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If a car is turning right onto a side road and not an intersection, what must I do?

Perhaps I am 25 feet/7.5 meters (and another cyclist just passed the car that's turning right), should I

A) Try to speed up to clear the car?

B) Slow down to let the car pass?

I live in Ontario, Canada, and am also driving with traffic. Evidently the first choice is more risky. What if cyclists are behind me; what if there aren't?

enter image description here

  • 5
    Which side of the road are you on? How can there be a side road without an intersection (do you local laws define "intersection" in an odd way? For that matter, the answer will probably need to reflect your local laws - where are you? And really, a diagram would make this much clearer. – Móż Jun 17 '16 at 1:11
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    Any other cyclists are irrelevant-you're not responsible for caring for them. You need to look after yourself, and avoid becoming a casualty. Brake and not get sideswiped would be my suggestion. You're only likely to get more invisible if you try and pass on the inside, unless you're near the front anyway. – Criggie Jun 17 '16 at 2:02
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    The golden rule of using the road (in any or no vehicle) is: be predictable. Don't swerve round a car, as that's probably not what other road users are expecting. – Robert Grant Jun 17 '16 at 8:50
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    Drive defensive, slow down and stay unhurt. – BerndGit Jun 17 '16 at 9:42
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    Perhaps not applicable in the above scenario, but when you're on the shoulder or in a parking/bike lane on a street and you approach a crossroad, move to the left side of your lane, rather than remaining centered in the lane. This makes it much more obvious to drivers that you are going straight vs turning yourself, and makes it less likely that they will cut you off. – Daniel R Hicks Jun 17 '16 at 11:32
22

Once the other car is in front of you generally the law and the legal system both suggest you need to give way to the car. In some places motorists technically need to give way to cyclists in the same lane or a bike lane, but that's something that the court will decide after the fact. It's IMO rude for a motorist to overtake you then turn, but it's going to be hard to prosecute even if you have a camera on your bike or helmet (you're relying on motorists in the legal system to have sympathy for the cyclist who ran into a car).

A) Try to speed up to clear the car?
B) Slow down to let the car pass?

If you speed up, you're at huge risk of riding into the motorist's blind spot, and they're likely to be concentrating on what's in front of them - getting into that side street without hitting anything, and making sure there's nothing in the side street that they need to avoid. You're really relying on the motorist also having the spare mental capacity to remember that you exist and that perhaps you might be inclined to obey the laws of physics rather than the laws of Canada. I would be very reluctant to ride into a blind spot like this, it's too easy to end up "dead right".

Slowing down is something you probably want to do if the motorist doesn't give way to you, and might be legally obliged to do depending on the fine print. I think it's a good idea regardless.

enter image description here

If you are inclined to speed up, I suggest overtaking on the motorist's left, which is likely to be legal as well as safer. A motorist behind this one is probably going to slow down rather than hit the turning car, so even if the main road you're on has a higher speed than you can normally maintain, you might find you can make it through that gap and around the turning car safely.

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    Bicycle friendly country that marked with bicycle lane, driver will stop at the junction to let the cyclist pass. But this is not typical practice outside those country. I will rather stop to let the vehicle pass. – mootmoot Jun 17 '16 at 7:41
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    Naa. Here in Karlsruhe, Germany, the bicycle lanes are even painted bright red near intersections. Doesn't stop anyone from blindly turning right. (Trams are huge and painted bright yellow. Doesn't stop anyone from crashing into them, either. Yes, I'm talking about cars crashing into the side of the huge bright yellow tram, not trams crashing into cars crossing the rails.) – Jörg W Mittag Jun 17 '16 at 8:21
  • As a cyclist in Ontario, this is exactly the answer that I would have provided. So ... there's an anecdote for you. – Ian MacDonald Jun 17 '16 at 18:23
  • @JörgWMittag I would suggest „Doesn’t stop everyone from…“ – sure it does stop some. – törzsmókus Jun 18 '16 at 23:02
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As you're in Ontario the following references are official.

Look at the picture at the bottom right of Toronto's Understanding Bicycle Lanes -- here's an excerpt:

enter image description here

In summary, stop behind or pass to the left of the turning car.

