Bicycle quote: Bike-vehicle collisions involving left turns

“I've investigated 50 bike accidents during the last 18 months and more than half of them were left-turn situations.”

— Seattle attorney John Duggan, who represents bicyclists in traffic cases.

He's quoted in a story about Susanne Scaringi, a West Seattle cyclist who was killed when she collided with a van than had made a left turn in front of her. Duggan said vehicles making left turns seem to be a common reason for collisions involving bicyclists.

Police are investigating whether the van driver made an “improper left turn” by failing to yield; the investigation could take several months.

Meanwhile, cyclists plan to stop at the crash site at 35th Avenue and Southwest Graham Street between 7 and 7:30 p.m. as part of Friday's Critical Mass ride in Seattle.

Bicyclist died after West Seattle crash, Seattle Post Intelligencer, Sept. 29, 2006

Motorists should make sure they're not going to hit someone when they make a left turn. Obviously, they don't always check. Here are suggestions on improving your chances:

Bicycle Safety, How not to get hit by cars: Left cross — 1) Don't ride on sidewalk; 2) Get a headlight (at night); 3) Wear bright colors; 4) Don't pass on the right because it makes you invisible to left-turning vehciles; 5) If you can't make eye contact with driver, prepare to stop. (This website has 10 common collision scenarios and how best to avoid them.)

Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition, bicycle crash statistics: A cyclist can reduce the risk of a motorist left turn collision by being more visible by (1) using a head light at night and (2) riding close to the stream of traffic, not near the curb (nor on the sidewalk). A cyclist can potentially avoid an incipient left-turn collision by turning right, inside the motorist’s turn. Making such a sharp turn is usually possible only if the cyclist has previously practiced making forced turns—taking advantage of the countersteering principle to get the bicycle leaned over quickly by steering very briefly to the left, and then immediately bring the wheel back to the right and leaning into the turn.

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