Quick bicycle traffic question...

Nothing happened as a result of this situation. However, I was curious as to the practical aspects of it. I’m not saying if I was on the bike or in the car, as to not prejudice the issue.

The street in question is straight, though with a slight downhill (this takes place on the downhill side of the street). There is a bike lane between a parking lane, by the curb, and the one lane of car traffic. As one of many, many bicyclists who use the bike lane, consistently going pretty fast because of the downhill, your view of the upcoming bike lane is slightly obscured; there’s a slight “jog” to the left because of the start of a “new” parking lane right after an intersection, and the first vehicle parked in said parking lane is large enough to somewhat obscure your view because of that “jog.” Note: bikes rarely, if ever, stop at this intersection because the direction in which the bike lane goes is the only “main” road; the other parts are side streets.

As you bike through the “jog” to the left, you see a car fairly close. It is mostly in the parking lane, but at an angle that puts part of it into the bike lane. However, it’s not much at all; you can easily bike past with the space left. The angle at which this car is in makes it evident that it’s either trying to parallel park (which could involve going in either direction, obviously) or pulling out of a parallel parking space.

Given there’s very little time to make any sort of decision or reaction, what, if any, are the bicyclist’s obligations in this situation? Regardless of his obligations, what SHOULD he be doing?

(I’m not asking about the car because either way, his obligations to watch the bike lane to make sure he’s not running anyone over are pretty clear.)

The bicyclist’s obligation is to avoid impact, preferably without scaring the wits out of anyone (including his or her self). Being a fairly conservative rider, I’d try to come to a controlled stop and wait for the driver to make their intentions known or finish their maneuver. Another, somewhat more daring, but still valid option would be to check for room in the main lane and momentarily move over if possible to give the parking car wider berth.

The car is either parking or pulling out. It would be nice if drivers would use their turn signals to indicate which, but they have no interest in following the law, and the police have no interest in enforcing it seems.

I would probably swing into the car lane and give them a wide berth if there were room. I have a mirror on my helmet, and keep track of overtaking traffic for just such events. Since it is downhill, and I have speed, I don’t need a huge hole. Smallish hole is better in fact, as that will keep car from pulling out and getting hit by car traffic. Even if he is parking and not pulling out, he could door me. I give any occupied parked car a wide berth, and mostly also the ones I can’t tell due to tinting etc.

Also, crossing that intersection, I’d likely already be out of the bike lane where I am more visible, have greater visibility, and more escape options. This is the sort of thing you have to practice and work on improving…even though there is no immediate problem, position yourself so that you have maximum options if/when things go to shit. Where I live, they like to end the bike lanes prior to the intersection to make room for dedicated turn lanes at the intersection, thus the cagers don’t have any reason to think I am supposed to be using a bike lane that isn’t there.

Is there oncoming traffic? I might need to head for the wrong side of the road if that car does pull out.

Absent other good options, I’d stop until this gets sorted out. Learn to use your front brake so you can stop a bike quickly.
And THIS folks is part of the reason that putting the bike lanes in the center instead of at the edges makes things far safer for the bicyclists.

The driver of the car is wrong to pull into the lane with oncoming traffic, car or bike. Period.

That said, were I on the bike, I would try to stop, but probably say something to the inconsiderate driver. Like how he was driving dangerously.

I don’t care if the bikes are going fast, cars go faster still. And I don’t care if it’s not a perfect view for the driver, it’s his responsibility to make sure the lane is clear of traffic before pulling out/in etc.

elbows: I think you’re misunderstanding the situation. How are cars in the parking lane by the curb supposed to get out if they don’t go into traffic?

The car in the situation was facing in the same direction as the car lane. It was “just” parallel parking.

ETA: Or is parallel parking at all in this style of street inappropriate? The width of the lane seems to indicate parallel parking intent, tho’.

If I’m picturing the situation correctly, the cyclist should give the car some room; either stop or pull into the main traffic lane, whichever is safer. He might just slow down until he makes eye contact with the driver, or there’s some sort of communication that the driver is aware the cyclist is there. The OP says that there is room to stay in the bike lane and not hit the car, but if I was on the bike I wouldn’t expect that room to still be there by the time I need it. I try to ride in such a way that other people’s mistakes won’t ruin my whole day.

Am I understanding correctly that it goes car lane, bike lane, parking lane? Is a bike a ‘vehicle’? Well, if so, then the bike lane is also a lane of traffic and the car parking should yield to any vehicles in both lanes of traffic. The car driver was being an idiot.

As for the biker - if it were me - I’d do a quick shoulder check to see if I can pull in to the car lane while starting to put on my brakes. If possible, pull out and go around. If not, hard on the brakes and try to stop in time. Possibly stop to give the driver a reminder of traffic rules.

