Tuesday, January 25

Free Right Turn FAIL and an Observation

My Course in Red, The Motorist in Green. The Motorist Had the Green Light
Today, I startled a motorist. I didn't mean to, and I'd HATE to think that I might be the subject of a post such as "Fear" like Andy Cline wrote at Carbon Trace. Still, it was a wake up for both the motorist and myself. Both for different reasons. Let me set the situation:
I was headed north on Bellaire Drive in Hurst, Texas, and elected to turn right on to Pipeline Road rather than either continuing north on Bellaire beyond Pipeline or cutting through the parking lot (I FEAR Rantwick's mom). At the red light, I waited for several oncoming cars to pass that were headed east along Pipeline with their green light.

Finally, one last car, a blue Honda Element, entered the intersection.

As I sometimes do, when the motorist appears to have finally and irrevokeably committed, I begin my turn, moving forward and beginning to apply power. It's the same principle I use in the Land Rover when I begin to accelerate prior to a merge, except on a bike I'm a lot slower and narrower. One might justly criticize me for this, and I wouldn't argue, but it is something that probably the majority of vehicle operators do every day. I just happened to be on my wife's bike today.

Well, the Honda driver saw me start forward, got confused by this, and honked and braked. Crimeny! Now, what do I do? Rather than continue my acceleration and run INTO the Honda, I braked - the driver, realizing she had the right of way and there was no real danger of collision, then proceeded forward. Her wake up was that a situation might arise at any moment and it really isn't a good idea to chat on the cell phone while driving.

I had a wake up as well. After the event, I realized the following:
  • Never begin a free right turn acceleration until there is absolutely no doubt that a motorist cannot suddenly hit the brakes and make things all crazy
  • It is possible for a motorist to be chatting on her cell phone and hit the horn at the same time, though I'm still not sure how she keeps going straight in such a situation since I think there is a period when there is no human contact with the steering wheel
  • Sometimes, trying to do two things at the same time (driving and chatting on the phone), makes a motorist overcautious and prone to flighty reactions rather than inconsiderate. THIS was the wake up for me. It had not previously occurred to me that motoring and cell phone chatting might actually sometimes make things SAFER for the cyclists that share the roads with these motorists.
By the way, there was no real danger at any point in this event. The motorist never came closer than about six feet from my front wheel and I needed to take no evasive maneuver other than a bit of front brake application. The MOTORIST, however, was scared silly, and I imagine her cell phone minutes will drop for a couple of days. OTOH, she probably cursed crazy bicycle riders today.


RANTWICK said...

You got nuthin' on me today, but good post regardless.

John Romeo Alpha said...

I think showing your hand to let your cars know what you're about to do is still the way to go. Perhaps seeing a Yeti threw her for a second. I am considering gluing an old cell phone to the side of my helmet so that people like her might see me with the phone on my head, and get less freaked out.

Velouria said...

I have been in that situation several times, after which I stopped doing that and will let the car clear first. I think more than anything, cars (around here at least) are accustomed to bikes behaving unpredictably, and so they don't trust me to not throw myself under their wheels.

And I also have to admit that I find the other-way-around situations a bit alarming: Cars will start to turn onto my path before I have 100% cleared the intersection, because they assume I will keep going at the trajectory I've already started at. But what if something forces me to stop? What of I fall in the middle of the intersection? If I were a car, I would definitely wait until the bicycle cleared to go.

Steve A said...

I misjudged the driver's ability to react by moving about 1/4 second early. Moments DO make a difference. In retrospect, I suspect her cellphone made her MORE focused on me rather than less. I'd signaled, but it is hard for crossing traffic to see a cyclist's right arm, and the arm gets tired after a while.

I will keep my eyes out for the other-way-round situation. I can't recollect a car turning onto my path anytime recently. Perhaps this is a regional difference. If I encounter it, I'll post on it.

As for the "Yeti" thing. It's been said that Yeti are imaginary, but even if not, I was waiting to turn right and the crossing motorist certainly could not have picked me out from a crowd of other people on bikes.

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