Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Right-hook warning, Copenhagen-style

Posted by on November 14th, 2008 at 1:51 pm

In Copenhagen, this sign is placed directly in the bike lane.
See another photo below for another view.
(Photos by Tom Miller)

Copenhagen should become a sister city to Portland. I can barely keep track of all the local planners, politicians, advocates and bureaucrats who have made a pilgrimmage to the “City of Cyclists” this past summer alone.

Tom Miller, current chief of staff for City Commissioner Sam Adams (who’ll also follow Adams into the Mayor’s office in January), has been on several of those trips.

Story continues below



He sent me a bunch of photos last night (he’s working on a guest article for BikePortland about bike-sharing) and two of them caught my eye.

The photo at the top of this story is a close-up of sign that is placed on the ground, directly in the bike lane, where someone on a bike is much more likely to see it (vs. a sign on a pole that competes for visibility with other signs and might be missed from a bike perspective).

Here’s another view for context:

And a wide view to show context.

I could see these being used in the bike lane on N. Flint as it approaches Broadway (more as a general caution than a right-hook specific message) and/or any intersection with a bike lane and a high volume of truck traffic (like going southbound on N. Interstate).

Hotel zone bike lane

These markings are on SW
Broadway near the Benson Hotel.
(Photo © J. Maus)

PDOT has already experimented with special warnings inside bike lanes, but they lack the classy graphics of these Copenhagen examples (see photo at right).

If PDOT decides to move forward with their bike-only signal idea on Broadway at Williams, maybe they can mimic the Copenhagen approach and place a warning graphic in the bike lane before the intersection.

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  • Paul Tay November 14, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    How to Beat the Right Hook, WITHOUT the Copenhagen Warning:

    1) Check rear-view mirror for fast approaching motor vehicles;
    2) Stick left arm out horizontally;
    3) Roll in front of the motor vehicle, lower left arm, and wave the vehicle through on the rear right.

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  • jrep November 14, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    I can’t help but notice that the bike box in the photo from Copenhagen isn’t green. Maybe they don’t have to be colored. When I lived in Copenhagen, I noticed lots of people of all ages on bikes and that all road users were observant and respectful of each other.

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  • Dave November 14, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    They seem to do a lot with creative and interesting street markings to alert people to what’s going on. See these posts from copenhagenize.com regarding a recent street-restructuring effort going on:




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  • Shane November 14, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    jrep – that is the key. Observant and respectful of each other. We don’t have that here, so we have to paint the boxes green. It isn’t just bicycle lanes. I think you will find the same response with cross walks. Most aren’t marked other than the white lines… you will notice that cars don’t obey the laws to the proper extend with them also. But if you have a cross walk that is marked differently that draws the drivers attention… drivers tend to stop where they should.

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  • Shane November 14, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    Paul – “and wave the vehicle through on the rear right.”
    Depending on where you are at, this would actually be illegal for the car. That is passing on the right is considered illegeal even if they are making a right hand turn. Not that many cars respect this law at intersections.

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  • mmann November 14, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    I like the idea of signs like these (right hook, loading zone, etc) in the bike lanes. Seems like a lot of our attention is on how to make cars more aware of how to share the road, but I think there’s also a place for doing the same for cyclists. I can think of locations where these would be truly helpful.

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  • Jorge November 14, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    Waste of paint. Its like the warnings on packs of cigarettes. If you are to the right of a vehicle always expect it to turn right and ride accordingly.

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  • Icarusfalling November 14, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    I believe the real way to stop right hook accidents between motorized vehicles and bikes is proper education and enforcement of/against said operators of motorized vehicles.

    While a small percentage of cyclists may not understand the dangers of right hooks, most do.

    on the same note, a small percentage of drivers may know the dangers to cyclists from right hooks, but most don’t.

    Let’s direct the signs and enforcement to/at who where it should really be directed is my point.

