Another bicyclist was killed this week on another dangerous street. Boston Biker reports that a tractor-trailer made a right turn from the left of two motor vehicle lanes. This was a right-hook, where a vehicle abruptly and improperly turns right in front of another vehicle (usually a bike or skater), except that in this case the turn would be totally unexpected. Because trucks make very wide turns, the typical bicyclist would probably “know” that the truck was going straight by the time it began its turn. At that point, if the bicyclist is traveling more than 10 mph, it’s too late to jam on the brakes or execute an emergency right turn.
The truck driver in this case was using the correct lane positioning but nothing else is known about his actions. If the truck driver absolutely could not avoid this turn by using a safer route, the proper procedure would be to signal, enter the intersection and wait until the signal changes to red and traffic stops, then slowly make the turn, giving time for anyone not expecting the turn to stop or get out of the way. Most large vehicle drivers have a tendency to complete the turn as quickly as possible to avoid blocking traffic.
Situations like this happen because most drivers have not been on a bike in recent memory, and many bicyclists have not learned as much as they should about traffic safety. That’s why I argue so strongly against misguided “safety” campaigns that engage in victim blaming and pushing helmets. We should instead be using our resources for real safety improvements like educating people on how to avoid and deal with emergency situations. What if cities and towns provided free bicycle traffic safety education workshops, covering topics like What Cyclists Need to Know About Trucks? And how about eliminating the double standard where cars are allowed to ignore the laws they don’t like, while bikes are singled out among modes for their own selective obedience to traffic laws? As long as cars continue to dominate our cities and kill several people a day, usually without even a citation, others will continue to be killed.