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Common bicycle accidents: how to avoid getting hit at a red light


Even as many cities become more bicycle friendly, there are still all kinds of accidents that happen when bikes and cars are occupying the same spaces. Because each moves around the city differently, it is important for car drivers and cyclists to be aware of the most common kinds of bicycle accidents that can occur so that everyone can do a better job of predicting and avoiding these issues.

The accident we are going to cover today is one that happens regularly at red lights, and is a perfect example of how cars and cyclists need to practice being aware of each other, communicating, and predicting what each one’s movements will be.

Bicyclesafe.com describes this common incident this way:

“You stop to the right of a car that’s already waiting at a red light or stop sign. They can’t see you. When the light turns green, you move forward, and then they turn right, right into you. Even small cars can do you in this way, but this scenario is especially dangerous when it’s a bus or a semi that you’re stopping next to. An Austin cyclist was killed in 1994 when he stopped to the right of a semi, and then it turned right. He was crushed under its wheels.”

How to avoid this common bicycle accident

The simplest way to avoid this accident is to avoid stopping directly to the right of any cars at intersections. Rather than lining upon the right side of the road (as you normally do when you’re riding), simply pull in behind the first car in line.

This makes it so the car can’t turn into you, and it also makes you visible to any other cars that might line up at the red light behind you. Being visible is the best way to stay safe, and claiming your space on the road in this way helps alert drivers to your presence.

Another option is to line yourself up slightly ahead of the first car in line, while remaining on the right hand side of the road. (You can see this in a diagram on the Bicyclesafe.com website.)

Again, by putting yourself slightly in front of the first car in line, you are making yourself visible to them. While you are waiting, you can even look at the driver and make sure they see you so they won’t turn without noticing that you are there.

If you choose this option, you have to be very proactive when the light finally does turn green. Don’t wait to see if the car wants to turn ahead of you; simply ride straight ahead and cross the intersection. Waiting around will just cause confusion, and confusion causes accidents.

Always be careful when you are riding on the right hand side of a car

Even when traffic is flowing along without a red light in sight, you can still be in danger when you’re riding to the right of cars.

Just because there isn’t an intersection coming up doesn’t mean a car won’t suddenly turn right into a driveway, parking lot, or parking spot. Whenever you are on the right of a car, you are in danger of these right hand turns; as a result, it is your responsibility to stay alert of what the cars around you are doing and that you leave yourself enough space to brake or get out of the way in the event of a sudden turn into your space.

Remember, not all drivers use their turn signals, especially if they are making a last-minute or unexpected turn. Stay alert, and stay safe.

“By the way,” Bicyclesafe.com also warns, “be very careful when passing stopped cars on the right as you approach a red light. You run the risk of getting doored by a passenger exiting the car on the right side, or hit by a car that unexpectedly decides to pull into a parking space on the right side of the street.”

It is possible for bikes and cars to share the road, as long as everyone does their part to communicate and give their fellow road-users the space they need to get where they are going. By working to avoid this common bicycle accident, you can keep yourself safe and help drivers be aware of other cyclists like you with whom they are sharing the road.