Stop 3I got a note from a SCBC member about bikes passing on the right. I sent a reply to him but thought it was good info for all of us to have. He wrote: the other day I almost killed/injured a cyclist.  I am a regular bike commuter and a member of SCBC. I was at a stop light in my car.  My blinker was on, and I was waiting for the light to change. When it did I went to turn, and suddenly a biker flew by me on the right.  I slammed on the brakes, and managed to avoid hitting him.  He looked back at me, and made a face, like “what’s YOUR problem?” 

My note back: 

Thanks for your note! Yes, I agree, many folks riding bikes need to be educated. I see some amazingly stupid maneuvers each day. Just so you know bicycle rider education is one of our highest priorities. We have a couple of programs we are currently involved in beyond our regular public outreach: We provide Safe Routes to Schools programs now in many Sonoma County Schools, we provide a diversion program to the Sonoma County traffic court and we host a really fantastic class, that I wish EVERYONE, including folks who drive and don’t ride bikes, would take called Street Skills.

 I also have a tip that could keep this from happening in the future. As is required by law, when making a right turn when driving, merge all the way to the right you should do within 200 feet from the intersection which will likely place you into the bike lane, yes, into the bike lane. Make sure that you yield to bikes just as you would to a car in a lane you are trying to get into. This should prohibit anyone trying to pass on your right. One of our members was tragically killed 2 years ago when she rode up on the right side of a trash truck, he was not in the bike lane and she was. When the light turned green she proceeded straight and he turned right and killed her. He was found at fault since he didn’t make his turn from the far right of the lane.

RightturnWe teach our riders to queue up with the cars to go straight. I know that this isn’t always realistic or practical if the line of traffic is long. Being able to get through congested streets is one of the beauties of using a bike. In this situation I will move to the front and wait just behind the first car, but still be very aware of their intentions and also aware of the drivers behind the first car. While this is legal to do in a bike lane, please be aware of your surroundings and other road users and the fact that they may have no idea that you just scooted up on their right.

With that said, there are many bicyclists who don’t know that right turning cars are legally required to merge right into the bike lane. They may become upset because they think that a car is moving into “their” lane. Also, the guy you encountered was really making a bone head maneuver by speeding by cars at an intersection.

Oh, we have so much work to do.

As cyclists we should make sure that when we come to an intersection we are aware of cars merging into the bike lane, and better yet, we should move toward the center of the lane to make our intentions of going straight known, that means sometimes you have to queue up with the cars.

Another reason to move to the center of the lane when approaching an intersection when you plan to proceed straight is that you are often able to allow right turning traffic to move through and not  unnecessarily block their movement. Keep in mind, you have every right to be on the road and should not be bullied into making unsafe maneuvers in order to get out of the way of cars. Be considerate and aware, but be safe.