Monday, January 18

Thirty Two Turns

Lots of pointing to the RIGHT in today's post!

DEFINITIONS - For purposes of this post, a "head check" is a head turn made to one side or the other, to enable the cyclist to see what is behind him/her on that side. A classic "head check" is made to the left to ensure there is no overtaking traffic before moving into a left turn lane. A "scan" is an observation of an upcoming intersection to ensure that there is no traffic or pedestrians that will prevent safe and legal passage for the cyclist.

This morning, I learned my commute involves approximately thirty two right-hand turns, as well as two right-hand lane changes. Why, you might ask, did I feel the need to collect this relatively useless piece of trivia? Well, it's what happens after I got confused in bike school.

When we were doing on-bike drills, one drill involved head check skills. Somehow, this mutated into the notion that you should do a head check to the left, combined with a right-hand turn signal. I did very poorly in this part of the drill, because I NEVER make (or signal) a rightward traffic movement without looking right. That habit is so strong that I would do a head check to the right immediately after the one to the left. I asked what purpose the leftward head check might serve since any rightward maneuver would be AWAY from anything I might see. It was a head check thing, so I shut up and did my head swivel thing until we moved on to the next drill.

When we did the group ride, I watched the instructors carefully to observe their head checks and scans: particularly before right turns. All consistently scanned foward to see what was going on up ahead that might affect our right turn. None of them did any left head check. I felt less confused, and concluded everyone had simply gotten a bit mixed up with the drill and that was all. I know I get mixed up easily and often.

Still, this morning, I decided it was "Head Check and Scanning Day" in NE Tarrant County on the trip to work. That's when I learned I make 32 right turns and two rightward lane changes. I didn't try to count the lefts. I actually attempted to make left head checks prior to a right turn. I would not recommend this because it diverts attention from things that CAN hurt you, in favor of things that cannot. It also smacks of gratuitously "Looking Back." If I'm going to "Look Back," I'll do so after I have completed my turn and pulled off the roadway to marvel at my leisure about how I miraculously survived that pack of headlights once again.

Having done it, I highly recommend declaring an occasional "Head Check Day." I focused on every single head check and scan I made, and where I made it along my route, as well as noting places I should tighten up my act. I'll correct those shortcomings. I don't know that would have happened without "Head Check and Scanning Day."

Even in class, however, there was one factor that should have tipped me off IMMEDIATELY. Looking behind and to the left before making a rightward maneuver violates THE LAND ROVER RULE. When in the Land Rover, I look left and scan the intersection ahead if I'm going to move left. I look RIGHT and scan the intersection ahead if I'm going to move right.

PS: I tried to count the rights on the way home as well, but lost count about 15 turns into the trip. There are less rights on the way home from work than on the way to work.

PPS: While doing all this turn nonsense, I decided I liked making left turns more than right turns.

Left turn or right. Which is the most fun for YOU?


Rantwick said...

My neck hurts.

Keri said...

Circumstances in which I look left before turning right:

When making a high speed right turn where I intend to move left before the corner for a wider arc. (This is generally unnecessary when riding in the line of sweetness in a narrow lane bc you're already in a good position for a high speed turn)

When riding in a bike lane, I need to look left as I approach an intersection - overtaking motorists can hook you even if you're turning right so I usually move at least to the left edge of the BL before turning. Any leftward move from the compromised FTR position requires a scan to the left rear.

We teach right-side scanning in the drill class, but it's for the purpose of dealing with a right merge. Our road tour course includes a couple of those.

Steve A said...

Keri, I did a special bike lane ride in your honor. I didn't go down any yesterday. Anyway you're right - I did a quick left head check as I approached each of the three cross streets the lane crossed before I did one last left check prior to moving left into the traffic lane a safe distance before the lane ends without notice. FWIW, I heard about Keri waves in class, though you were left anonymous.

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