Social Question

Disc2021's avatar

Do bicyclist have the right away to randomly dart across oncoming traffic?

Asked by Disc2021 (4488points) October 5th, 2009

So I’m driving down a road at approximately 40MPH. Suddenly, a woman riding her bike on the right-hand shoulder of the road comes darting through my lane as to cross to the other side of the road. Note that there was no Stop sign, crossing/pedestrian crossing, or traffic light anywhere remotely close to where she decided to do this at. If I had not have slammed on my breaks and swerved – I would have hit her. I then fully extended my arm and applied the palm of my hand firmly against my horn for a good 10 seconds as she crossed. Then she has the nerve to scream out “F YOU!”, as if I had done something wrong.

Did I do something wrong? I honked my horn not because I was angry – but to let her know she could have ended her life and possibly endangered mine and any other possible surrounding drivers by what she had done.

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25 Answers

perplexed82's avatar

Technically, no – but that doesn’t mean that they won’t and it also doesn’t mean you won’t be at fault! Unfortunately there’s a lot of cyclists who ignore traffic signals and drivers. Then again, there’s also drivers who ignore these things too. But you have a better chance with a failure to yield a right of way with a driver than a cyclist.

Frankie's avatar

Cyclists, at least in Ohio where I live, need to follow the rules of the road. If they’re cycling on the road, they need to follow the same traffic laws as cars. From what I’ve seen, most of them don’t. I’m all for cycling as it’s better for the environment and healthier than driving, but cyclists need to be responsible and realize that they are regarded as operating vehicles and are subject to the same laws as motor vehicles.

Les's avatar

For as much as cyclists hoot and holler about how motorists need to learn to ‘share the road’, some cyclists (as your lady here) really need to follow what they preach. No, they don’t have that right. They must follow the rules of the road as you do.

laureth's avatar

I’ll repeat something I learned in Driver’s Ed, back in the day. While my instructor was talking about other cars, it works even better if it’s about a bicycle.

He said, “Other cars may not have the right of way to cut you off. However, if they do, they suddenly have the right of way.”

In essence, your bicyclist really should wait for traffic. On the other hand, if they do something stupid like this, it’s still your job to look out and not kill them. (~Hard as that may be.~)

tandra88's avatar

No. You didn’t nothing wrong here. The lady should have waited until the road was clear, or crossed at a different intersection. She’s could have seriously gotten hurt.

FutureMemory's avatar

As a cyclist myself I often run stop signs and red lights, but only if I’m certain I can do so without endangering myself or others. I’m pretty damn good on a bike though – riding down 5th avenue (at top speed) alongside speeding taxis, from Central Park to Union Square was a daily thing for me at one point. Back to your question: ten seconds IS excessive. Car horns are damn loud to anyone nearby that is outside of the car you’re in. Unless you think she did it purposefully, a few seconds of intermittent honking is plenty to let her know she fucked up and needs to be more careful. Also a yell out the window “be careful!” would be appropriate in my opinion. Someone that holds down a loud horn for a long period comes off as kind of a nut – I would probably stop and make sure you weren’t coming after me :)

This incident by the way is a perfect example of why I don’t drive – I don’t want to take the chance of some dumbass (NOT you, the biker) making the wrong decision that could result in someone’s death – theirs’ OR mine. I’m lucky I live in a relatively small city…but on the flipside, cycling in California can be damn dangerous – some motorists drive as if they’re asleep. I can’t count how many times some idiot sped up in front of me to make a right turn in an effort to save a precious five seconds. I felt safer in Manhattan during mid-day traffic than I do here.

robmandu's avatar

Hold up.

How many lanes were going in your direction?

If two lanes, and assuming you were in the left lane, then your tale describes the cyclist merging into your lane without yielding properly. At fault: the cyclist.

However, if there’s only one lane in your direction and the cyclist is merely over on the right side of it, then the entire lane technically belongs to the cyclist. At fault: you.