I generally expect drivers to see what's happening out the front of the cars, but never expect them to know what's happening to the side of their cars.

In the illustration above, for example, I guess the driver is looking forward (at the intersection which they're turning into), not looking sideways (at the space between them and the sidewalk where it says "No").

Ditto at stop signs and stop lights, by the way. Especially if it's a truck, beware of pulling up close to the intersection squeezed between the truck and the sidewalk: because if the truck turns right without seeing you're there you'll be squeezed between the truck and the street furniture; so hang back in the bike lane away from the intersection (give them space to turn if they're going to), or even temporarily take the lane (occupy the car lane) behind them until traffic starts moving again.

See also this page, Car Bike Collisions | Motorist Right Turn, which says,

Motorist turning right collides with cyclist travelling in parallel direction

Key problems:

  • motorist overtakes cyclist just before turning right
  • cyclist tries to pass to the right of right-turning motorist
  • cyclist riding on the sidewalk fails to stop and yield to turning vehicles at intersection

To avoid:

  • look ahead for turn signals
  • watch out for drivers slowing down in preparation for a right turn
  • stay away from the driver's "blind spot" (near the right rear wheel)
  • do not pass right-turning drivers on the right
  • use the road, not the sidewalk, to be more noticeable to motorists

What if cyclists are behind me; what if there aren't?

On a ski slope it's the job of people up-hill to stay out of the way of people down-hill. I reckon the rule's similar for cycling in traffic, not to mention driving, i.e. do what you need to and count on cyclists behind you (if there are any) to not run into you (I don't know, maybe that depends on where you are and how fast you're going).

But use hand signals when you change lane, and ideally also when you slow i.e. when you're about the brake, that's what you can do for them.

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    Extra bonus for actually citing official recommendations! – sleske Jun 17 '16 at 11:57
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    +1 for hand signals also. I usually lower my left hand below the handlebar and slightly to the left in these situations; this is safer (your left hand can stick out a lot if you put it straight to the left and a car could seriously hurt you) and also it is quite noticeable (both drivers and cyclists behind you should clearly see your hand). Also, you make it clear you're not really turning left, just overtaking. Last but not least, it's a quite movement, and this position of the hand lets you help with stability, since it can freely move left or right to stabilize you. – yo' Jun 17 '16 at 14:18
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    Also, turn you head left to check for traffic, not right; that's another signal for people behind you that you'll be moving left. – yo' Jun 17 '16 at 14:19
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    As a bonus I think that they're not only official but good recommendations. – ChrisW Jun 17 '16 at 16:49
  • Yes, this: occupy the car lane. Let them all go ahead and honk, and then 'wave' to them. – Mazura Jun 19 '16 at 6:29
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The key point here is that 90% of drivers immediately forget about any vehicle they've passed, unless it has bright flashing lights.

The diagram you have added shows that you're behind, and in the driver's blind spot. Attempting pass on the inside is now to attempt suicide.

The only time it's reasonably safe to pass on the inside is when the traffic is stationary. Even then, we risk doors opening, pedestrians crossing, cars suddenly diverging, you name it.

We can be fairly sure that the car driver thinks they will have right of way, even if they do remember that you're there.

So to maximize safety, slow down to let the car turn. If you think there are bikes behind you, signal with your hand (palm facing backwards) to show you're slowing and they should too, or call "SLOWING!".

When you have more confidence cycling in traffic, you can consider overtaking the turning vehicle by going round the outside. This also has dangers, because it's a slow speed manoeuvre that could cause you to swing out into the path of other traffic.

So just wait. Life is short enough as it is.

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    This falls well into my theory: I'm not afraid of dying, but I'd prefer to put it off as long as possible. Just remember - you can't defy physics, the car will win any collision. – FreeMan Jun 17 '16 at 14:44
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My advice is, first and foremost, avoid hitting the car. Argue about who had right of way later. Irrespective of whatever the law says in your country, the collision will be decidedly more unpleasant for the cyclist that the driver.

In Holland, if a driver hits a cyclist whilst turning right, the driver is liable; end of discussion. However, the law varies elsewhere.

