Ottawa

Avoiding the 'right hook': How cyclists and drivers can prepare for an intersection

Ottawa cyclist Nusrat Jahan died in 2016 because of a "right hook," when a truck driver turned right at an intersection while she was going straight through. Experts say both drivers and cyclists need to prepare well in advance of intersections to avoid the dangerous and potential deadly scenario.

Drivers, cyclists can avoid dangerous situations by preparing well in advance of intersections

A dump truck driver was attempting to turn right when he struck and killed cyclist Nusrat Jahan, 23, who was travelling straight through the intersection of Laurier Avenue W. and Lyon Street in 2016. (CBC News)

It's a dangerous and potentially deadly scenario: a car turns right at an intersection while a cyclist is biking straight through on the right side of the lane.

The phenomenon is known among cyclists as a "right hook," and it's been blamed for the death of 23-year-old Nusrat Jahan, who was struck by a dump truck in 2016 while cycling in the bike lane on Laurier Avenue W.

The truck driver involved in the collision is currently on trial for careless and dangerous driving.

How can a right hook be avoided? Experts say both drivers and cyclists need to prepare well in advance of an intersection.

Preparation is key

Brian Anderson, an instructor with Young Drivers of Canada, told CBC's All In A Day that drivers should be thinking about their turn before they enter an intersection.

"As I'm approaching a busy intersection, we're teaching that we're going to be seeing the cyclist as we approach it," he said.

For Anderson, this means leaving space for a cyclist ahead of his vehicle at a red light, and allowing them to go through when it turns green.

"I'm not going to go past to then just stop at the red light, even if I'm turning right," he said.

If the light is green when approaching an intersection, Anderson recommends that drivers not only give space to cyclists who are ahead of their vehicle, but also check their blind spot over their right shoulder to see whether cyclists are approaching.

Defensive cycling

But Bill Bourne of the Ottawa Bicycle Club says not all drivers do a shoulder check — and even if they do, cyclists sometimes move too fast to be seen.

"A driver may shoulder check, they may look in the mirror — you're not there — five seconds later you are," Bourne told CBC's All In A Day.

Right hooks have been a consistent source of complaints from cyclists since the Laurier Avenue W. bike lane opened. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC Ottawa)

Part of the reason that a right hook is so dangerous, Bourne said, is because cyclists sometimes try to pass on the right.

Bourne says there are ways for cyclists to avoid a right hook scenario — and as with driving, preparation is key.

As a cyclist, Bourne says he "takes the lane" when he's ahead of vehicles approaching an intersection, meaning that he'll move from the right-hand side of the lane into the middle.

"It absolutely prevents a vehicle from cutting me off," he said.

Bike lanes 'complicated'

Dedicated bike lanes don't necessarily improve safety at intersections, according to Bourne.

"If you're a cyclist riding in a segregated bike lane, you now need to be doubly careful about every driveway or parking lot," he said.

Anderson says segregated lanes can also make intersections more complicated for drivers — especially new ones — who have to pay attention to extra signs and lights.