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« The San Fran’ Fiasco | Main | The Times they are a Changin’ »

Right-Hooked: Almost

Here is a story with an interesting video clip, out of Rochester, NY. A cyclist is almost right-hooked by a police patrol car; the cop then pulls the cyclist Gabriel Zayas over, and lets him off with a warning.

I would hope the cop stopped him to apologize, although I doubt it. The cyclist did nothing wrong he was riding his bike, in the proper place on the right hand edge of the road, as required by law, when the police car makes a right turn in front of him. The police driver is clearly at fault.

To add insult to the situation, the local TV News Station ran the video as an example of police zero tolerance on crime. There was no crime, in fact there was a traffic violation against the cyclist.

The commentator states, “A patrol car is about to make a right turn when a bicyclist darts out from the side, narrowly missing the patrol car.”

Not true by what I see on the video; the cyclist is riding straight down the road and is clearly there before the police car attempted his turn.

I’m pleased that the cyclist did not get hit, and this video just goes to show how quickly the right hook can happen. When approaching an intersection like this, be aware of cars passing and slowing down at the same time; the engine sound is a clue.

An experienced cyclist would be about three or four feet from the curb at this point, making themself more visible. If you are directly in front of a car it is clear that your intention is to go straight. The best way to avoid the right hook is, if possible not let a vehicle overtake you as you approach the intersection.

I think the Rochester Police Department, and the News 10 NBC owe Gabriel Zayas an apology.

My thanks to Chuck Fujita from Rochester for this link.

Reader Comments (36)

Dave, I don't know if I agree on this one. The bicycle seems to be overtaking the vehicles, on their right side, when approaching the intersection. Had the patrol car overtaken the cyclist prior to turning, that would be a whole different story.

I do not know New York state traffic code, but overtaking on the inside or right side of a lane is against the law just about anywhere, as is overtaking in intersections.

August 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJan

This is typical of how the right hook happens, the car starts to pass the cyclist then brakes to turn the corner, and the car quickly slows to the same speed as the cyclist, so the cyclist is along side the car and the driver doesn’t realize this. I agree the cyclist may not be riding smart, but he is doing nothing wrong.

August 20, 2008 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

Hello again Dave.

No car is passing the cyclist on this film-clip and to say who is at fault is purely speculation.

I have personally been run down twice in the exact situation you describe (and while riding in a bike-lane both times, no less), but again, I am not so sure this is actually one of those situations.


August 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJan

Poor road-positioning from the cyclist. If you leave motorists enough room alongside you when passing through intersections, you're gonna get hooked sooner or later. It's safer to take the whole lane through intersections.

But as an example of zero-tolerance it's ridiculous. It's more an example of police intolerance towards cyclists and police ignorance of the law.

August 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAdrian

I agree with Adrain's comment. Poor lane positioning, and using that as an example of zero-tolerance now makes all of those non-bicycling viewers think that the cyclist was in the wrong for being in the road in the first place. Cycling the streets of Rochester just got a little more difficult.

August 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKendall

I don't see how anyone can defend the police on that one. This is about as clearly a right hook situation as one can imagine. There's no ambiguity in this one whatsoever. Both police cruiser and bicyclist are going in the same direction, cruiser turns right despite bicycle being there, bicycle swerves right to avoid car. The rider may have been hugging the curb too much for his own optimal safety, but that's a judgment call, not a matter of breaking the law. With a policeman like that, had he taken the lane more, he would probably still have been stopped by the cop for impeding traffic.

From what I've seen, zero tolerance policing often ends up becoming police arrogance. It's only open season against those who clearly look like they would not have the means to defend themselves.

August 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPierre

Having been a police officer (San Jose, badge 2933) I can relate with doing something "dumb" while on duty and having to back pedal -- i.e. blame the other guy. Personally, had this happened to me, I would have tipped the police officer for not running into me. "Sir, here's a dollar and thank you for not killing me."

Of course, those sorts of comments get you in a LOT of trouble with police -- unless you happen to know how "their system" works.

Meanwhile remember the ultimate law of "Right of Way" -- Gross Tonnage Rules. Ask any sailor about it :)

August 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJames Thurber

The bicyclist definitely was not very skilled. However, it is difficult to tell who was at fault for the near-miss.

It is hard to do the right thing all of the time though. There are times when it is clear when to take the lane, and times when you clearly belong on the side of the road. Most of the time it's a judgment call.

August 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Crowell

If the consequence weren't so serious and the event so frequent - amplified by involving a "law enforcer" - what happened to Gabriel and the resulting video would be hysterical.

The hypocrisy is astonishing. The authorities' lack of recognition is staggering.

While their jurisdiction surely has to go to lengths to deal with crime, holding up a cyclist who's clearly obeying the rules of the road as an example of a hoodlum clearly attacking the Public Good is disturbing. Has he committed a Thought Crime?

