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  1. #1
    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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    AC: bike lanes and right hooks

    AC rules for right hooks in bike lanes:

    1) be wary of decelerating cars coming up from behind.
    2) stay out of the car's blind spot.
    3) never pass on the right unless sure the car has no intention of turning.

    Rule one is my first defense against right hooks. Most right hooks are speed misjudgements by the driver regarding the cyclist. A car decelerating as it comes up behind me is my que to be wary of that car's intentions. I usually accelerate to get out of the situation and make the driver aware of my presence and stay in front of the decelerating car.

    (I cross posted this from the "[V]C best practices pay off" thread.)

    Any other suggestions? Bike lanes to the right of traffic lanes will almost always have an inherent threat from crossing traffic, but they retain a variety of advantages over other on-road facilities for between-intersection travel. The standard destination positioning advice from vehicular cycling techniques does not address well the threat of right hooks at minor, uncontrolled driveways and parking lots because the frequency of these minor intersections put the general rules of destination positioning and the "slower vehicles to the right" in conflict. It is not a surprise, since the John Forester style of vehicular cycling was developed in CA where long blocks and multi-lane arterials are more common than short blocks and single lane (in each direction) roads. In this environment, destination positioning, even full time, can be tolerated by experienced cyclists as faster traffic has overtaking room in the adjacent lane.

    Assuming that the road has a well designed, 5' standard, swept bike lane and only considering minor intersections which the main road passes through unbroken, how best to deal with the right hook threat? This assumes as well that the cyclist finds enough utility and advantages with the bike lane to stay within the bike lane most of the time between major intersections (which the road breaks for) and that the frequency of minor intersections is high. This results in the situation where the threat of a right hook is constant, but at a low level, as the traffic turning right into any one minor intersection is extremely light, but unpredictable.

    What advice do you have?
    Last edited by Brian Ratliff; 03-03-07 at 01:04 AM.
    Cat 2 Track, Cat 3 Road.
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  2. #2
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    Part of my daily commute

    If you follow Route 202 south all the way to Naamans Road you'll see the section that I ride every day now due to some road closures on my normal route. This is a 45mph 4 lane road (sometimes with a center turn lane) with generally heavy traffic during the times I'm riding. You get the typical packs of 40 or so vehicles and then a break as the lights chop up the flow. The road has a shoulder ranging anywhere from 2 feet on up to 8 feet in some spots, though the wide shoulder only appears right before major intersections. Going southbound, if you look right before Smith Bridge Road until you cross into Delaware, you'll see just how many minor intersections occur on this road.

    I've only been riding this stretch during rush hour for a few weeks now and I've been adjusting my style each day to try and see what works best. Surprisingly (or not) I've found the best approach is to simply use the right hand traffic lane the entire time going northbound and when going southbound only using the shoulder once I cross into Delaware where there is a noticeable break in the frequency of minor intersections. So far, EVERY day that I have attempted to use the shoulder at any other point has resulted in me having to brake hard to avoid a right hook at one of those minor intersections, not to mention having to negotiate far more lane changes to get out of the shoulder when a motorist has decided to pull out far enough to completely block the shoulder.

    I'm curious to hear how others would handle this stretch. I would really only feel comfortable using the shoulder between the major intersections at speeds below 15mph which would mean really holding back (my speed gets a big boost from the draft of passing traffic). On days when I have been going that slow due to wind, I've used the shoulder in a few of the shorter intersectionless stretches when I knew there wasn't a huge line of vehicles waiting to pass (I'd be able to easily get back out of the shoulder sooner than if there was a long line).

  3. #3
    Dominatrikes sbhikes's Avatar
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    This what I actually do day-to-day riding in conditions very much like what you describe:

    1. After a while I get to know those places that have a high chance of right hook potential. At these spots what I do is I look back to see if anyone is coming as I approach. The look back is enough to make them wait behind me 99% of the time. The other 1% of the time I will stick my left arm out. I have not had this fail yet. But if it did fail and someone still tried to right hook me, I would slow down or stop.

