What is One of the Most Dangerous Maneuvers a Cyclist Makes?

Video Transcription:

Jim Dodson: Hi there, it's Jim Dodson, The Florida Bike Guy. So, what is one of the most dangerous maneuvers in cycling?

You know, I get it that there a lot of potentially dangerous things that we encounter on the road, but one of the things that I see and have seen repeatedly over the course of time is the maneuver from the right bike lane across two lanes of traffic or more into a left turn lane typically at an oncoming signal.

And I just want to share some thoughts with you. Now, I think I have five things that I want to share with you that are considerations about what needs to be on our minds as we approach one of those intersections. You know, bare in mind that I think what makes these intersections so difficult in terms of the potential consequences of a crash are they're typically at speed limits of 35 and 45 miles an hour which means that traffic is approaching at a little faster rate than we sometimes appreciate because even if the speed limit's 45, then cars may be doing 50 or 54, something like that.

So here's some thoughts on how to navigate this type of intersection. The first thing is that as every good bike club will tell you, if you're in a group of riders, you can not rely on somebody to yell, "Clear". Every rider has to determine that the way is safe for them. That means that you have to look individually. It is so possible for someone to misjudge or make a mistake. Time goes by between someone yelling and someone moving. So, there's just a lot of variables so always determine that the way is safe for you and not relying on someone else.

The other thing many times as you begin to make this maneuver you have to make a decision. How close is the approaching car if you see one coming? And what is the distance? What is their closing speed? Can I safely move across one lane or two lanes into the left turn lane? And in the cases that I have been involved in almost uniformly what has happened is, the car simply did not slow down or stop. So I think all of us tend to rely that, and I think it's a reasonable thing to think, that as a car is approaching from the rear and you're trying to make this maneuver across one or two lanes that a driver will see you and slow down or stop as appropriate. In the cases we've been involved in, that simply didn't happen for a variety of reasons. Whether it was the capability of the driver, whether it was distraction, it really doesn't matter. But those are the situations that really cause serious injuries, because the cars are moving at such a fast speed.

Another thing to bare in mind, is particularly when you're in a group if you are the, let's say someone's behind you, you are looking in the mirror and you can't see past the person behind you. What do you do? The person ahead is moving, the person behind is moving. What do you do? My view is you wait and make sure that you have seen yourself that it's clear to go. There's some discretion here obviously in every situation and obviously many people pull this off without doing that, but when the unfortunate things happen and you didn't clear it yourself, you'll be wondering why you ever relied on that person to make the call or that you didn't wait because you couldn't see because someone behind you one or two cars were, or riders, were blocking your view.

Remember that things happen quickly in these intersections. So if a driver's going 45 miles an hour, they're going 66 feet per second. If they're doing 35 they're covering 51 feet per second. So that driver that's 150 feet behind you, 180 feet behind you, can be at your location in three seconds which is not very much time. It takes seconds just to cross over one lane, particularly two lanes. So you have to be vigilant every time you move into a different lane you have to make sure that you're actually, nothing has changed.

Another consideration is that there may be a vehicle in the right lane that blocks your view because of where they're positioned of a car in the left lane or another vehicle in the left lane. So you've got to make sure that when you clear the right lane that you actually clear the left lane visually before you make that maneuver. So, what are some opportunities?

Hey Amir, good to see you there, man. I'm just looking, you got a nice note here. Yeah Amir is joining in saying, "You gotta paddle your own, "paddle your own canoe".

So here, what are the choices that we have? So, many of us ride with mirrors. I ride with a mirror. I know people that ride with multiple mirrors and I think mirrors are, I wouldn't personally ride without one. I personally use my mirror but I always look before I go. I don't know why but I don't feel comfortable making the turn out of the bike lane into the lane to my left without actually visually seeing it. The difficulty is in visually seeing it, you have to turn your head. Turning your head, you have the issue of are you moving the direction of your bike to the left in the direction that you're turning? We have an image we're sharing here. We borrowed this from the Cycling Savvy website and I give them a big shout out. I want to mention something that they're doing as well. So, when we move, you know obviously when you have to hold onto a handle bars and turn back to look, the tendency is, particularly is sometimes to hold your handle bars a little bit to the left and it can be somewhat briefly disorienting in certain situations so that's just a very practical consideration to keep in mind.

I know that there's Garmin particularly has a radar, a rear facing radar. I've watched reviews on it, the Varia I think it's called. And I talked to a client on the phone the other day that uses it. Thinks it's the greatest thing ever. They go, the radar actually shows it'll have a green indication that there's nothing behind you but that's only good for according to what I was told 165 feet which in our situation on a speed limit of 45 or 35 miles an hour gives you three or four seconds at the most. But it is something, you know? The reviews tend to indicate that those radars are pretty accurate and they will tend, they'll show the approach of the vehicle behind going from a cautionary yellow to an orange to a red depending how close they are to you. They're particularly useful on these long straight roads where you're just slogging along at whatever your speed is, and it's not a lot of traffic and suddenly a vehicle comes up from behind you and you didn't hear them. I think they're really useful, according to what I was reading, in situations where it's windy you're not able to hear very well because of the wind and a car can come up and surprise you from the rear and they're very invaluable for that. So, the Garmin radar is definitely a choice and I think it's just one more piece of equipment, or armor if you would, in our arsenal about how to get home safely.

Another thing is to avoid the left turn altogether and do a right box. Which would be, either go through the intersection, turn at a street that, you make a right. On a quiet street, make another right. Come back to the intersection that's going in the direction you want to go and you pull out and then go with the flow of traffic without having to cross these lanes. That's another consideration. There's various variations of the box to keep you from having to cross the multiple lanes of traffic.

Cycling Savvy has a very good video, particularly one that talks about crossing multiple lanes of traffic and gives you some ideas about how to, where to enter and how to stage your crossings. I definitely recommend that you go look at that. All of their material is fantastic. It's all designed to give us confidence to ride every situation safely and they always maintain that these things are not as dangerous as we make them out to be. The danger in my experience typically is not us. It's the inattentive driver. It's the person who we believe is going to slow down or stop who simply doesn't do that. And I think that's where we need to take a more proactive approach and make sure that that person doesn't surprise us on that day when you least expect it.

Every situation that I've been involved in, in this type of a crash has always involved an experienced cyclist. So experienced people doing what is considered the proper thing sometimes get in front of the wrong car. And I think that what I would urge all of us to think about is don't assume once you've gotten in the lane that you are safe there necessarily. Make sure that car that's coming up behind you potentially is slowing or moving to avoid you. Just an added layer of protection.

So, those are my thoughts on this left turn. I want to see us do what is right and safe. If there's anything that comes up while you're cycling that I can help you with, I am always here. I'm just a phone call away. You know that I am committed to cycling safety. I'm committed to your safety and welfare. If I can help in any way, give me a call.

I want, we have an offer for you today. Our Florida Bicycle Accident Handbook. If you'll go to the bitly link that Kati's showing on the screen we'll get that out to you right away. If you have a question about cycling, if you've got a question about getting your bike frame replaced in a crash, anything that's cycling related give us a call. And I'll look forward to talking to you the next week, all right? Be safe out there. Take care, 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.