Giving Gabriel an apology is a good start.

August 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

When in that situation shouldn't one not be overtaking cars on the inside like that at an intersection? I was always under the impression that one should position oneself in the middle of the lane through an intersection like that. It would be awfully difficult as a car driver to see someone coming up on you on the inside of the corner. Now if the car overtook the biker and did a right hook I would think differently about the situation. It just strikes me as positioning oneself in such a way to get hit. Perhaps I am more paranoid about it and put myself out in traffic at intersections as if I were a car so people can see me and not clip me.

If you disagree with me that is cool. I am posing this really as a questiion.

August 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPrintenv

Fortunately the cyclist was not hurt in this instance. It really would have been helpful if there would have been a few seconds of video showing what lead up to the right hook. I also couldn't tell if the car's turn signal was on due to the poor quality of the video on News10NBC.com However the info at NYSDOT does indicate that the police officer was at fault. From: https://www.nysdot.gov/local-programs-bureau/biking

Section 1146. Drivers to exercise due care. Notwithstanding the provisions of any other law to the contrary, every driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any bicyclist, pedestrian or domestic animal upon any roadway ...
And from: https://www.nysdot.gov/bicycle/safety-and-laws/tips.html

When passing by a cyclist, check over your shoulder to make sure you have allowed adequate distance before merging back in or attempting a right hand turn. Experienced bicyclists can ride 20-25 mph and may be closer than you think.

August 20, 2008 | Unregistered Commentercyclonecross

(One more thing: How the heck did there come to be such a good video of this in the first place?

You have to wonder...)

August 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

Dave, while the police car may have been technically correct, for his own safety, the cyclist was completely inexperienced. He shouldn't be riding next to a cars that could turn right at any time in the first place. Also it looks like he was riding too fast and seems he didn't have any idea what could happen, (a right cross). Lastly, he should have been always watching the car's right front wheel for any signs of turning.

August 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterGary

Hi Dave, I think the police officer is wrong. As one who "sets an example" of obeying the law and trained to "be observent," police officers should be completely aware of their surroundings in traffic situations. This officer probably doesn't ride a bicycle and if he does it may be in the park. If he had any experience riding in city traffic, he would be "aware" that cyclists may approach him on the right whether to continue straight or turn. It appears that this part of Rochester is more of a suburb and not super busy. In "serious " city traffic I ride where I feel is safe. Depending on the lane width and how the traffic is flowing I might be right up against the curb. You can try to take a whole lane, but in some instances you are asking to be hit. I'm sure others who are reading your blog are aware of the " incident" here in LA involving the Doctor who yelled at two cyclists to ride single file on Mandeville Canyoun Road ( a residential street with plenty of room to pass cyclists) and then pulled in front of the riders and slammed on his brakes causing seroius injuries two both riders. Well this kind of crap happens all the time here and I'm willing to bet it happens everywhere. Non cyclists in their "all about me" world are more interested in themselves and getting to their destination in their cars. I wasn't aware if the video shows the police car with a turn signal on? If so, the cyclist should have been aware of this and waited for the police car to turn. The cyclist also claimed his brakes did not work very well. Who in there right mind would travel anywhere on a bicycle (or car) with bad brakes ? This is a fault of the cyclist. However, if no turn signal was being used (and how many millions of times I could prove this to you including LA's finest police force), then the cyclist clearly did not commit an infraction and the police officer is clearly in the wrong. As a cyclist in traffic, one must ride as if every car will turn or cut you off. You must "always" assume drivers are not aware of you and in turn ride accordingly. If you don't it's just a matter of time before you have some type of incident. If that policeman had stopped me and he wasn't using his turn signal, I would have asked for a supervisor to be present. Here in Los Angeles you can do this. Then they both would would get an ear full from me. If I'm in the wrong, please cite me. But don't give the "blue uniform" attitude to me if you are wrong. An appology would be do. Brian

August 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLA Bike Commuter

When the lane is narrower I always try to take the lane. Sometimes if I can hear the car behind me I'll slow down let them pass me and then take the lane behind them as I don't trust most drivers. But when i don't, when there is adequate room to get on their right and turn I try to make eye contact with the driver. I tend to do the same at intersections especially four way stops and when some one is still creeping on me (I don't think anyone stops for signs around me) I tend to stare a little longer which surprisingly is pretty effective.

August 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDan

And the cop didn't use his turn signal! Let's give him a ticket for failure to signal!!!

Steve Crane

August 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Crane

dave, how about some more history or something different, all your thoughts (whether i agree or not) on anti-cycling media and road use are great, and im also a regular reader of your blog, but every time i read one of these it makes me that tiny bit more paranoid everytime i go out on my bike by being reminded that something bad could happen, and im that addicted to your blog that i read it anyway, i apologise for this but i want to learn more about how cycling in the uk used to be, maybe an article on something historic? although it is your blog and your thoughts should be typed out and shared in your own time.