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  • Chad November 14, 2008 at 10:39 pm

    I believe the lives of the small percentages of cyclist’s who do not understand the danger of a right hook are just as important to preserve as us more learned bikers.

    These bike lane warnings are not for the experinced, they are for the newbie who needs to know about the dangers that exist.

    As hard as it is to imagine to us hardcore commuters with thousands of miles experience behind us there was a “first commute” for every single one of us, and in that first commute we had pretty vague ideas of the dangers that surrounded us. A warning sign that we would pass everyday would have been welcome knowledge.

    It’s also important to realize that for every one or two cyclists who don’t know the dangers of a right hook there are ten motorists who do not know the danger they can put a bike in by being on the other end of the right hook senario. Therefore one cannot deny that a person that drives a car will not also gain insight from these bike warning signs and at the very least be more informed about the threats that they as a motorist can pose to a bike.

    It’s the little things that add up to make a big difference.

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  • mabsf November 15, 2008 at 10:42 am

    I really don’t believe in blaming, but I do think in this case we leave drivers too easy of the hook as Icarus mentioned.
    If cars have sensors/cameras to assist parking, why aren’t there cameras for the blind spot specially in large trucks/suvs?
    When was the last time you actually saw a driver turning their head looking in their blind spot while before taking a turn?
    This should be a vital part in driver education!

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  • Paul Tay November 15, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    Shane, would I really give a DAMN about what is legal or illegal for cars, as long as I survive another day of biking? 😛

    According to a 1973 Congressional Highway Safety Report, “much of what has gone on in highway design and operation practice has represented activity without sufficient thought.” Traffic Control: An Exercise in Self-Defeat

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  • jim November 16, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    {That is passing on the right is considered illegeal even if they are making a right hand}

    If passing on the right is illegal than bikes should not do so. This would eliminate many crashes

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  • rex burkholder November 16, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    At these intersections there are also signs for the motor vehicles warning them of the history of truck-cycle crashes at these intersections. We were told when we were there with Metro’s Blue Ribbon Committee on Trails that the truckers were also doing a lot of driver education as hitting a cyclist is very traumatic for drivers. I think this is because everyone rides there and the drivers identify with cyclists.

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  • jim November 16, 2008 at 8:53 pm

    Another bad there is the signage on the side of the road might not be clearly visable to someone in the 2nd lane if there is a larger vehicle next to it

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  • sweeto November 17, 2008 at 6:34 am

    paul tay…that was over 20 years ago. If something from 2003 said that I might think it is relevant.

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  • Shane November 17, 2008 at 8:38 am


    Yes, in this case you should. One reason for passing on the right is dangerous is that many drivers don’t really know how much space they have. Do you really want them to accidently bump you because they thought they had more room. Why encourage illegal activity?

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  • Icarus Falling November 17, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    Once again,

    Passing on the right is legal.

    In a situation such as a bike lane going straight, with two lanes of cars turning right, the bicycle has the right of way.

    Even when you are at an intersection, and going to the right of cars that are turning, you have the right of way.

    In traffic (and with no bike lane) a bicyclist may pass on the right when in any lane, but never on the left.

    If I hear any more comparison’s to cycling in, or politicians/business people taking trips to the Netherlands, I am going to crap my pants.

    We live in Portland people.

    This is where the living is good.

    The cycling is different here, and our facilities, IMO, should NOT echo those of the Netherlands.

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  • jim November 19, 2008 at 11:26 pm

    , I am going to crap my pants.

    Icarus you are such a poet
    After reading so many different ideas it eems like making this the same as the broadway/ lovejoy intersection with a waitng light to hold the bikes back till the cars are done seems to make the best sense. I don’t see a problem at that intersection

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  • David Hembrow June 28, 2015 at 12:27 am

    Someone just forwarded me this webpage, surprised that you saw the warning sign as a positive thing. Signs aren’t enough to ensure safety. Do you realise that intersections like this have proven to be lethal in Copenhagen ? Details here :http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/search/label/copenhagen_left#lethalincopenhagen

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