or the edge.

Jim Dodson: Right. So comment about the, now this is not an endorsement of truck drivers and their errors, it's more I think what your understanding and my understand is that as cyclists, we need to understand what's going on in the cab of that truck in order to protect ourselves.

Keri Caffrey: Correct.

Jim Dodson: And what's going on in the cab of that truck is a lot of things.

Keri Caffrey: Yes. Yes, and think about it this way. I'm little, and the truck is big. It's a lot easier for me to see the truck than for the truck driver to see me, so it's a lot easier for me to keep myself out of that situation than for that truck driver to protect me if I get into that situation. Now, again, we expect truck drivers to be checking, especially when they're crossing bike lanes, but still, that workload is high and so as cyclists, we need to take care of ourselves and stay out of that situation.

Jim Dodson: Well and just think about for a minute, the truck driver has made a move out of the right lane into partially the left lane, he's started to make his turn to the right, so just do the checklist of what he now has to think about and check on before he moves into execute his right turn, his or her.

Keri Caffrey: Yeah.

Jim Dodson: It's like oncoming traffic, is there a straight lane and a turn lane, is there traffic in either one of those lanes coming towards him, he's gotta be aware of that, pedestrians on either corner, cars that are trying to come through, and then cyclists coming up behind him potentially in his blind spot that he has not yet seen. These are all things that you, that this person's going through, trying to balance before they execute their turn.

Keri Caffrey: And in an urban environment it's very easy for a cyclist to catch up to a truck driver, just at that point and that truck driver may never have passed that cyclist previously. I had a situation exactly like that, downtown Orlando, where I caught up to a truck driver after I turned onto the road, and that driver would have never seen me 'cause he would never have passed me, and that was a situation where, had I continued up the bike lane to the intersection, I would have been run over, and there was a right turn lane to the right of the back lane. The truck driver made the turn from the through lane that was to the left of the bike lane, so there really, I mean, again, just because there's a right turn lane there, don't expect that the truck driver's still gonna go straight if he's in the through lane. My rule is never pass a truck on the right Just don't do it. Even if I'm in a right lane and there's a truck in a left lane, if I start to catch up to a truck toward a light, I hang back, because it's just, you just don't wanna get yourself in that situation 'cause it's very difficult to escape it.

Jim Dodson: Well, if you get yourself in a position where you're in the off-tracking line, there are many times, it's very difficult to bail and get out of the way. Sometimes you don't realize it until the last minute or the last second, and then you know is there a curve, are there are obstacles that you have to get past to get out of the danger area, it's just like, all the things you're talking about are to prevent us getting into that situation. It's certainly worth saving or taking another 10 seconds of our time to avoid putting ourself in a position of danger.

Keri Caffrey: Exactly. Yeah, pedestrians can jump backwards and step sideways, bicyclists can't. That's another thing that we teach people about using sidewalks. It's you have a lot less maneuverability as a bicycle as that bicycle has become, that bicycle becomes a liability when you're trying to get out of the way, and you can't go forward.

Jim Dodson: Well and it's like people trying to get off a plane rapidly. They're gonna try to take their bike with 'em, and that slows you down.

Keri Caffrey: Yeah.

Jim Dodson: A lot of people intuitively are gonna try to do that. I'm not gonna leave my bike behind.

Keri Caffrey: Yeah.

Jim Dodson: Gotta go with it, and particularly if you're clicked in. The reaction is, there's a lot that can go on.

Keri Caffrey: Sure, sure, and once you're down it's even harder to get out of the way.

Jim Dodson: Yeah, that's right, impossible, really.

Keri Caffrey: Yeah.

Jim Dodson: So does that, have you sort of covered what you wanted to on the high workload issues?

Keri Caffrey: Yes.

Jim Dodson: Okay. So I told Keri that I just want, I hope you're enjoying this program. These programs, particularly the ones that Keri's doing from CyclingSavvy, are so important for us to understand, and they're so important particularly for less-experienced cyclists. Much of this may be old news to some of you, but you know somebody that it's not old news to, someone who's inexperienced, and just tell them to go on the website. We're gonna give you and offer some informational help at the end of the broadcast, but I also would like to remind you that you know, although our offices in Clearwater, we represent cyclists across Florida, if you knew somebody that's been involved in a cycling crash, you wonder if they might have a case or you might have a case, just call, we'll talk about it. I'll tell you exactly what we can do and what we can't do, and I always remind people, you'll never write a check to us. We get paid from the percentage of the accident scene. You're never gonna write us a personal check. So Kati, how about screen four, moving screens.

