An Example of Poor Driver Education

Here’s an example of poor driver education:

Friday evening after work (about 6:00 PM) I’m riding my bicycle home. I’m traveling south on a section of divided roadway (meaning it has a median separating the northbound and southbound traffic). Approaching an intersection, there are two through lanes, two left-turn lanes, and one right-turn lane. I intend to proceed straight through the intersection, so I am riding smack in the middle of the rightmost through lane. There is only one car on the road, and it is directly behind me in the rightmost through lane.
The driver honks at me. Since there is a completely empty through lane to our left, I do nothing, thinking that if the driver would like to pass me, he or she is able to use the completely empty lane to our left.
After several seconds, the driver honks again. Again, I do nothing and hold my line in the middle of the rightmost through lane.
The driver then changes into the right-turn lane, and passes me to my right. As the car passes, I can see a well-dressed, middle-aged man shaking his head at me, obviously disgusted that I did not react to his honking. That’s when the surprise happened… after he passed me, the driver made a right turn! A RIGHT TURN!
So why did he honk at me? I wasn’t in the right-turn lane, nor was I blocking his access to the right-turn lane. I honestly don’t know exactly what he wanted me to do in response to his honking.
My guess is that he thinks you should never pass a cyclist on the right – that cyclists should always hug the outside curb line – no matter what – and that you should always pass to the left of a cyclist. So when he approached me from behind, he was uncomfortable passing me on the right – he would rather pass me on my left, then cut in front of me to make a right-turn (see Collision Type #6 – the Right Hook).
A Note to Drivers: if you encouter a situation where there is a right-turn lane, and a cyclist remains in the middle of a through lane, please assume (like you would assume for another car…) that the cyclist plans to proceed straight through the upcoming intersection. Feel free to shift right into the right-turn lane, pass the cyclist on the cyclist’s right (if your desired speed allows) and make a right turn.

5 comments to An Example of Poor Driver Education

  • Obviously, being a motorist, he has complete control of the road. You should have stopped at his honk to get further instructions on how he would like you to proceed.

  • yea, maybe I should have just stopped right where I was and turned around to see what he wanted. That would have made him REALLY mad!

  • you should have stopped. turned around. given him the middle finger. and carried on. in the right thru-lane, of course. that's what i learned at church, anyway.

  • As a commuter cyclist, I'm never sure whether to stick to the middle of road and risk road rage, or to hug the edge and risk a squeeze play (happened once, with a bent wheel but no personal injury), being forced off the road (twice, once by a cement truck, once by a school bus), or an expected drivers door opened (thankfully never).

    And yes, I have stopped and looked back, my only weapon being to delay the motorist. Petty and stupid, but some days, I just have to do something.

  • dr david, I guess every street is different – depending on lane width, shoulder width, traffic speed, etc. Stay safe.