    2. At busy intersections where traffic lines up I have a rule: Never pass traffic on the right that is moving. So if it's stopped for the intersection I go ahead and filter on up to the front. But if at any time the traffic starts moving I stop filtering and find a way to insert myself between two cars. I don't actually get out into the lane. I stay in the bike lane, but I'm staggered between two cars. I look back at the one behind me like above. That seems to work all the time.

    3. Any other time if a right hook starts to happen to me, I do not hesitate to slow or stop to avoid getting caught in it. I have witnessed cyclists who ride right through, who try to defend their right of way, but you can't defend it when you're a 200lb object and they are a 3000lb object. You are better off losing the fight.

    Right hooks (or near right hooks) don't happen to me often, but employing my preventive strategies is part of my daily cycling experience. These are things I do every single day, every time I ride.

    Because I find right hooks to be quite preventable, I don't understand all the fretting over bike lanes and right hooks. All it takes is a little skill and it becomes a total non-problem.
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  4. #4
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    joejack-

    I'm always hesitant to offer any advice or suggestions on roads I have not ridden. From your description of the road and from what I can see from the googlemaps link it makes sense to me to take the approach you described. Certainly as I approached the intersections I would probably not want to be in the shoulder because I would feel vulnerable to a right hook riding in the shoulder. As far as the stretches between the intersections it would depend for me on the condition of the shoulder, how much and how fast the traffic was moving, weather conditions, time of day, how tired I was, which bike I was riding, whether I was carrying a load on the back of the bike, how far it was to the next intersecton, even what I ate for breakfast might factor into it. I certainly wouldn't feel obligated to take the lane all the way down this road if the shoulder looked like a better choice.

    As far as whether your post is in a clear relation to the OP I'm a little confused. I thought that the OP was asking specifically about right hooks on roads with a bike lane and how a cyclist might adapt to avoid such incidents.

    Quote Originally Posted by BrianRatliff
    Assuming that the road has a well designed, 5' standard, swept bike lane and only considering minor intersections which the main road passes through unbroken, how best to deal with the right hook threat?
    Joejack does the road in question have a bike lane?

    If so, I think sbhikes suggestions are pretty standard procedure for many of us. I use a little left arm signal if it seems appropriate. If I'm for some reason concerned about a right hook I might move into the traffic lane especially if I'm moving at roughly the same speed as the traffic. An example might be for me a cab moving through Central Square in Cambridge. They will often simply drift across the bike lane and stop diagonally across the bike lane or stop in it, in which case I just move right out with the traffic until it's safe to move right back into the bike lane.

  5. #5
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    Right hook on a bike lane?

    Well, I haven't exactly read everything that's been posted here, but what I generally do is:

    1. I slow down when I reach intersections, just enough so that I have time to react to a right hook. I'm usually going so slow that a "right hook" really isn't a right hook on me, because the car's already halfway turning before I reach the bumper. I could still hit the brakes if needed, since I have a pretty good approximation of my stopping distance (and I swerved once around a car blocking the bike lane, but that was in stalled traffic...I ended up lane-splitting with the other cars to get around the entire mess).

    2. When the solid line bike lane starts turning into a dotted line (well, the Bike Lanes in Orange County do close to intersections), I signal left and take the middle of the lane when safe. That prevents a lot of right hooks on me, and I like being in the middle of the lane if I am going to end up at the red light on the intersection. It makes it easier for right turners to make their turns without hitting me.

    These two methods seem to work pretty well for me. I've never been harassed, and a bus driver appreciated the space I left for him to make his turn once.

  6. #6
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    Increase your conspicuity by wearing high visibility clothing, a daytime visible flasher, slow moving vehicle triangle or any combination.

    I think the rules posted by Brian Ratliff apply regardless of a roads striping patterns; right hooks have potential of happening on ANY road.

    1) be wary of decelerating cars coming up from behind.
    2) stay out of the car's blind spot.
    3) never pass on the right unless sure the car has no intention of turning.