Keri Caffrey: Yeah.

Jim Dodson: This is something that I had not actually thought about very well myself. This line of sight in relation to the oncoming traffic in the lane adjacent.

Keri Caffrey: Yeah, that vehicle, any vehicle can create a screen like that, and this is true any time that you're riding either in a bike lane or in a road that has, you're in the right lane of a road that has one or two or three lanes, so any time you have large vehicles around you, they can be screening you from being able to see an oncoming left-turner or that driver being able to see you, and so this is especially true with the truck because that driver's sitting there waiting for that truck to pass, so you've done the right thing by hanging back and staying behind the truck, but if you stay in the bike lane or you stay off to the right behind the truck, there's a very large screen behind that truck at which time the driver, that oncoming, left-turning driver could be just waiting to go right behind that truck, and boom, he's gonna pop right over there, and he's never seen you the whole time and you've never seen him the whole time, so it's best actually to move out into the lane and actually to the left side of the lane to make yourself visible sooner. Now you don't wanna be up close to the truck anyway because you don't wanna be in its blind spot, so you back off a little from the truck, and then you put yourself out in a position so that you can see that oncoming, left-turning driver. Now you want them to see you too, and that's important, but this accomplishes both them seeing you and you seeing them because if you see them even if they do something stupid, you can take evasive action, hit the brakes or take an evasive maneuver to not be hit by them.

Jim Dodson: You know, and I think too, the focus of this image really is on the semi-truck, but the same principles apply to the all, you have much more opportunity to get involved or get behind a box truck, a delivery truck, UPS, FedEx, all of these myriad trucks, and they create the same screen.

Keri Caffrey: Yes.

Jim Dodson: And so getting too close behind one of these vehicles, particularly where you're on the right side of the road is gonna create more of a screen issue. Keri's absolutely correct about urging us to move to the left side of the truck so that you're more open in view to the approaching drivers waiting to turn left probably.

Keri Caffrey: Yes. Any time you're in a queue of traffic, so a lot of times we find ourselves in traffic that's moving about the same speed that we are, you wanna align yourself behind the drivers of all of the vehicles in front of you, so you're actually on that left side of the lane and motor cyclists are taught to do the same thing for the same reason. So you always wanna position yourself so that you're on that left side so that you can see those oncoming left turns. It puts you in a position to see drive-outs and other things as well and it keeps people from right hooking you, but it's really really critical to be able to see those left turners, that may think you're a gap otherwise.

Jim Dodson: Right, yeah well you're invisible to them, and you can't assume they're going to look that second time to see you, you know. They have a lot of things that they're focusing on other than you as well. All right so, when approaching a slow or stopped truck.

Keri Caffrey: All right, first rule, don't go there. Don't pass a truck on the right. Do not ride up the right side of a truck. Just don't do it.

Jim Dodson: Yeah. Yeah and I think for all the reasons you said before, whether they're moving or stopped, the same rule applies, because if they're moving, you may be catching them, if they're stopped, they may not be aware that you ever came alongside them.

Keri Caffrey: Yeah, and in slow and go traffic it's real easy to catch up and then get stuck there too, so maybe you think, oh well the truck is not all the way in the intersection so I'll just go ahead past him here in the bike lane but then all of a sudden the traffic starts moving again, and then the next thing you know that truck is moving alongside of you and now you're approaching the intersection.

Jim Dodson: Yeah. All right, and Kati number six, when a truck passes you.

Keri Caffrey: Don't linger alongside of him. So if a truck comes up and starts to pass you, slow down, immediately. As soon as a truck starts to pass me, I hit the brakes, and I slow down until that truck is ahead of me, and then I don't pass it again. So don't keep going at speed. Say the truck comes up and you're in, again, in traffic that's moving relatively slow or slow and go, don't just be there alongside of the truck traveling along. It's just rectify the situation. As soon as that truck comes up, then hit your brakes and go back. Now, if you're at a traffic light, you're sitting at a traffic light in a bike lane, for example, and a truck pulls up beside you and stops there, there's a couple things you can do. One, you can kinda jump up and down, and wave your arms and see if you can get the driver's attention to make sure they see you. The other thing you can do is dismount and go over to the sidewalk. Just go ahead and activate the ped button and maybe you can cross the intersection as a pedestrian, or wait it out or whatever, but don't stay there. Again, people have been killed by that as well, where they were there first. I mean obviously it's the truck driver's fault, but just don't put yourself in that position.