In the one lane scenario, you are only – technically – allowed to pass the cyclist when you’re in a designated passing zone… just as if you we attempting to pass some other motor vehicle.

In most places and most of the time, the technical rules are not observed as they’re usually impractical. But they can be enforced at will by the police. That’s often done around White Rock Lake here in Dallas.

Still, the cyclist sounds like a real dummy darting out into traffic. But that’s not much of a defense when the lawyers come calling.

Be wary with cyclists in traffic. If you pass one in a non-passing zone, you do so at your own legal (and at the cyclist’s physical) peril.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

I completely agree with @robmandu. I read it as a two-lane road scenario. If this is correct, and there was only one lane of traffic in the direction you were going in, or if you and she were both in the far right lane the whole time, then the cyclist technically was in front of you, and has the right to all the lateral space in front of you in that lane. She did nothing wrong. Yes, she might have been endangering herself, but we all endanger ourselves whenever we choose to venture onto the road, whether in bicycle or car.

And it sounds pretty rude to honk for that long. Unless someone is deaf, they can hear a 1–2 second honk just as well as a 10 second one. Your statement that “I honked my horn not because I was angry…” comes off as total bullshit.

DominicX's avatar

Well, I both bike and drive a lot, so I have experience with both. I cross streets where there’s no signal or crosswalk or whatever all the time but only when there are no cars on the street or if the nearest car is very far away.

But I’m confused, @robmandu, even if the person is in the shoulder, the lane belongs to them? I thought it was only when they were riding in the lane. The example in the question is that the person was riding in the shoulder and then suddenly darted into the street to cross, jaywalked in a sense, when cars were too close causing the OP to slam on the breaks. I thought those were different things.

And of course she said “fuck you”. People are prideful and they don’t like being honked at because it’s embarrassing and the only way to redeem their dignity is to say “fuck you”. It’s immature, but it’s human nature.

LC_Beta's avatar

I’m with @robmandu here, and I’d also like to add that using your horn directly behind a cyclist is quite dangerous – I’ve been startled by car horns nearly to the point of falling off my bike before.

ekans's avatar

Living on a college campus, I see bicyclists doing dangerous things all the time, not only on the road, but on sidewalks, endangering those walking. I have made a habit of looking both ways before I cross a sidewalk, just because there are so many bikes.
When I am not walking, I bike to class, and am always exceedingly cautious, in an attempt to avoid anything similar to the scenario described above. And, unlike @FutureMemory, I am not exceptionally good on a bike that is what happens when the last time I biked before last month was when I was less than half of my current age

La_chica_gomela's avatar

Wait, reading back over the question I’m confused about the word “on-coming”. I might have mis-read the question. Are you saying the cyclist was travelling in the same direction as you or the opposite direction?

nikipedia's avatar

Bike laws vary from state to state. Where I live in California, the law for making a left turn (which I assume is what your cyclist was attempting to do) is as follows:

Permitted Movements from Bicycle Lanes. VC 21208

a) Whenever a bicycle lane has been established on a roadway, any person operating a bicycle upon the roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction shall ride in the bicycle lane, except under the following situations.

1. When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.
2. When necessary to leave the lane to avoid debris or other hazardous conditions.

More than 90% of accidents between cars and bikes are the driver’s fault.

Assuming that the cyclist was making a left turn and made a hand signal indicating as much, she was completely in the right and you were not. And to make matters worse, you aggressively retaliated by signaling your horn excessively. Please be careful. And failing that, at least be kind.

Disc2021's avatar

@robmandu It was a two-lane road (traffic traveling in two oppositional directions) and we were both traveling in the same direction – her being on the shoulder initially, avoiding any vehicles. You’re saying that on a 40MPH road – bicyclists are allowed to dart in going approximately 5MPH, no more than 5 car lengths right in front of vehicular traffic in motion at about 40MPH? I had 3 (heavy) books in my backpack – I had to slam on my breaks so hard that my backpack on the seat hit the ground and I had swerve to the right a little just to avoid her. I could understand if I were some ways behind her enough so that I had a reasonable amount of time to acknowledge someone crossing the road or turning so that I could yield and slow down (I ALWAYS stop at crossings/people showing that they want to cross) – but to do this right in front of me as if I didn’t exist just doesn’t seem reasonable to me. She gave NO hand signals or indication of her actions/intentions. It’s as if I was supposed to read her mind.