The first obligation for the cyclist is to alert the other road users - such as the parking car - of his presence by using his horn or his bell. You’re responsible for not only your own safety but the safety of other road users.

And cars are always supposed to park in the direction of the traffic (i.e. they’re supposed to reverse into their parking spots).

Why did you assume the car in my example was not doing so?

I ask because you seem to be the second person in this thread who thinks I’m saying that the car was facing in the opposite direction, and I’m wondering if I said something in my OP that expressed otherwise.


The car should yield to the cyclist; however, the car driver may not see the cyclist in their rearview mirror &/or may be distracted (fiddling with the radio or heater/AC as they just got into the car if they’re pulling out)
Because of the other law (Physics), the cyclist should be prepared to go around the car sticking it’s front fender into traffic or attempt to stop because they will lose if they attempt to occupy the same right side of the bike lane that the car is in.
In general, a cyclist should stay to the right/in the bike lane “unless it is unsafe to do so”. Anything in the bike lane (a car in this case, a tree branch, broken glass, gravel) can make it unsafe to remain there & therefore allow/require the cyclist to move left into the driving lane (of course assuming that there is not another vehicle there that would cause an accident on the left side. )

Although I can’t really comment on US law (is that where you are?), in European countries I have cycled parking is always a “special manoeuvre”, which means you can only do it if you are not hindering other traffic. If that makes it impossible to park somewhere then tough shit, you can’t park there. Of course, in actual practice this is not what happens and cars will park in places where they hinder traffic while parking. I’m just mentioning it to indicate that you probably have a right to safely pass the car, that the car should wait for you to pass and then continue parking.

That said, for safety reasons, moving into the car lane would be your best option in the situation you described. The most important thing is to look over your shoulder, and then make your intention clear by indicating with your arm. Then move into the middle of the lane and swiftly back into the bike lane. Sounds like lots of things to do in a fraction of a second, but I guarantee you, I don’t even think about it. It’s completely natural to me after years of cycling.

I would also advise that in future you slow down on the downhill bit (I know, annoying) if you can’t see well ahead and it’s busy traffic.

On the bike I’d check the main lane was clear and pull out into it to give the parking car lots of room. If I couldn’t do that I’d be on the brakes to stop until it was safe to keep going. I wouldn’t be using my bell because the driver won’t hear it (it’s only useful for alerting pedestrians and other cyclists) and it takes up time I could be using to stop or avoid. Bike-lanes aren’t always a great place for a cyclist to be anyway, they are more likely to have debris such as glass and leaves.

I am just curious as to why it is important that the vehicle going down the hill was a bicycle? or that it was going downhill? or that there was a bicycle lane between the mainlain(s) and the parking lane? That is all irrelevant information.

Consider the situation if the moving vehicle and the parking vehicle were both cars. The moving vehicle is traveling down a street with parking on the side. Approaching a section of limited visibility, the moving vehicle approaches a car in the parking lane that is encroaching on the mainlane. What is the obligation of the moving vehicle? Regardless of obligation, what SHOULD the moving vehicle do?

The answer is the same, regardless of whether the moving vehicle is a car or a bicycle. The moving vehicle should maneuver around the parking vehicle, if he can safely, or slow and/or stop to avoid hitting the parking vehicle. If the moving vehicle wants to be a jerk, he should honk his horn, screech his brakes, and shout obscenities.

I believe a lot of people would agree with that answer if both vehicles were cars. Having the moving vehicle be a bicycle does not change anything.

To expect the parking vehicle to only move into or out of the parking space if the lanes will be clear for long enough to complete the maneuver is not realistic, since the view is obscured and there is no way to see far enough down (up?) the road to be sure nobody will come by during his maneuver. The moving vehicle should not be traveling so fast that he cannot stop if another vehicle were to pull into the traffic lane. If there was a collision, I guess the parking vehicle could be found to be legally at-fault, but it the obligation of both operators to avoid a collision.

excavating (for a mind)

If the bicycle is going quickly, and the car is already in the process of parallel parking, it seems that the driver of the car may have started his maneuver before the appearance of the bike. If the coast was clear when he started, I think the bicycle rider needs to give him the chance to finish.

Are there stop signs at the intersection?

I endorse this position.
Though I might change my answer slightly to say: if there’s parking immediately to the right of the bike lane, and the bike lane & parking lane are only as wide as typical, then the cyclist probably shouldn’t be in the bike lane at all, as it’s not safe to ride that close to a line of parked cars. It’s simply not reasonable to expect someone opening their door to be able to notice a cyclist riding right up against the line of parked cars several cars back. Which means the cyclist will sooner or later get the door prize. And that’s not a prize you want to win.

Unless your vehicle is several feet wide and highly visible, or you are going under ten miles per hour, a line of parked cars is an obstacle as wide as a car with its door open.