Avoiding 5 Common Driver Mistakes

Vintage Chicago City Sticker

Vintage Chicago City Sticker

Here are some very common driver mistakes to look for when you are cycling in urban traffic, and suggestions for how to avoid them:

DOORING

What is it: Driver in a parked car swings open the door, or —in a related scenario— pulls out abruptly without checking behind them.

What you can do to avoid it:
Avoid riding too close to parked cars. Maintain a straight line riding as far to the left as is practical. If necessary for your safety, take the full traffic lane, as you would if you were driving.
AND
Keep an eye out for any parked vehicles that may be occupied, by scanning their windows. Be especially alert when passing parked cars with the driver inside.
AND
Use a rear-view mirror to avoid having to look over your shoulder, and possibly missing a potentially dangerous situation in front of you.
AND
When necessary, yell something like "LOOK OUT!" if the driver is not paying attention Please refrain from using abusive language. Yell only to draw attention to yourself.

RIGHT IN FRONT

What is it: While you wait in the right lane at a stop light, drivers cut in front of you to make a right turn.

What you can do to avoid it:
When waiting for the light to change, stay out of the lane that drivers might use to turn right:
EITHER
Pull in front of the cars waiting to go straight through the intersection and slightly to their right
OR
Stay back far enough in the right lane to allow vehicles to safely pull in front of you to turn right
OR
If the sign says "No Turn On Red", don't worry about it, and keep your place in the right lane.

CUT-OFF

What is it: This is different from the above scenario, because a cut-off happens while you are moving along a predictable path. Driver cuts you off by (1) running a stop sign or pulling too far into the intersection (2) passing you only to make a right turn right in front of you (3) turning left in front of you as you are traveling straight through.

What you can do to avoid it:
Be alert and assertive when you have the right of way, but be ready to stop or turn, especially if you can't make eye contact with the driver
AND
Be prepared to make a fast right turn to get out of the way, if you can't stop safely. Practice making a sudden, quick, decisive right turn when you are not fighting traffic, so you'll know how to do it when you are.
AND
Yell (to announce yourself, NOT AT THE DRIVER)

SIDESWIPE

What is it: Driver fails to leave enough space for you to ride safely between them and the right-hand curb. Sideswiping is extremely dangerous, and usually happens when a driver of a large vehicle, such as a bus, truck or utility vehicle cannot see the cyclist in their blind spot, but can also happen when a careless driver passes a cyclist too close when preparing to make a right turn.

What you can do to avoid it:

Rather than hugging the curb, ride as far to the left as is practical, or take the whole lane

AND

If you find yourself getting squeezed, DO NOT continue moving forward. Stop until you are behind the vehicle.
OR
If possible, get up on the curb and out of traffic.

LEFT IN FRONT

What is it: You’re riding on the right side of backed up traffic, and a driver leaves room room for an oncoming car to make a left turn.

What you can do to avoid it:

Whenever you ride alongside a stopped line of traffic, slow down

AND

Scan several cars in front of you for gaps that may allow oncoming cars to cut you off

AND

Be prepared to stop.

Most of the time drivers are inattentive, not aggressive. If you have not been injured, avoid confrontations at all costs. If a driver turns abusive or aggressive, get out of the way by turning and riding in the opposite direction or down a one way street. Don't stick around to argue with an enraged motorist.