    I would add, in support of #1, is to listen to cars as they move alongside; even if a deaccelaration is not visually noticable, audible ques sometimes give away that the driver may be altering course.

    Minor intersections often necessitate greater slowing than radiused major intersections or freeway on-ramps and the deacceleration tone or pace can be a noticable clue.

    Also, watch the car and driver both if possible. car may 'wobble' or 'waver' or even move left a bit as driver prepares to make a turn, you can sometimes see hand motion on the wheel, or driver doing a mirror check, etc. as they get ready to turn.

    I'll sometimes throw the "Tickle fingers" out and down to the left for greater noticability.

    If a car does pass you and you fear a right hook is probable or see one actually setting up, feather back AGGRESSIVELY and move behind the car, swooping to a position off the left bumper. The swoop is pretty smooth once you do it a few times, watching your timing and the car, putting you in a sweet spot to clear to the left as the car turns.

    Always try to stay aware of conflicting hookers from the other direction or intersections, even if the passing car doesn't pull a right.

    running visibility gear is my biggest tip not mentioned by the posters above...and the feather and move left SWOOP when a right hook is obvious.
    Last edited by Bekologist; 03-02-07 at 11:36 PM.
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  7. #7
    Banned. Helmet Head's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff
    The standard destination positioning advice from vehicular cycling techniques does not address well the threat of right hooks at minor, uncontrolled driveways and parking lots because the frequency of these minor intersections put the general rules of destination positioning and the "slower vehicles to the right" in conflict.
    Well, that's one way to look at it, I guess. Another is to use destination positioning on such roads. What do you recommend?
    Last edited by donnamb; 03-02-07 at 11:13 PM. Reason: removed part of post that is off-topic

  8. #8
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    There's nothing inherent that disqualifies destination positioning and a bike lane for thru bicycling, particularily with faster moving traffic present.


    Let's try to stay adaptive and on topic. You're in a bike lane. There's traffic.

    what can you, as a cyclist do, to be aware and minimize right hooks?
    Last edited by Bekologist; 03-02-07 at 11:38 PM.
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  9. #9
    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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    To all concerned. I want to take it for granted for a moment in this thread that the rider has found it in his best interest to stay mostly within the bike lane between major intersections.

    Bek: I agree, I don't use a mirror; I use my hearing to be aware of what's going on behind me between shoulder checks. I have been aware and headed off (not evaded, it never gets to that point) many potential right hooks by listening to the sound of the car decelerating as it comes up behind me.

    I want to concentrate here on bike lanes, because, as I see it, there are many advantages to a bike lane, and only a couple disadvantages, mostly revolving around right hooks. In the spirit of "why throw the baby out with the bath water," I want to hear what you all do in this situation. Assume for a minute that the bike lane is the default position for the cyclist for whatever reason.

    I want to stress that the only good way of avoiding right hooks in frequently traveled intersections is to use vehicular methods and leave the bike lane. I am more concerned about low level threats that are constant in nature, as you'd find in residential or light commercial areas. Imagine a street that has several driveways, each of which carries only a little traffic at sporatic and random times. For whatever reason, the bike lane is the default position. We start from this assumption and move on from there.

    If you want to start from a different assumption, such as that the threat is large enough to override any other factor for staying within the bike lane, take it to a separate thread. I don't mind parallel threads; there is no need for either one of these assumptions to compete. There are many roads in the world which fit both assumptions (though others might disagree, this is my thread, so I get to say this). The more threads and the more diverse ideas presented, the better. As long as it doesn't turn into a pissing match.
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  10. #10
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    Yes, Brian, I agree.

    I'd like to take a moment and point out the most common and obvious scenario while riding in a bike lane and you pass a minor intersection.

