Ride Like A Vehicle, Pt. 1: the Left Cross


Under the law of nearly every state, bikes are vehicles.  So what does that mean for you?  This is the first post in a series that will take a look at the rights and responsibilities that come with vehiclehood. 

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Just as you enter the intersection, that asshole in the silver Audi takes a surprise left turn in front of you.  There’s no time to brake, and in an instant you’re over his hood and he’s spilled his venti Americano.  Congratulations, you’ve just been left crossed.

A left cross occurs when a driver makes a left turn across an oncoming lane of traffic.  This crash comes in two flavors: the driver can turn left into you as you pass, or he can turn left into your path and cut you off.  Both ways suck, and both ways are the driver’s fault.

That’s because your state probably has a law that gives oncoming vehicles the right of way over someone turning left.  Check your local listings to be sure.  The law will read something like this:

The driver of a vehicle intending to turn to the left within an intersection or into an alley, private road, or driveway shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction which is within the intersection or so close thereto as to constitute an immediate hazard.

Even states with notoriously backwards bike laws protect cyclists from being left crossed with this law.  Why?  Because it was written with cars in mind.

This is one of the perks of being considered a vehicle—although the statute doesn’t explicitly mention the word “bicycle,” lawmakers still have our backs (whether they meant to or not).  Our tax dollars at work!

So now you know: if you get hit with a left cross, it was entirely the driver’s fault.  Don’t feel bad.  They didn’t yield and the law says they had to.

However, don’t forget: vehiclehood cuts both ways!  You’ve been granted some of the same rights as drivers, but you’re also subject to the same responsibilities.  If you turn left in front of an oncoming vehicle and get hit, it’s your fault.

Drivers may often try to yield their right of way to you in this scenario, but don’t take the bait!  Throw up a hand signal, put down your foot, and wait till the coast is clear.  You’re a vehicle now—act like it.



(NB: Not to brag, but our bike laws are a bit different here in Massachusetts.  And by “a bit different,” I of course mean way better.) 

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