One of the most common car-bike collisions is “the right hook”. A car passes a bicyclist on the left and then immediately turns right. But as the car slows to make the turn, the bicyclist continues straight and either the car plows into the bicycle now crossing the intersection, or the bicycle plows into the car.
Why would a driver do that? It is not intentional. The driver either didn’t see the bicycle at all, or didn’t realize how fast the bicycle was traveling. I’ve had a couple near-right hooks myself. When a van cut in front of me I slammed on my brakes and the rear corner of her van passed just inches in front of my tire. She said*, “I thought you had plenty of room.”
Although the right hook is common, the good news is that it is easily prevented.
As a motorist, slow down, let the bicyclist pass the intersection, and then make your right turn.
As a bicyclist, take an assertive lane position. The Third Layer of Crash Prevention is “Discourage drivers’ mistakes”, mainly through lane position. Ride at least an arm’s length of the edge of the usable road. You are more visible, and drivers can better judge your speed.
If the lane is not wide enough that a car can safely pass you without changing lanes, ride near the center of the lane. If the motorist would have to move into the left lane to pass you but wants to turn right, she is more likely to slow down instead and wait for you to clear the intersection.
Using assertive lane position, I have seen motorists move to the left to pass me, but then slow down and move back into the right lane behind me to make the right turn.
Just being alert to the possibility that a motorist passing on your left might suddenly turn right can help prevent a collision. That’s how I was able to react so quickly to the van that nearly right-hooked me.
*After many years, I have learned not to approach motorists. Report the plate number to the police and the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation (MoBikeFed). Filing a police report creates a paper trail of information which otherwise only happens when there is an injury or fatality. MoBikeFed will send a letter to the motorist, which will be more tactful and diplomatic than you will be immediately after a close call. If an actual collision occurs, call 911.