    There's NO traffic behind in a hookable position+ and no one at the drive=

    NO THREAT of right hook.

    please see my post #6 for additional tips on how to be aware for a possible hook and avoid a hook when a hook is probable or actually setting up.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  11. #11
    Dominatrikes sbhikes's Avatar
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    I find that even at frequently traveled intersections my methods still work for me here on the streets where I ride.
    ~Diane
    Recumbents: Lightning Thunderbolt, '06 Catrike Pocket. Upright: Trek Mountain Bike.
    8.5 mile commute. I like bike lanes.

  12. #12
    Ride the Road Daily Commute's Avatar
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    You can move to the left outside of the bike lane so that traffic has to move left to get around you. I find that if cars have to move left to get around me, they are less likely to right hook me.

    One lesson of this thread is that every curb cut is a potential intersection, and should be treated accordingly. If road engineers stripe bike lanes on such roads, they should not be surprised that cyclists adapt by moving to the left.

    Of course, you should always have a bailout. One advantage of being farther to the left is that you have more room for evasive maneuvers. I spend most of my time 5-8 feet from the curb where there are curb cuts. So, with a five foot bike lane on a road with a lot of curb cuts I would probably cruise 0-3 feet to the left of the lane stripe.

    Also, listening for cars is a good idea, but it's harder in the winter when I have more head gear on. Also, as hybrids become more popular, it's getting more dangerous to assume that quiet = safe.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by buzzman
    joejack-

    I'm always hesitant to offer any advice or suggestions on roads I have not ridden. From your description of the road and from what I can see from the googlemaps link it makes sense to me to take the approach you described. Certainly as I approached the intersections I would probably not want to be in the shoulder because I would feel vulnerable to a right hook riding in the shoulder. As far as the stretches between the intersections it would depend for me on the condition of the shoulder, how much and how fast the traffic was moving, weather conditions, time of day, how tired I was, which bike I was riding, whether I was carrying a load on the back of the bike, how far it was to the next intersecton, even what I ate for breakfast might factor into it. I certainly wouldn't feel obligated to take the lane all the way down this road if the shoulder looked like a better choice.

    As far as whether your post is in a clear relation to the OP I'm a little confused. I thought that the OP was asking specifically about right hooks on roads with a bike lane and how a cyclist might adapt to avoid such incidents.

    Joejack does the road in question have a bike lane?

    If so, I think sbhikes suggestions are pretty standard procedure for many of us. I use a little left arm signal if it seems appropriate. If I'm for some reason concerned about a right hook I might move into the traffic lane especially if I'm moving at roughly the same speed as the traffic. An example might be for me a cab moving through Central Square in Cambridge. They will often simply drift across the bike lane and stop diagonally across the bike lane or stop in it, in which case I just move right out with the traffic until it's safe to move right back into the bike lane.
    The road doesn't have a bike lane but it does have a shoulder that's very much like most bike lanes I've seen and experienced. The shoulder is only interupted completely at the major intersections where there are dedicated turn lanes. Everywhere else, it's continuous just like a bike lane would be.

    I brought up this road because I feel it is a great example of a road where many would want a bike lane (high speed, multiple lanes, heavy traffic) but where I find it is easier to just ride in the traffic lane and deal with causing a minor delay to each passing pack of cars. The minor delay is offset by not having to be on constant alert for right hooks (or traffic exitting at those same minor intersections) which if you look at the link I provided, are almost a constant threat. With the speed and density of traffic, unless you make very aggressive moves, there is no time to merge left in these situations. You either slow down and let the motorist turn in front of you or take a big risk (keep moving and hope they don't turn in front of you) that I'm not willing to take.

  14. #14
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    jeepers, the anti facility crowd is presenting their views in a thread specifically on how to ride bike lanes.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Daily Commute
    One advantage of being farther to the left is that you have more room for evasive maneuvers. I spend most of my time 5-8 feet from the curb where there are curb cuts. So, with a five foot bike lane on a road with a lot of curb cuts I would probably cruise 0-3 feet to the left of the lane stripe.
    It depends on the width of the outside lane but I've found that position on or slightly to the left of the stripe to be quite ambiguous when riding in heavy traffic. You get two types of problem people: those who don't care where you are and they just drive through the lane as they normally would, leading to very close passes, and those who won't pass at all even though you want them to. Riding further left and taking the whole right lane eliminates both of these problems and almost fully removes the chance of a right hook while leaving a generous amount of bailout room. In terms of evoking bad behavior from motorists, I've found it's no worse than riding on or slightly to the left of the stripe. When I truly want people to pass me, I move well right of the stripe (2-3 feet at least).

