The latest issue of Outside Magazine has an interesting article on the eternal conflict between bicyclists and automobile drivers. One of the more interesting, and most important, conclusions, is the concept that bikers need to understand that most drivers don't harbor malicious thoughts toward bikers, they just don't understand how to react to bikers on the road. Although 99% of bicyclists are also drivers, 99% of the drivers are not bicyclists. Auto drivers don't understand the concept of "sharing the road." They think that roads are built for vehicles. They think that bicyclists are left wing nut jobs. Most importantly, they assume that the bikers will stay out of their way. If a car needs to make a right turn, the driver will assume the biker will stop and give him room.
I have found that when I am cycling, I assume that if I am in a bike lane, I have the right of way. I think its a real important reminder that while the biker may technically have the same rights as a vehicle, its not always the right decision to assert these rights. Riding safely means assuming that the auto drivers will turn in front of you; will pull out in front of you; will open their car doors in your path; and will generally make each ride treacherous and potentially hazardous. The only solution is to ride defensively, and try to educate the car driving public at every opportunity.