Jim Dodson: And I think, you know, Keri, so many times people who particularly, well I'll say there's a lot of people who are competitive when they ride, they're competitive with themselves, they ride the same routes, and it's all about time and speed, and these are situations where you have to put aside time and speed and think safety. It's worth the 10 or 15 seconds that you're gonna lose by getting out of the way, letting the truck pass you, all the things that Keri's talking about. I think that's one of those things that we as cyclists do and sometimes lose sight of the bigger picture of controlling our environment, which is all that we can control, what we do in it, and it's what is our response to what we engage and run into out there.

Keri Caffrey: That's a great point, something I don't think much about because I ride a 50 pound cargo bike. Time and speed is not a thing.

Jim Dodson: Well you're a true commuter, you know, and you're not putting your route on Strava getting to work.

Keri Caffrey: Exactly. I wouldn't be winning any Strava competitions on that thing.

Jim Dodson: No, no, no, I agree. All right so, we have one final slide that Keri's gonna talk about in terms of passing a large vehicle, and I think this is very instructive too.

Keri Caffrey: Okay, so whether you're passing a UPS truck or you're passing a bus, it's really important that you give it a lot of space. You don't wanna just skim right up the side of it. Why? Because it could pull out at any time, and then there you would be, squished between the two lanes. So just go ahead just like you would in your car. Make a lane change, own the left lane to pass him, and then go well ahead of the vehicle before you come back in, because again that boss or truck could start up at any time and you don't wanna be cutting right across his front bumper. It's okay to be in that left lane. You're a vehicle driver too, so just go ahead and give it plenty of space, pass it exactly as you would if you were in your car or if you were driving a motorcycle.

Jim Dodson: So this image is not up, but I think what Keri's really accentuating in the image is that you really give the truck a wide birth. You move clearly into the lane next to it. That's assuming you have a lane there to move into, a two lane road. I had a trucking expert tell me one time when you see the turn indicator light on a vehicle, all that tells you is that the light works. Doesn't communicate what they're going to do, so you can't assume because they have one or don't have one that they're gonna do what it says.

Keri Caffrey: Yeah, exactly.

Jim Dodson: Always allow yourself more room.

Keri Caffrey: Yeah, I like to tell drivers hey, you know that turn signal, that's for us, not you. I know that you know where you're going. I need to know where you're going.

Jim Dodson: And I think that we had one other topic you wanted to touch on, this issue of no one is infallible.

Keri Caffrey: Yeah, so it's just, again, I like to make the point that regardless of whose fault, any type of crashes, and regardless of the fact that motorists and especially large vehicles drivers have a tremendous responsibility to safeguard the live of pedestrians, and bicyclists, and other people on the road, I mean we all have that responsibility when we're driving our vehicles, none of us are infallible. I have certainly made mistakes on my bike and in my car that didn't result in a crash because somebody else was being defensive, and I'm grateful for that, and I have likewise not been in a crash because I was being defensive when somebody else made a mistake, so we enter the roadway understanding that none of us is infallible and understanding that all of us has a responsibility to compensate for each other, to make sure that we all survive and go home to our loved ones at the end of the day, and it's cooperation, it's civility, it's understanding, you know, we all have a part to play, and we all have the ability to be the one that prevented that crash from happening.

Jim Dodson: Well your advice is the most sound advice for us on the road because we want to do those things that allow us to get home safely which is what I talk about all the time when we talk about things like disability and being proactive. You know, if a crash happens, I'll deal with the legal liability issues. Debating that on the scene with the driver isn't all that helpful many times. What you wanna do is get yourself, as Keri said, in a position to drive on without being hit. We'll worry about the legal liability later.

Keri Caffrey: Yeah.

Jim Dodson: Well Keri, it's been great, as usual, talking to you. We're running a Bitly link on the screen. They'll make these slides available in the form of something that you can download, and Kati's got the link there for the Bitly link. If you'll go to that, and you can have these and use them at your club meeting or talk about them. If you want us to talk about these things at a club meeting we'll be happy to do that. So Keri, I appreciate you joining us today. It's been great, as usual. Wish you all the best. Thank you everyone for joining in.

Keri Caffrey: Thank you.

Jim Dodson: I look forward to you on another broadcast. Take care.

Keri Caffrey: Thank you so much, Jim. Have a great day.

Jim Dodson: Bye.

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Jim Dodson
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A Florida injury lawyer, family man and avid cyclist who clients have trusted for over 25 years.