Many well-intentioned motorists will ‘wave’ a bicyclist through an intersection, basically ceding their right-of-way to the cyclist. It’s sweet that they are actually noticing the cyclist, but it can be hazardous for the bicyclists to accept this intended courtesy.
Here’s an example:
The other night, our group was at a T intersection. The horizontal bar was a through street without a stop sign, we were at the stop sign on the vertical of the T, signaling a left turn. A motorist on the through street came up to left turn onto the street we were going to be left-turning from. He attempted to yield to us.
Here’s the issue, though. First, there was a car coming from the other direction on the through street. The left-turning vehicle would normally be yielding to that vehicle anyway, so the straight-on vehicle wouldn’t be looking for cyclists or a wave-through.
The second issue is that another car was coming up behind the left-turning vehicle. In a street with a wide lane – and this one had such a lane – that car would typically come to the right of the left-turning car to continue straight. Once again, this is a normal and legal behavior involving right-of-way.
Because the additional two cars would behave consistent with the right-of-way appropriate to their lane placement and direction of travel, a cyclist who took the wave would be placing themselves at risk. This isn’t really about awareness of cyclists so much as it underscores the importance of bicycles also behaving as vehicles, which means respecting the usual forms and process of right-of-way. That this all was happening at night is an extra layer of potential hazard, although the hazard would be there regardless of light conditions.
Remember: behaving predictably is one of the greatest contributors to having a safe and enjoyable time on a bicycle, whether you are cycling for transport or pleasure.