@La_chica_gomela What incentive do you really think I have to lie on here? I was very shaken up by what had happened – she could have DIED; I could have KILLED her. Anger isn’t the word I would to describe what I was feeling – I wanted her to know how recklessly she had acted and that if I hadn’t counteracted immediately, something very serious may have happened.

Now I’m not trying to suggest that bicyclists dont have any right on the road or that I have a problem sharing it – I just think it’s nuts if this kind of thing is really justified. Whether I’m walking, biking, driving, etc. – I always check to make sure the road is clear before I cross into anyone’s lane, let alone move anywhere else on the road. I do this for everyone’s safety – not just my own.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

@Disc2021: That’s not “on-coming” traffic. Oncoming traffic is the traffic coming in the opposite direction. It would have been a lot better for her to give some kind of signal, but she didn’t have any obligation to you to do it.

robmandu's avatar

@Disc2021, I’m afraid that’s exactly what I’m saying.

I do agree that it was a dumbass maneuver on the cyclist’s part. But the fact of the law (in many places) is that the entire lane belongs to the cyclist and it’s your responsibility to wait for a safe and opportune moment to pass.

Problem is, in this particular scenario, I’d’ve probably been surprised just the same as you and had a similar reaction. It’s tricky to know what to do when the cyclist appears to be yielding the lane to your passage – so you trust that and proceed – and then have her dart out in front without a signal or anything.

emilyrose's avatar

@Disc2021, I’m a cyclist and not knowing exactly what happened I can’t say who was at fault, but I CAN say that honking a horn for 10 seconds is very scary and distracting to a cyclist. it’s okay to do a quick honk to let them know you’re there, but when I’ve had people honk at me like that, it scares me so much that it’s hard to make good decisions instantly which is imperative when cycling. It throws you off. It’s much louder when you’re outside than in a car.

wundayatta's avatar

Bicyclists, like any other driver, can make mistakes. They may not see you. Technically, they have the right of way, and it is your job to observe obstacles in your way, or potentially in your way and to drive in a way that you avoid the obstacles in a safe way.

The time to honk the horn is when you are far enough away that they can safely look around, see you, and take appropriate action, such as signaling or something. Honking the horn just after the accident nearly happens—well, it’s the same whether it’s a bicyclist or another driver. It’s rude and it isn’t helpful. You may be scared, but deal with it. Don’t take out your fear on someone else. It doesn’t help.

In the future, you should be more careful. You should lose the attitude that you have the right of way. It is your job to assume everyone else is a clutz, and to drive accordingly. It is everyone’s job to do this. It’s just that some people think that others should watch out for them, and they need not do the same. Sorry. The same rule applies to everyone.

And if people make mistakes, cut them a break. Hardly anyone is trying to get killed. Who knows, you might be the next one to drift over into another lane without seeing the car that’s in your blind spot!

Disc2021's avatar

I understand, perhaps it was excessive or rude to honk my horn or that long of a time or even to honk my horn at all. The way I saw it at the time was like this – if I did something as reckless or anything that could have surely taken my life, I’d want someone to let me know immediately which ever way they could. If it were me on the bike – I would’ve wanted someone to not only beep but pull over and tell me that if I hadn’t have been lucky enough to get a driver to slow down that quickly under those circumstances, I could have lost my life.

I’ve had my close calls and I’ve never been in an accident that I was found at fault for but I have made mistakes and whenever I did – someone was always there to beep at me/berate me/administer the single-digit salute etc. to let me know that I did something very stupid. I can’t say I love this but obviously I provoked that kind of reaction with my careless mistakes in the first place.

