The Straight and Narrow


The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.  However, when riding in traffic, many bikers are tempted to stray from this most efficient route.  A bent path can be helpful in a number of situations (to avoid an open door, turning car, or pothole), but there’s one situation where a momentary deviation is not recommended: intersections.

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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.

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Today I was riding in the breakdown lane on rt 37, and traffic was backed up for miles. A large cargo van had left an intersection open, and a truck coming the opposite way made a very fast, very sharp left hand turn, just barely missing me. My road did not have a light or stop sign. If he had hit me, who would have been at fault?

Asked by

The driver.

Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 90 §14 has the following to say on the subject:

When turning to the left within an intersection or into an alley, private road or driveway an operator shall yield the right of way to any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction, including a bicycle on the right of the other approaching vehicles, which is within the intersection or so close thereto as to constitute an immediate hazard. 

If he had hit you, it would have been because he failed to yield, thus violating this statute.  As I’ve discussed before, breaking a law can make a crash your fault.

The driver would even be 100% at fault if he tried to claim that you were comparatively negligent because you were riding in the breakdown lane and he couldn’t see you.  That’s because the statute goes on to say that “[i]t shall not be a defense for a motorist causing an accident with a bicycle that the bicycle was to the right of vehicular traffic.”

Now that’s how you write a fantastic bike law.  Other states, get crackin’.