CRASH! Avoiding the Dreaded Left-Cross

Last Christmas, Santa brought me a video camera.  For 6 months I’ve been recording my commute, waiting for something (anything!) interesting to happen.  I have dozens and dozens of hours of completely boring, totally uneventful video.  It’s the reality of my commute.  No near misses, no horns honking, no close passes… makes for pretty boring video!

One day recently, on my way to work the conditions came together in the perfect storm for a classic “left-cross” type crash.  The sun position, street configuration, traffic levels, and traffic timing all came together in a way that could have resulted in a very bad day.  Luckily an awareness of the situation made it really easy to avoid the left-cross that was brewing.

The camera was rolling, so here’s an example of a left cross situation developing and some tips on avoiding this type of crash:

Although the left-cross is one of the most common bicyclist/motorist crash types, it can almost always be easily avoided with mindfulness and proper lane positioning.  Here’s a fantastic animation that shows some common left-cross scenarios and how to prevent them.

16 replies
  1. Steve A
    Steve A says:

    Had the driver not yielded, you would have had an interesting choice between moving further left if the driver gunned it or moving right had the driver vacillated. The police car two back from the motorist probably would have given you a pass either way.

  2. Waco Moore
    Waco Moore says:

    It looks like a police car but it’s not. I did a double take when I first watched the video. It really looks that way in this part of the video, but I think it is actually a sign in the median that just happens to line up with that car and make it look like a police car. You are right about the choice of evasive moves. If the situation had been different the choice would really have depended on the details of the moment. Right was attractive because it would not have put me in potential conflict with the oncoming traffic behind me. Depending on the distances and timing, quick stop might also have been a possibility.

  3. BikingBrian
    BikingBrian says:

    One thing which I didn’t recall you specifically mentioning was that the further left position caused you to be out of the “shadow” of the van and therefore be visible to the left turning driver earlier than a cyclist riding on the edge. Great work!

  4. Steve A
    Steve A says:

    Waco, while you didn’t exactly say it that way, videoing safe bike riding in hopes of seeing an actual emergency is only slightly more likely than videoing the front yard in hopes of recording a meteorite strike. Your video supports that contention.

    • Tony
      Tony says:

      I don’t quite agree with Steve A. I see near-misses all too frequently. (One reason that, all things considered, I prefer riding a cross-country bike among the unmoving rocks, trees, and ditches than to riding with unpredictable drivers.) Anyway I think I ride pretty safely, but it doesn’t always spare me from insanely bad driver judgment, like the recent time an ice cream truck passed me (only not quite) and turned right immediately in front of me before I even had a chance to see his non-flashing non-turn-signal … so close that I pounded on the side of his truck, screaming in anger and fear. It was a classic case of his having no sense of how fast I was traveling, and no willingness whatsoever to spare the two seconds it would have taken him to YIELD to another vehicle (me).

  5. Waco Moore
    Waco Moore says:

    BikingBrian: Yep. You’re right of course. It made me visible sooner and gave me more room on the right for an “out” if necessary. Also, since the car was starting from a stop, he presumably saw me sooner and had less time to accelerate, which is a good thing in all possible scenarios, I think.

    Khal: Yes there are some nasty patches. Regrettably the intersections are often the worst, and that’s where you really want the good pavement!

    Steve: Still waiting for Bigfoot and the meteorite strike. Maybe I should plan a cycling tour of Loch Ness… :)

  6. Gene Holmerud, LCI#1193
    Gene Holmerud, LCI#1193 says:

    Excellent presentation, including lane position, contributing factors and especially attitude towards the listener and the motorist.

  7. DynamicDbytheC
    DynamicDbytheC says:

    Thank you. I used to only ride off-road. But taking a road bike safety class, riding with a club and information like this has empowered me to put more miles on my bike last year than on my car!

  8. Prinzrob
    Prinzrob says:

    While it is not as effective with taller cars like vans or trucks, I have also found that sitting up straight or even standing on the pedals before an intersection makes me visible above a car that might be blocking me from view of cross traffic. If moving the speed of traffic I will often stay to the left third of the lane both so the driver in front of me can see me in their left side mirror (especially for semis and busses), and so that I have room to maneuver if they are to brake suddenly.

    Of course I still also moderate my speed, keep my hands on the brakes, and check for cross traffic in every direction through every intersection, even when I have the right of way. I have lost count of the number of times I have avoided getting nailed by a car running a stop sign or red light because of this.

    Thanks for bringing up another good reason to take the lane through intersections. Increasing visibility, minimizing left and right hook opportunities, increasing reaction time, etc. I wish this kind of material was taught in schools and driver’s ed classes.


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