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November 2, 2010 > The Right-Hook of Bike Accidents

The Right-Hook of Bike Accidents

By Wynn Kageyama, Certified Cycling Instructor

The right-hook is an urban bicycle-car accident inflicted upon novice bike riders. A novice bike rider makes up more than 99% of all bike riders in the country. This group includes those that have ridden for years and use the words, "I know how to ride a bike". The right-hook occurs when a cyclist is passed by a right turning car or truck. The problem is when two vehicles try to occupy the same space at the same time.

The reason this collision happens is because those that know how to ride a bike learned from those who didn't such as their parents. So what they thought was correct isn't proven in best practices, or backed up by the law. They were never taught "this is how a bike operates". The rules are more complicated these days, so it is reasonable to consider getting trained.

About this right hook. It's the sixth most common urban bike-car accident. It's highly preventable and relatively easy to prevent. Just don't go straight while in the right turn lane. It seems obvious. The problem is if you have not been taught the technique of traffic-cycling within the concept of Effective Cycling the doing it is hard.

What else? If you are going straight, it means you need to leave the right turn lane. That might mean disregarding the incorrectly placed bike lane. (I often wonder why there are not more law suits because of this poor practice). Plan your move, and look back for no traffic so you can safely merge into the appropriate lane position. That position in the lane depends on where the lanes are going. You need to figure that out while you are driving.

For a car lane position is easy because a car fills up the whole lane. A bicycle is narrow about one quarter as wide, so you need to pay attention to that.

What if you are caught in this right hook situation? Just make a tighter right turn parallel with the car. It's not a normal right turn though. The "instant-turn" is the only maneuver you can use. A normal right turn takes too long to develop, so you will collide with the car. It takes too long to brake and that too will also result in a collision.

This instant-turn uses a quick counter steering movement to develop a lean, then you flick the handlebar back to complete the turn inside of the car's path. Practice makes perfect. Perfection is needed so you can do it instantly without thinking. You learn this in cycling class and it's your self-serve lifesaving skill.


Wynn Kageyama is the certified cycling instructor with classes at Fremont Parks and Recreation (www.regerec.com).

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