Mike (UK)

August 20, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermike

To say that the cyclist is inexperienced is missing the point here.

There are 40 million people riding their bikes annually in the US. It is fair to say that well over 95% of them would be considered less experienced than anyone reading cycling specific blogs. Poor lane positioning (whatever that is) or not, the cop seems to be in the wrong here and would have gotten yelled at or waved to from anyone reading this blog if it happened to you.

Oh yeah and the kid wasn't wearing a helmet either. Punk.

August 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPierre

I can't see that the cop signaled a turn -- he certainly didn't look to his right, as is his obligation as a driver. And the rider didn't "dart out" of anywhere... he kept a straight line, and didn't break any "rules of the road" that I can see. This is nothing more than an egregious abuse of authority, and calling it "zero tolerance on crime" is patently absurd.

I'm sure we could pick apart the rider's actions and find something he did wrong, but he is very clearly in the right here. I wonder: if he'd been on a Cervelo and wearing road kit, would he be treated differently a) by the cop, b) by the media, and c) in the comments here.

August 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJeff Ong

Yeah, go ahead and blame the police for this one - problem is we do not see enough of what happened before this clip to accurately place the blame, so we riders stereotypically blame the other guy, just as the policeman did.

Here's the rub, was the police car originally ahead of the cyclist and signaling a turn and then, impatiently, instead of slowing his bike down, the rider decides to try to speed through before the police car can make the turn, thereby precipitating this encounter?

So, go ahead, jump to conclusions when you haven't the information to make a good decision.


August 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJim Lane

Looks like both were at fault in this incident. But this kid riding with no helmet, and on a bike he admitted has bad brakes, reminded me of what I often tell my noncycling wife when she complains about seeing some rider make a stupid move: There's a difference (at least in my mind) between a "bicyclist" and a dumbass who happens on a bike.

August 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTim

The cop should have punched the cyclist in the face for riding his bike to go see his girlfriend. The cyclist should have accepted this as being the way things work.

August 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterOr something...

Was there a stop sign at the intersection? If not, I'm at a loss as to what "rule of the road" the bicyclist was "violating," and I'd take it to traffic court - and if I were the judge and saw the video, I'd recommend Road I for the guy and not to ride on a bike with bad brakes. Saying he didn't do anything wrong... but his bike has bad brakes as if that excused him from having to proceed through the intersection with traffic - welp, that could be the "rule of the road" invoked.
Legalities aside, I'd be all over the tv station's assorted Powers That Be to get them to go find out more about bicycling and driving and do another story that didn't send the message that cyclists should just get out of the way.

August 20, 2008 | Unregistered Commentersiouxgeonz

The point is not really who was at fault. Leaving the legalities aside, there is probably some blame for something not exactly right on both sides. The thing is, why would a media news programme hold this up as an example of great zero-tolerance against crime policing. What's the crime? Being stupid is perfectly legal as far as I know, and lucky it is, because there's plenty of that among both bicyclists and police officers.

August 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPierre

I smell a fish on this one.
It's a setup; the Channel 10 News and Rochester Police Dept. have created a "Rider's Education" film, like what we saw in the 70's.
It has many signs of being a fake just as the press conference with the hicks from Georgia who "found" a Bigfoot body was a hoax.

August 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

1. I watched the video over and over and can't see that the cop car has a right turn signal on.

2. The cyclist only appears to be trying to overtake the car because he's maintaining his speed while the car is slowing down, or he's trying to get ahead and into the cop's line of sight or out of his way.

3. The cop obviously hasn't looked in his RH mirror, or if he has, he's deliberately trying to hit the cyclist.

Cops are human and it's only human nature to try and blame the other guy if you screw up. That's what the cop did. Hopefully he learned something from this incident and will be more careful next time.

August 20, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterjohnb

The whole point of the video is for Sheriff Duffy to promote his program of intimidation (or is that compliance?). So Channel 10 went along with it, found a homeless kid to play the part of riding his bike while a cop shows who the boss is.
Like the propaganda Driver Education films of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s it doesn’t care about its own veracity, just so it instills fear; fear=obedience.
Have terrorists dropped a Dumb Bomb over America, or has inbreeding reared its ugly head?
I also wonder how much they paid the homeless dude.

August 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

Hi folks,

We're running this story over at RocBike.com, a cycling site that covers Rochester and the other cities in upstate New York. We've got an open letter to News 10 NBC posted at the site. If you'd like to politely suggest that they use this as a teachable moment, please visit:

An Open Letter To News 10 NBC


Jason Crane

August 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJason Crane

what's it they say in britian? acab? or something like that.