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bekologist
    jeepers, the anti facility crowd is presenting their views in a thread specifically on how to ride bike lanes.
    I'll be more to the point since I realize that I have strayed from the initial topic a bit (given the "AC" in the title).

    For bike lanes/shoulder that cross many minor intersections, keep speed to a minimum, use a mirror to monitor for possible right turning traffic, and yield to right turners who insist on reaching the intersection first and attempting to turn in front of you. Keep your eyes open for vehicles exitting at those same minor intersections as they will often pull out into the bike lane/shoulder especially if sightlines are not good. Yield to these vehicles as well. If riding through heavy debris, decrease speed even more as braking distances will be increased due to the loss in traction.

  17. #17
    Ride the Road Daily Commute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by joejack951
    It depends on the width of the outside lane but I've found that position on or slightly to the left of the stripe to be quite ambiguous when riding in heavy traffic. You get two types of problem people: those who don't care where you are and they just drive through the lane as they normally would, leading to very close passes, and those who won't pass at all even though you want them to. Riding further left and taking the whole right lane eliminates both of these problems and almost fully removes the chance of a right hook while leaving a generous amount of bailout room. In terms of evoking bad behavior from motorists, I've found it's no worse than riding on or slightly to the left of the stripe. When I truly want people to pass me, I move well right of the stripe (2-3 feet at least).
    You're right. When cars can right hook you, it makes more sense to be in the right tire track.

    As to the strategy for staying in the segregated lane, I guess it's simple. Any time a car is near, go slow enough that you can stop or evade when hooked.

    Edit: This thread gives a different meaning to the Bike Forums description of the Commuting forum:

    Quote Originally Posted by Bike Forums description of Commuting Forum
    Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.
    Last edited by Daily Commute; 03-03-07 at 02:12 PM.

  18. #18
    Dominatrikes sbhikes's Avatar
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    DC in post #12 you made sense. It is adaptive to move left.

    That's all it is, though. Simply an adaptation of ordinary cyclists everywhere. Not a gospel, not a miracle elixer guaranteed to solve all the problems of the world, not the Word of God, not an indicator of Prowess or Skill, not a clean diagnosis that one lacks an inferiority complex, not a key to the club of VC, and definitely not evidence that one has posession of a large and golden Phallus.
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  19. #19
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    In the spirit of AC, I find myself sometimes using the sidewalk at these intersections. To get an example of what/where I am doing (this) google map the intersection of "Dodge Park" and "Metro Parkway" in the city of "Sterling Heights" "Michigan". I ride the shoulder on Metro Parkway heading west, the shoulder vanishes into mid air and becomes a right turn only lane at the Michigan Turn-a-round light about 300-400 feet before the intersection. There is a residential entrance shortly before that and I just hop on the sidewalk from there, take the sidewalk all the way to the intersection, and when I get the cross signal I cross the street (Dodge Park) and then hit the shoulder again which magically appears. I do this in order to avoid having to take the lane on a 60mph street with traffic on both sides of me plus rushing commuters behind me honking and reving their engines. I have no problem doing this.

  20. #20
    Senior Member dynodonn's Avatar
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    I had a motorist do an impromptu right hook on me a few weeks back, traffic was backed up for several intersections, but the bike lane was clear all the way through. I had the green light and was observing for turn signals on any of the stopped cars, in case of a right turn on their part. The lead car at the intersection that I was approaching must have become impatient and made a sudden right turn in front of me, forgetting to use his turn signal. I saw the beginning of the move and instinctively took evasive action, narrowly avoiding him. I not sure, but to me, the motorist expression looked more like one of anger than one of surprise. To add insult to injury, by the time I was able to get back under way, the light had turned red, and a motorist in "Truckzilla" came up behind me in the bike lane trying to make a right turn past all the stopped traffic. The whole time while the light was red, the motorist in "Truckzillia" was revving his motor and inching ever closer to possibly try and intimidate me into moving out of the way, but I held my ground. I was definitely one happy person when the light turned green.

