More and more cities are installing bike lanes in an effort to make streets safer for bicyclists and combat traffic congestion by reducing the number of cars on the road. Columbus, Georgia in particular has a large number of bike-specific paths.

Cyclists are encouraged to ride in bike lanes when they are available, and drivers should remember that bikes lanes are for the exclusive use of bicyclists. That means, absolutely no driving down a bike lane to try to get around a traffic jam!

Bike lanes are typically to the far right of the road, often right up against the curb. Other times, it might be more accurate to call them the right-most traffic lane, because there may be designated street parking for vehicles in-between the bike lane and the curb (if there are no designated parking spaces painted out on the road, you cannot then park in the bike lane; that is considered obstructing traffic).

So there are some legal reasons for a car to enter a bike lane (such as when crossing the bike lane to reach the parking lane). But does turning right count as one of them, or do drivers need to make their turn from the right-most car lane?

How to Turn Right When There’s a Bike Lane on the Right

When turning right, drivers should do so from the rightmost traffic lane, not the rightmost car lane. This is actually the safest way to do so for both drivers and bicyclists.

Otherwise, a driver turning right from the car lane might collide with a cyclist in the bike lane who is continuing straight!

There may even be a designated right turn lane to the right of the bike lane, so cars must cross the bike lane to reach it. However, that does not mean a driver can enter a bike lane recklessly, or that they have right-of-way over bicyclists in the bike lane simply because the driver plans to turn right.

Here’s how you should enter the bike lane safely to turn right:

  1. Put on your turn signal before you need to make your right turn.
  2. Check to make sure there are no bicyclists currently in the bike lane. If there are bicyclists approaching in the bike lane, you must yield right-of-way to them and let them pass you first before entering the bike lane.
  3. Turn right at the intersection as you would normally, obeying all traffic signals and signage (such as “No Turn on Red” signs and pedestrian crossings).

What About When There’s No Bike Lane and a Bicyclist is to Your Right?

A 2021 law states that when sharing the road with a bicyclist, Georgia drivers must keep at least three feet away from bicyclists at all times. When passing a bicyclist, if the driver is able to move into another lane to the left (leaving a full empty lane in-between them and the bicyclist), the driver MUST do so or risk a hefty ticket. If they are unable to move one lane over, they have to slow down to 25 mph, or 10 mph less than the current speed limit.

If you are turning right and a bicyclist is next to you, be smart. Assess how much road you have between you and the bicyclist before the intersection or driveway where you are making your turn. If you can safely pass the bicyclist, wait until you have done so before moving to the right to prepare to turn, and make sure to use your turn signal so the bicyclist knows what you are intending to do.

If you cannot safely pass the bicyclist, allow the bicyclist to pass you before moving right to turn. If the bicyclist is continuing straight, allow them to fully exit the intersection before making your turn.

Failure to Yield is a Leading Cause of Bicycle Accidents

Both bicyclists and motorists can be at fault for failing to yield. Bicyclists are required to follow the same traffic laws as other road users and can potentially be held partially at fault for their own injuries if they were ignoring traffic laws, such as disregarding red lights, before they’re hurt in crashes.

Related Reading: Are bicyclists ever at fault for crashes with cars?

However, bicyclists are not always restricted to bike lanes, and they sometimes even have the right to ride down the center of a lane (depending on local ordinances) if the pavement on the right side of the road is unsafe to ride on.

If you or someone you love were injured in a collision between a bike and a car, it’s important to speak to an experienced bicycle accident lawyer as soon as possible to figure out where liability may lie so you don’t miss out on compensation you need and deserve.

Contact the Law Offices of Gary Bruce today for your free, no obligation case review.