Bicycle Riding Rules – Right Turn Lane Edition

Jul 20, 2010 by Lisa Newton

The other day, I was driving east on down San Vicente Boulevard in Santa Monica. As I sat at the traffic light at the corner of San Vicente and 26th Street, I noticed a bicycle rider behaving badly–she was breaking all of the rules that stop advocates of more bike centric solutions from being taken seriously by many who drive and see a lot of this type of dangerous bike riding behavior. Note: most riders are indeed careful, and obey the rules of the road; but as the saying goes it just takes a “few bad apples in the bunch” to ruin it for all.

Don’t get me wrong, I know automobile drivers make mistakes and too often do stupid things–sometimes ending in the death or serious injury of the rider or others, or both. Having said that, cyclists, as well as drivers, need to know the rules of the road.

As I had just passed both of these cyclists, I felt as if I knew what was going to happen, but watching it was still painful.

Here’s what happened:

Car 1 is turning right. Bike 1, with the red arrow, is riding the right hand of the road heading straight, just as in the “Wrong” side of the above illustration. Bike 2, with the green arrow, is heading straight, just like the “Right” illustrated above.

As I watched the event unfold, I knew Bike 2 was totally out of position. If Car 1 hadn’t waited for Bike 2 to go straight before turning, a terrible accident could have happened.

If you are NOT turning right, move over to the bike lane, or if no bike lane is present, more to the far right of the second lane, establishing the fact that you are not turning right, just like Bike 1 did in the example above. Even though I was the second car waiting at the traffic light, I could clearly see Bike 1.

Regardless of whether there is a bike lane or not, if a cyclist is going straight, they must not be in the dedicated automobile right turn lane.

If your lane turns into a right turn only lane, change lanes before the intersection Source: League of American Bicyclists

You might feel safer hugging the edge of the road, but by putting yourself in an unsafe position by being in the right turn lane and not turning right, you’re an accident waiting to happen. 38% of bicyclist deaths in 2008 occurred at intersections.

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3 Responses to “Bicycle Riding Rules – Right Turn Lane Edition”

  1. DMVfan says:

    It appears the car in the “wrong” illustration is crossing lanes to make a right turn in front of the bicyclist’s lane! Note the dotted lines in the illustration separating the 1st and 2nd lane. Car 1 in the left lane is out of position and is making an illegal right turn from the outside lane. This is a common Westsider mistake. I am surprised Car 1 wasn’t rear-ended by the Hummer behind it.


    Lisa Newton Reply:

    @DMVfan, I can understand where you might see that, and I’m sure in some cases, you’d be correct. But, in this case, there isn’t a bike lane.

    The bike rider is clearly in the wrong place.

    LOL @ the Hummer. I really haven’t seen too many Hummers lately, even on the Westside.


  2. Kal says:

    I see this all the time here in Phoenix. I’m teaching my daughter to drive and as an avid rider I’m teaching her to watch for riders who are in the wrong place to avoid accidents. Great info.
    Kal´s last blog ..Start With A Quality Used Bike Frame My ComLuv Profile


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