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    "In Holland, if a driver hits a cyclist whilst turning right, the driver is liable" - and the cyclist injured or worse. While the law is well-intended, it won't help you during the accident. – sleske Jun 17 '16 at 11:57
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    @sleske I think that's why Ben wrote the first sentence ;-) – yo' Jun 17 '16 at 14:28
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    @sleske In Holland, as a result of that liability, drivers are very aware of cyclists ... – DavidPostill Jun 17 '16 at 22:53
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    The Holland reference needs one thing pointing out: if there is no bicycle lane (separate or painted; or the bicycle converges with the road near the intersection, e.g. dashed lines), the turning car is supposed to (carefully) line up along the right-edge of the road, and cyclists are not to overtake the car (neither on the inside, nor the outside), but wait behind the car. This traffic rule is relatively recent, to avoid cyclists overtaking cars on the inside just as the car is about to turn right (in particular with vans and such, with no rear-windows, this becomes an issue). – 0 0 Jun 19 '16 at 7:29
  • In Germany it's just like in Holland. If you're on a bike lane, just keep going straight. Don't go out of the bike lane to overtake the driver on the left, it will only irritate them and the traffic behind you two. If you're not on a bike lane, you stay behind the car and wait for them to make the turn or you can carefully overtake them on the left. – Sumyrda - Reinstate Monica Jun 20 '16 at 5:29
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If the car legitimately overtakes you and sometime afterwards hangs a right, leaving you reasonable braking distance, then you slow down. Simple.

The car should not overtake you and immediately hang a right, cutting you up. That would be as bad a move against a cyclist as against another driver. If the result of that is you damaging their paintwork, they are in the wrong. If your bike is damaged, take their details and claim on their insurance. Note the "should" though - you could end up being "dead right", so road awareness means being alert to the possibility, especially if other cyclists behind you means you can't safely brake hard.

If there are no other cars behind you, then ChrisW's answer works fine. If there are other cars approaching at speed though, then the "official" way of doing things is likely to land you in hospital. Drivers have braking distance and reaction time too, and reaction times will be slower for unexpected moves like that.

  • 1
    Cars (including cars behind you) ought to be driving slowly enough that they can slow for the car turning right (and therefore you as well). Also if you hit a car which turns in front of you that isn't, so far as I know, necessarily their fault. I think it's generally always safe to slow down; if and only if the traffic behind permits, then you can (also, or instead) change lane to overtake the car on its left. – ChrisW Jun 17 '16 at 12:24
  • "Ought to" but don't necessarily. :( Where those official instructions will particularly land you in trouble is if you pull out left around the turning car, and the car behind you also pulls out left around the turning car but doesn't leave room for you. Agreed that slowing down and staying out of the way while random unpredictable people do random unpredictable things is usually the safe option. – Graham Jun 17 '16 at 14:22
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Continue to ride predictably - so keep your pace and continue straight (unless you are turning right as well on to that side road, in which you should signal as such, and execute your right turn).

Your question has much more to do with what the driver will do than you - therefore if you continue on your course, you are riding predictably, and they can execute the best way to turn, as they are faster and more dangerous roadway user. This also applies to those cyclists or other roadway users behind you.

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    I assume you meant predictably (viz, such that your future movements are obvious) rather than predicatively (viz, such that you establish a logical rule). If not, feel free to revert my edit (but please explain how predicates are relevant here). – Móż Jun 17 '16 at 1:13
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    This looks like it recommends continuing straight on, possibly into the car's blind spot, which is dangerous advice (see other answers). – sleske Jun 17 '16 at 11:59
  • At some point you as the cyclist will have to cease being predictable, and take some form of avoidance or preventative action. The later you leave it, the sharper and more drastic avoidance has to be. Or are you saying that the rider should just keep going because they're doing it correctly, and hope that the car will stop/change ? – Criggie Jun 18 '16 at 2:48
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    This sounds like advice adapted for countries like Holland where the "faster and more dangerous roadway user" must therefore be the more careful user who should look out and give way. This answer is not especially good advice for a cyclist in Ontario, where "a vehicle turning right" is a known (or an ought-to-be-known-and-understood) hazard for cyclists. When I hear or read of a cycle accident involving a vehicle turning right, my reaction is to think that that's one of the all-too-frequent beginner's mistakes by the cyclist. – ChrisW Jun 18 '16 at 10:38

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