Motorist Right Turn Conflict
Felicia asked: I live in Tallahassee, Florida, attending grad school at FSU. On my walk to campus I’ve noticed a few close calls with bicyclist and motorist. Specifically, when a bicyclist is in the bike lane going straight and there is no separate right turning lanes for cars, who has the right of way when a car attempts a right hand turn and a bicyclist is in close proximity? Should the bicyclist yield to the car’s right turn blinker, or should the car wait to see if the bicyclist will turn right or go straight, and then make their right hand turn? Thanks for your input and if you’d like pictures of this particular intersection, I’ll be more than glad to send them to you!
Thanks, but we don’t need pictures. This is a common problem called a right hook. The laws are the same whether there is a bike lane or not.
A driver preparing to make a right turn is required to move as far to the right in the roadway as is practicable before doing so. A bike lane is part of the roadway. The driver must insure it is safe and will not interfere with other traffic before moving left or right in the roadway. If a bicyclist is to the right, the driver of the motor vehicle could not safely move right to turn and must wait. Ideally, the bike lane would be properly marked with a dashed line instead of a solid line. That would indicate that the bicyclist proceeding straight should safely (and legally) move into the main travel lane and that the motorist should move into the bike lane before the intersection.
Please see this post for the details and applicable laws:
Alas, motorists may have multiple reasons not to heed the requirement to move far right to prepare to make a right turn:
1. anecdotal evidence suggests the rule is a well kept secret;
2. on many streets with bike lanes, the bike lane stripe has been marked as a solid line all the way to the intersection, like a lane on a running track (runners, stay in your lanes!);
3. by keeping away from the curb until close to the intersection and beginning their right turn from the travel lane, a motorist can often turn on a larger radius, taking the turn faster.
In any case a turning motorist should yield to a through cyclist, but a decent interest in self-preservation should motivate the cyclist not absolutely to rely on this. Cyclists can use various techniques to avoid right hooks (e.g., demonstrate intent to go through intersection by tracking somewhat to the left, while using shoulder checks or a mirror to keep track of any overtaking motorist, etc.).