Once More With Feeling…

Background Reading

The Responsible Right Hook

I got this today.  Approaching an intersection, I was passed by an SUV.  As he passed, the driver signaled a right turn, and tapped the horn.  Thus I had warning to hit the brakes as the SUV swerved in front of me and around the corner.  Not really couteous, but at least the driver noted my existence. That makes him more responsible than many.


There seems to be a somewhat glaring lack of understanding of current best practice as it is being taught in places other than Chicago. I attribute this to the almost pathological fear of training and licensing that surrounds the ‘cycling culture‘ in the Windy City. What I really do not quite understand is why? But setting aside the fears and resistance to something that is sorely needed, let me once again direct the reader to the proper method for executing a right turn. You will note that everything described above (on the part of the driver) was done as prescribed, it is the rider who is suffering in ignorance.

Source: San Francisco Bicycle Coalition


SF Bicycle Coalition Right Turn Diagram

SF Bicycle Coalition Right Turn Diagram

How is a car supposed to make a right turn from a street with a bike lane? It’s one of the most widely misunderstood traffic rules (at least in California). Most people don’t know the law, and the DMV doesn’t express the concept as clearly as they should.

Through the SF Bicycle Coalition’s dozens of Urban Bicycling Classes across the city, we’re working to educate thousands of people each year on this topic and more Rules of the Road. We educate Muni Operators, Taxi Drivers, and of course, people on bike about the rules of the road. So sign-up for one of our free classes!

A right-turning car is supposed to move into the bike lane before the intersection — anywhere from 200 to 50 feet before — first signaling the lane merge, then merging right to the curb lane, and finally making the actual turn once it’s deemed safe (CVC 21717).

The guiding principle and law is to always make a right turn from the right lane – or “Turn from the Curb” (CVC 22100). Turning across lanes is a big no-no, since it can result in crashes and near-crashes, especially “right hook” collisions. According to 2011 data from SFPD, “Unsafe Turn without Signaling” was the top cause of injury crashes for SF bicycle riders.

A bike lane is a travel lane, like a standard travel lane — and you should always turn from the lane closest to the curb. To make a right turn, any vehicle (bike, car, truck, etc.) is supposed to be in the right lane, so a motor vehicle needs to safely merge into the bike lane (yielding to any traffic already in that bike lane), before making the turn. That’s why bike lanes are dashed when approaching an intersection. Dashed lanes tells drivers they can merge before turning right.

In San Francisco, streets with bike lanes have the left sideline of the bike lane dashed (or sometimes dropped altogether) the last 50-200 feet before an intersection. Unfortunately, few people know what that means, but each month our instructors are teaching all new taxi drivers and bicycle riders about this rule and so many others!



Here is the pertinent part of the California Vehicle Code (CVC):

Turning Across Bicycle Lanes

21717. Whenever it is necessary for the driver of a motor vehicle to cross a bicycle lane that is adjacent to his lane of travel to make a turn, the driver shall drive the motor vehicle into the bicycle lane prior to making the turn and shall make the turn pursuant to Section 22100 [general turning regulations]

Turning from the Curb

22100(a) Right Turns. Both the approach for a right-hand turn and a right-hand turn shall be made as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway. 


One of the rampant misconceptions about motorists which is really sad is that when they ‘honk‘ they are being rude. They are not. What they are often attempting to do is ‘notify‘ you of your presence on their ‘personal radar‘. This is the equivalent of ‘making eye contact‘ with a driver but is preferable because of the obvious ‘confirmation‘.

Urban Cyclists are sometimes overly focused on ‘taking offense‘ when drivers do just about anything. Many are overly worried when a driver takes the time to act courteously and allow them to take the ‘right-of-way‘. The is not only a ‘good thing‘ but is a signal of the growing awareness of cyclists by the general motoring public.

Rejoice and be glad in it!

Taking a reluctant attitude in situations where you are being given a chance to cross and intersection or make a turn is confusing to drivers. It is the traffic equivalent of having someone ‘hold a door open for you‘. Don’t be an ungracious lout and scold the person for doing something kind and respectful. Accept the offer graciously and if possible ‘pass it on‘ by holding the door for someone else.

If we can get past the almost whiney nature of the current crop of Urban Cyclists it will make for a more rewarding and friendly commute and general travel in a city where violence is the ‘byword‘ to almost every situation.

Again, rejoice and be glad in it when someone grants you as a cyclist the ‘right-of-way‘.

SF Bicycle Colation Right Turn Methods

SF Bicycle Colation Right Turn Methods