(not indicative of my thoughts or feelings... just an observation)

August 21, 2008 | Unregistered Commentertofu

...you guys wanna talk about "who's at fault here", how about addressing the real issue...i am very surprised by you, mr moulton, that in watching that video, the best you can respond to is the 'second' story...i consider you to be quite erudite, sir but you completely dropped the ball...(sorry, missed the wicket)...

...first & foremost news 10 nbc owes both zayas & the public in general, an serious apology for even trying to tie the cycling part of this story in w/ mayor duffy's "zero tolerance on crime"...

...you wanna talk guns, drugs & real crime, i think we'd all stand up & applaud that they're accomplishing a lower murder rate & making things safer for their citizens but this is pure unadulterated crap to lump anything involving cycling & duffy's program, together...if you've got a pedal-by shooting, ok, but this is ridiculous & smacks of an overzealous tv station that's been primed by a concerned but overzealous police department...

...the mayor, the police chief & the station manager oughta appear on screen together & set the real story straight...

...then & only then should the the cop & cyclist story be addressed...& if the cop is wrong, he oughta man up, authority figure or not...

...i'm not even gonna address the the cop & the cyclist other than to say they both oughta be paying attention & they both oughta be considering "the other guy"...

August 21, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterbikesgonewild

I took the relevant clip from the news report and made a little safety video out of it for riders in my country of Singapore, entitled "How to Ride Your Bicycle in Singapore (And Not Die): The Left Hook"


(We ride on the left side of the road, so we are get Left Hook here)

August 21, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermrbrown

"Some use this whole concept as a political forum and it's wrong" says Duffy. Exactly, especially the role licensed news network have in promoting political concepts for an elected official.

August 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJack

I agree with those who suggested that this scene was a set up from the beginning. Isn't it amazing that the camera crew happened to be focused in on that particular corner just in time to catch the incident? No, this was a set up.

Also, as a cyclist, I place the blame on the rider, not the police. It is irresponsible, illegal, and stupid to split the lane like he did, because as anyone who has ridden a bike in traffic knows, drivers can and will do whatever they want. I used to split lanes like that all the time as a commuter, but no longer. The first time I got right hooked, I learned my lesson.

Had this fake-kid taken the fake-lane, instead of fake-hugging the fake-curb, this fake-incident would never have fake-happened.

We have a phrase that bicycle advocacy groups have been touting. It says, "Same Road, Same Rules, Same Rights." If we are going to claim the same rights and same roads part, we have to embrace the same rules part too.

August 21, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterjasonk

When some of you who mention "not splitting lanes", I'm curious to know exactly what you mean by this. Unless I'm not understanding it, just following along behind the cars ahead no matter what they are doing would pretty much negate any of the few advantages that cyclists have in relation to car traffic.

BTW, I also suspected at first the clip may have been faked for someone's purpose. There's very little integrity in media these days, and with most reporting just being based on whatever video clips and press conference information they are handed, you never know what to believe. But on the other, with all the ways people have of catching things on video these days, you never know for sure.

August 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPierre

I cannot tell whether the officer overtook the cyclist immediately before making the turn or whether the cyclist was overtaking the officer. If the cop passed the cyclist and then slowed to make the turn, this indeed is the classic right hook.

But overtaking a vehicle on the right (i.e., the blind spot) and along the curb just before an intersection is not particularly wise, and it appears the cyclist did not slow down as the officer slowed down to make the right. Neither the cop nor the cyclist neccesarily showed good form. Hard to tell who was more at fault from this little clip. But the cop should have been given a lecture, too. I might be writing the TV station a letter tonight wearing my League Cycling Instructor hat.

More ominously, the cyclist about to be turned into road kill is used as an example of the need for "zero tolerance" against crime. What crime was committeed here? At worst, a moving violation or bad traffic judgement. Or are we (i.e., the cops and willing TV station accomplices) stereotyping this kid as some sort of street hood? If there was a near-victim, it was the hapless cyclist--victim of bad training and hostile politicians. This was shoddy journalism at its worst.

As a former Rochester, N.Y. resident (19th Ward) and native of Western New York, I am a little appalled.

August 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKhal Spencer


I had something like that happen to me. I was in the position of the police car only I was driving a small truck. Instead of a bike, a car squeezed in between me and the right curb despite the fact that I was in the right-most lane and I had my turn signal on. It was a small car so I didn't see it in my side mirror.

Upon making the turn the truck frame tore a hole in the side of the car that had somehow squeezed around a parked car to get there.

The insurance company said that it was my fault because the vehicle furthest to the right ALWAYS has right of way for a right turn. Even though there was absolutely NO way he could have gotten to that corner since my truck left only perhaps 3 feet to the right curb at the corner.

So my company chose to pay the damage to that car and I got points knocked off of my driving record. Hmm, is there anything that makes sense anymore?

August 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTom Kunich
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