  21. #21
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Daily Commute

    As to the strategy for staying in a preferential lane, I guess it's simple. Any time a car is near, go slow enough that you can stop or evade when hooked.

    sorry, DC, but that sure sounds like fearmongering- or else an inability to decipher basic traffic dynamics. Simple awareness makes a well provided bike lane easy to negotiate without ANY slowing virtually ALL THE time in a bike lane, brother. don't make mountains out of molehills.

    This is a thread offering and soliciting advice on how to operate safely within a bike lane encountering minor intersections. your advice, although supposedly well meaning, is extreme and over the top, and counter to the spirit of this thread.
    Last edited by Bekologist; 03-03-07 at 10:30 PM.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  22. #22
    Ride the Road Daily Commute's Avatar
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    Sbhikes was right when she said my first post was within the thread topic (adapt by leaving the segregated lane). The second post just elaborated on how far to leave the segregated lane. As to violating "the spirit of the thread" by giving advice clearly within the OP's topic of how to ride a segregated lane? Geez? Now guess I'm guilty of a spiritual offense.

    You now have a choice. Respond to this and continue to divert the thread, or let it drop. Also, we can use this thread to debate what to call a segregated bike lane, or you can use your term and and I can use mine. I've stayed on topic, and the ball's in your court.
    Last edited by Daily Commute; 03-04-07 at 06:36 AM.

  23. #23
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff, ORIGINAL POST
    Bike lanes to the right of traffic lanes will almost always have an inherent threat from crossing traffic, but they retain a variety of advantages over other on-road facilities for between-intersection travel. The standard destination positioning advice from vehicular cycling techniques does not address well the threat of right hooks at minor, uncontrolled driveways and parking lots
    Sorry, DC. I don't like your spin as it is against the spirit and intent of the original post. I DISAGREE with SBikes, your advice in your first post IS against the advice sought in this thread.

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff
    This assumes as well that the cyclist finds enough utility and advantages with the bike lane to stay within the bike lane most of the time............ If you want to start from a different assumption, such as that the threat is large enough to override any other factor for staying within the bike lane, take it to a separate thread.
    I'm NOT willing to debate faciltites, that argument is vile and counterproductive to safety advice in this forum. DC, you are so antifaclities you cannot even offer sound advice for using one.

    There's some great advice in this thread, and it gets clogged up by the typical antifacilities spiel. just awful.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  24. #24
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    The REALITY of using a well provided bike lane with minor intersections is:

    BE aware, monitor behind you- (keep an ear out), watch for traffic, and keep on truckin'. If a car moves into a hook situation, be prepared to evade if the hook is imminent. Keep away from a deaccelerating vehicles' right side.

    The most common and obvious scenario while riding in a bike lane and you pass a minor intersection.....

    NO traffic behind in a hookable position+ and no one at the drive= NO THREAT of hook.
    Last edited by Bekologist; 03-04-07 at 08:00 AM.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  25. #25
    Dominatrikes sbhikes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dynodonn
    The whole time while the light was red, the motorist in "Truckzillia" was revving his motor and inching ever closer to possibly try and intimidate me into moving out of the way, but I held my ground. I was definitely one happy person when the light turned green.
    I try not to do that. I don't think it helps us to make people mad like this. I will pull up and over as much as possible to allow people to make right turns next to me. Giving people a reason to be a little bit grateful for your consideration goes a long way.
    ~Diane
    Recumbents: Lightning Thunderbolt, '06 Catrike Pocket. Upright: Trek Mountain Bike.
    8.5 mile commute. I like bike lanes.

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