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Old 02-13-14, 12:23 PM   #1
Giant Doofus 
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What I learned today: Don't assume you know what the driver is thinking

I'm new enough to bike commuting that I sometimes still make the mistake of assuming that I know what a driver is thinking or how s/he will react in a given situation. It happened twice today. The first time I was approaching an intersection with a light. There's a sign that clearly marks it a "no turn on red" light. I could hear a car coming up behind me, but we were pretty close to the intersection, and since it's a no turn light, I figured there was no risk of a right hook. Wrong. The driver whipped around me, slammed on the brakes when she got to the light, and then quickly turned right. Fortunately, I was already slowing down for the light, so I stopped in plenty of time to avoid hitting her.

The second time was with a driver who really confused me. He was ahead of me in the lane and wanted to turn right. No problem, right? He should just turn. I was behind him in traffic. Instead he stopped, turned around in his seat, and waved for me to go ahead of him on the right before he turned. Weird.

Drivers can be unpredictable. Be safe.
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Old 02-13-14, 12:56 PM   #2
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Indeed. Only time I hit a car in the last couple of years commuting was when the driver I was thoughtlessly tailgating started turning into the entrance of a parking lot and just flat stopped for no apparent reason. *Wump*
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Old 02-13-14, 12:59 PM   #3
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Your first mistake was assuming that the driver was thinking at all. Self-driving cars will be so much safer.
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Old 02-13-14, 01:00 PM   #4
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The 2nd driver OP mentioned may have been just too nice

I've seen cars' turn signal indicating they were going to turn left but they instead made a right turn, or vice versa.
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Old 02-13-14, 01:39 PM   #5
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The 2nd driver OP mentioned may have been just too nice

I've seen cars' turn signal indicating they were going to turn left but they instead made a right turn, or vice versa.
This is a problem around here. They often do the stop and wait before turning when I'm speeding along and moving left in the lane to pass them. Then sometimes they do the opposite - they stay left and slow down so I can pass on the right, and then psyche! they try to hit me.

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Don't assume you know what the driver is thinking
I always assume I know what the driver is thinking. They are thinking about every way possible to kill me. Always.
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Old 02-13-14, 02:17 PM   #6
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This same advice should be in effect when you're driving a car.
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Old 02-13-14, 02:50 PM   #7
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From my many years of experience in being a driver, I think the best assumption is to figure that the driver is NOT thinking!
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Old 02-13-14, 03:11 PM   #8
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Giant Doofus, I've got to say your username fits well for how I feel when I assume drivers are going to do something.

Josh
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Old 02-13-14, 03:23 PM   #9
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The 2nd driver OP mentioned may have been just too nice
.
I think that was probably the case. I was glad that he noticed my presence and wanted me to be safe, but it would have been better if he had just completed his turn. I was fine to stop behind him just like all of the other cars had to.
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Old 02-13-14, 03:25 PM   #10
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Giant Doofus, I've got to say your username fits well for how I feel when I assume drivers are going to do something.

Josh
I was definitely feeling that username today! BTW my username is actually a combination of what I call my bike, "doofus" (a term of affection in my family), and the manufacturer of the bike.
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Old 02-13-14, 03:40 PM   #11
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I'm hopeful that you didn't just learn this today. I rather hope you were "reminded" of it today. Drivers may or may not be more or less unpredictable than cyclists, but the damage they can do is significantly greater.
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Old 02-13-14, 04:17 PM   #12
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The longer I do this, the better I get at reading cars' "body language." There's usually a tell.
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Old 02-13-14, 05:03 PM   #13
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The second time was with a driver who really confused me. He was ahead of me in the lane and wanted to turn right. No problem, right? He should just turn. I was behind him in traffic. Instead he stopped, turned around in his seat, and waved for me to go ahead of him on the right before he turned.
Had it been me, he'd still be there waiting. Every time this happens, I pass them on the left, just as I'm supposed to do. I won't pick up a stranger's invitation to break the rules. I figure they need the insurance money and think they've spotted a sap to let them cash-in.
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Old 02-13-14, 05:52 PM   #14
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The second time was with a driver who really confused me. He was ahead of me in the lane and wanted to turn right. No problem, right? He should just turn. I was behind him in traffic. Instead he stopped, turned around in his seat, and waved for me to go ahead of him on the right before he turned. Weird.
I've had that happen to me once. Driver stopped to let a couple of cylists who were several seconds ahead of me cross an intersection. He could have turned then since there was time and room to do so, but instead, waited an extra 15 seconds for me to pass through the intersection.
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Old 02-13-14, 06:15 PM   #15
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Had it been me, he'd still be there waiting. Every time this happens, I pass them on the left, just as I'm supposed to do. I won't pick up a stranger's invitation to break the rules. I figure they need the insurance money and think they've spotted a sap to let them cash-in.
I would have passed on the left, but he had moved all the way over to the left (before making a right!), so I couldn't go around without crossing into oncoming traffic. When he first waved me on, I shook my head and waved for him to go, but he was insistent. I didn't want to hold up traffic, so I went ahead on his right. I'm still not entirely clear about how I could have handled it better, but you've given me something to think about.
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Old 02-13-14, 07:11 PM   #16
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Don't assume that you know THAT a driver is thinking.

