A right hook can occur in either of two ways: a motorist overtakes a bicyclist and turns right, or a bicyclist overtakes on the right of a waiting motor vehicle which turns right. That’s bad news, but the good news is that you can take charge of your own safety.
– John Allen
One of the key concepts that Stacy & I try to convey in the Traffic Skills 101 and Cycling Savvy courses we teach is the idea of “Situational Awareness” – the ability to recognize what is happening around you and to assess and correctly respond to a dangerous situation as it develops.
Here’s one example of a dangerous situation that can lead to a crash. This type of crash happens often enough that it has a name, the “right hook”.
In this case the fault was the motorist’s. This right hook occurred in Texas, and Texas (like most states) requires a motor vehicle to merge with cyclists and turn from the right edge of the roadway.
Bike lanes and lanes wide enough to share side-by-side with motor vehicles are more likely to lead to a right-hook. Be aware of the dangers posed by riding to the right of potentially right-turning traffic.
Preventing right-hooks is better than reacting to them. Position yourself so that you are out of the danger zone:
- Do not pass to the right of a right-turning vehicle.
- Merge into a position of lane control as you approach an intersection.
Recognize the warning signs that a right-hook situation is developing:
- Motorist pulling up next to or passing a cyclist, then slowing down.
- A turn signal is an obvious sign, but they aren’t always used.
If you are right hooked, use learned evasive maneuvers and advanced bike handling skills:
- Instant turn – taught and practiced in Traffic Skills 101 and Cycling Savvy.
- Quick stop – taught and practiced in Traffic Skills 101 and Cycling Savvy.
- Know that braking in a sharp turn can cause you to lose traction and skid
- Always keep your inside pedal up in a sharp turn
Remember, it’s always better to prevent than to react to dangerous situations. Keri Caffrey has produced a great video that shows how to prevent right-hooks: