Cycling & The Dreaded Right Hook
The "right hook" is when a driver unexpectedly and/or illegally cuts into a cyclist's path to make a right turn, often a dangerous move made across a bike lane.
This happens to me hundreds of times a year.
It starts with me ringing my bell in advance of what I know is about to happen. My bell ringing is ignored. The car then cuts in front of me, turning right into my path. I am forced to either slam on my brakes and attempt a safe stop or merge left into fast-moving traffic.
How can cyclists avoid this? Honestly, the only surefire defense is to approach a busy intersection and assume that vehicle is going to get cut off. Bike defensively.
A couple of years ago, I was biking eastbound in the Wellesley Street protected bike lane approaching Yonge when a Toronto Police Service cruiser cut me off.
As you can see from the video, the TPS officer passed me just before the intersection. I would argue he should yielded the right of way and waited for me to pass. Instead, he cut into my path.
The officer then sat his cruiser in the intersection, blocking the bike lane, waiting for pedestrians to finish crossing at the intersection. He finally made his right hand turn, without waiting for the last pedestrian to reach the safety of the sidewalk.
The officer did not use his indicator at any time.
No, it is not the most egregious example or a complete disregard for my safety, but if the police are not getting this right, you can bet countless civilians aren't as well.
Sure enough, a year later, a civilian driver also didn't indicate and turned right into me while I was in the painted bike lane. This time, turning into me while I was right beside him, I hit his car and then the ground, hard. I broke my wrist and elbow. The dreaded right hook. [If you are involved in a crash contact us right away: email@example.com or 1-800-725-0754]
Frequent right hooks are attributable car driver behaviour. There are aggressive drivers who place their use of the road above our safety and assume as a car they can cut cyclists off without consequence (to them).
Others, simply do not pay attention to cyclists as well as they should when turning right.
In either case, the Consequences of the right hook can be the same, devastating.
To deal with the self interested and aloof driver, we as the public need to educate ourselves and be aware of the laws that apply in these scenarios.
Only after yielding the right of way and only if the lane is separated by a dotted white line.
If the bike lane is separated by a physical obstacle or a solid traffic line, then the car should only turn right after yielding the right of way and then entering the intersection, but not the bike lane itself.
I acknowledge the inconsistent and rarely explained cycling infrastructure at intersections across this city. I would wager that some police officers could not explain every intersection’s turning rules if asked.
Many of these intersections with bike lanes vary :
White dotted line bike lanes
White dotted lines and green painted bike lanes
Solid white lined bike lanes
Solid white lines with green painted bike lanes
Raised bike lanes and solid white lines
Raised…well you get the idea. The list goes on. It's confusing.
To deal with these issues we need leadership, in addition to mass road safety education.
The City of Toronto, and apparently Mayor Tory has committed to a Vision Zero Policy. However, even in 2021, as we know this has not yet been achieved. It is unsurprising that critics of the Mayor’s commitment to cycling use the hashtag #ZEROVISION.
If this policy is going to actually be implemented and succeed it needs to be accompanied by public awareness campaigns and signage at more intersections: “WATCH OUT FOR CYCLISTS TO THE RIGHT” or “YIELD TO CYCLISTS”.
We also need Protected Intersections
The City, as well as the Mayor and his team should consider supporting more right hand turn road barriers to elegantly protect pedestrians and cyclists, while continuing to allow car traffic to run smoothly throughout the city. Our friends wrote about the need for protect intersections in 2019, and we do have some pilot projects (kind of) at Elm and University and others proposed.
In view of the morbidly increasing tally of cyclists and pedestrians being hit by cars, this type of safety first planning is critical.
Until our governments take action, at street level, we must be respectful and safe at intersections. Respect vulnerable road users like cyclists and pedestrians and practice extreme caution when on the road.
****If you are involved in a crash contact us right away: firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-725-0754
*image 1 by Fredicus
*image 2 by Hofmark Photography