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Old 02-13-14, 08:31 PM   #17
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Bicycles are far less predictable than cars, but at least they can't do as much harm
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Old 02-13-14, 10:15 PM   #18
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Bicycles are far less predictable than cars, but at least they can't do as much harm
I was just going to play a devil's advocate and say that some drivers may say "don't assume you know what a bicyclist is thinking"
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Old 02-13-14, 10:24 PM   #19
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This same advice should be in effect when you're driving a car.
Exactly what I was thinking....

I've done a lot of driving/riding in DC, TX, and CA and neither drivers nor cyclists or bikers are predictable and take A LOT for granted. I say always have a high situational awareness when you're on the road, regardless of what you are driving/riding.
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Old 02-13-14, 10:32 PM   #20
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Pedestrians can also be very unpredictable. Once when a pedestrian pushing a stroller was crossing the bike path and saw me (I was going slow), she promptly stopped right in front of me!
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Old 02-14-14, 01:19 AM   #21
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Pedestrians can also be very unpredictable. Once when a pedestrian pushing a stroller was crossing the bike path and saw me (I was going slow), she promptly stopped right in front of me!
Pedestrians are by far the least predictable. At least in city riding, the order of predictability goes cars, bicycles, pedestrians. Of course, that errant car can kill you, the others, not so likely. Cars have relatively little space to maneuver. Bikes can ride on either side of one way streets, weave through traffic, split lanes, go the wrong way, run red lights, etc., and around here, they do all of the above. Pedestrians fit anywhere, and can do whatever they damn well please, and can be at least as mindless as cars. I can't tell you how often I've had someone step out in front of my moving bike, middle of the block, against the light, with their nose pressed to a cell phone. But then I've also seen cyclists ride through heavy traffic while blithely gabbing on a cell phone.

I once had a guy push his stroller off the curb onto the bike lane five feet in front of me. On the other side was a line of cars waiting for the light. I stopped in time, but barely. So you use your kid as a battering ram to bash your way into traffic, in the middle of the block, without looking, on a street you can't cross anyway cause there are cars in the way? Really?

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Old 02-14-14, 10:49 AM   #22
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Exactly what I was thinking....

I've done a lot of driving/riding in DC, TX, and CA and neither drivers nor cyclists or bikers are predictable and take A LOT for granted. I say always have a high situational awareness when you're on the road, regardless of what you are driving/riding.
I agree about not assuming you know what drivers are thinking even when you're in a car. Thing is, though, that it's much easier for me to avoid that assumption with bikes and pedestrians because they aren't "normal." The city I live in is so auto-centric that pedestrians and cyclists stand out. I notice them, think about them, anticipate how I might respond to whatever they might do. With cars, it's harder for me not to sink into the world of unarticulated assumptions. I've been a car commuter for years, and so much of getting from A to B depends on knowing how the flow of traffic will go. Maybe we shouldn't make those assumptions when driving, but I suspect we all do. If I had been in a car that guy would have made his turn without giving me a second thought because you don't yield to traffic that is behind you. I can pretty much take that for granted. When I'm on the bike, it's a hard habit to get out of assuming I know how traffic will behave. "High situational awareness," yes, that's what I'm working on developing!
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Old 02-14-14, 11:55 AM   #23
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So first instance, TAKE the lane. It makes it easier sometimes to behave like a car. Second instance , wave them off. Usually problems happen when the car yields their right of way, but the other cars do not. I have gone so far as to circle around, look at the ground or go on the sidewalk pretending to make a call. Do not put yourself in a known dangerous situation.
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Old 02-14-14, 12:36 PM   #24
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So first instance, TAKE the lane. It makes it easier sometimes to behave like a car. Second instance , wave them off. Usually problems happen when the car yields their right of way, but the other cars do not. I have gone so far as to circle around, look at the ground or go on the sidewalk pretending to make a call. Do not put yourself in a known dangerous situation.
Great advice. Thank you.
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Old 02-14-14, 02:00 PM   #25
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...

I've seen cars' turn signal indicating they were going to turn left but they instead made a right turn, or vice versa.
Cars have turn signals?
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