Maybe she had every right to do what she did but aside from that, the reality of it is if the person driving along couldn’t have slowed down as fast as I was able to, she would have likely died on the spot.

@La_chica_gomela My apologies.

wundayatta's avatar

I think most people are perfectly well aware of when they fuck up. They don’t need any further remonstration. And if they are oblivious to fucking up, then the honking will only mystify them.

Really, the honking is about you. You justify it by thinking it might have some redeeming value, or because you’ve been on the other end of one of those honks far too many times.

Just let it go. It’s not your job to train other people in safety procedures. You get less worked up and have lower blood pressure if you don’t respond in anger to provocation. It also gets you good karma—and is an example of forbearance—something there is far too little of in this idcentric world!

Disc2021's avatar

Actually, sometimes I didn’t always know I was screwing up or screwing someone over on the road and if it weren’t for someone pointing it out – perhaps I’d still be making the same mistakes and potentially endangering people on the road. Maybe this person didn’t even hear me approaching – maybe she thought I was turning off somewhere or something before she even did what she did. Which would make sense (unless she was trying to commit suicide) – otherwise, people generally dont throw themselves in front of fast moving vehicles.

I know it isn’t my job to train people necessarily but I could tell you this much – that person is probably going to be at least a little bit more careful, cautious and alert around the incident of all of this. I’m really not out to save the world – all I wanted to do was honk and let this person know that what happened was serious, lives could have been lost.

Believe it or not, 80% of the time I dont honk my horn when someone slightly cuts me off – or goes when they shouldn’t or screws up within reason. I honk my horn when I think attention is needed; usually when a serious accident could have occurred. I dont have a temper; I’m really not out with road rage, I really dont have anything to prove and nearly 99% of the time I leave the comfort of my own home, I’m not looking for a fight. I understand and I’ll admit, what I did was excessive and possibly rude and maybe I should have reacted differently – I just couldn’t think of any other way to safely convey my thoughts to the person. I’m actually quite glad it was me who was driving and not someone who might’ve been going just a little bit faster.

wundayatta's avatar

@Disc2021 I think that sounds eminently reasonable. I hope that we all get better at honking a warning when it makes a difference (before the potential accident), instead of after, when it is an expression of fright and the concomitant anger.

I get particularly annoyed when I don’t move my car because a bicyclist is on one side or the other of me, and I want to turn that direction, and the guy behind me honks angrily. What do they want? Me to run over someone? I’m just in favor of more kindness out there on the roads. Rage doesn’t help anyone. It hurts the rager perhaps even more than it hurts the object of the rage. I hope we can find other ways to express our concern about others instead of lashing out in fear.

Disc2021's avatar

@daloon That’s an entirely different situation though! In that situation, yes, I agree with you – that is just aggressive “get the fuck out of my way” rage. I have absolutely no problem slowing down or even stopping in the middle of the road if necessary – this isn’t my qualm; I’m never in a hurry to go nowhere. My qualm is people recklessly darting out in front of me without any indication or warning. Honking during the exact start of the incident probably would’ve only mystified and confused this person (as mentioned earlier) while they were right in front of me, increasing the odds that I would’ve smacked them. All I was trying to do was let this person know that they did something arguably insane.

wundayatta's avatar

@Disc2021 I understand. It just reminded me of that other story. I didn’t mean it as any kind of criticism.

billdsd's avatar

Moving across lanes has to be done with due care. She shouldn’t be moving across lanes without making sure that it is safe first. Moving over without due care is illegal for both bicyclists and motorists. She probably should have signaled as well, so that overtaking drivers could tell what she was going to do.

That said, she does have a right to get where she’s going and assuming that she does exercise due care, she does have the right to move over to make a left turn, even if that means that someone might have to slow down (but not have to do an emergency slam on the brakes).

Most states have laws against using the horn for reasons other than to alert someone of a safety issue requiring their immediate attention. Using it to express your displeasure at something that someone else did can earn you a ticket in most states.

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