Looking, but not seeing

“In the city, ride like you’re invisible. As if nobody can see you. Because a huge percentage of the time, nobody can.”

Jason Makapagal, bicycle messenger

The Crash

And that seems to be what happened last week at a school near me. A police officer friend called to let me know of the crash:

The bicyclist was riding in the right lane of a road with two lanes going in her direction. She saw a car in the driveway of the school waiting to enter the roadway. The motorist looked towards her, and the bicyclist believed that she had made eye contact with the motorist. Apparently, though, the motorist didn’t see the bicyclist, and began to edge out into the street to make a left turn immediately in front of the bicycle driver…

The bicyclist swerved to avoid the crash. Thankfully, no one was hurt.

But here’s the rub. The motorist didn’t see the bicyclist. Even though the bicyclist looked right at her, and was in the right lane, where she was supposed to be. She did everything right, and still almost got nailed.

Looking, But Not Seeing

Many motorists look, but don’t see. Let me explain. We all have filters. It’s the way our minds work. Without them, we could not focus on the important things around us. We couldn’t differentiate sounds. For example; ambient noise would be no more or less noticeable than the conversation we’re in, and no different from the sound of the fire engine’s siren coming up behind us. Our brains have evolved to help us sort out the things that matter. The same thing happens visually. Without any filters, the page-turning of the person sitting next to you in the plane would have no more or less importance than the bag about to tumble out of the overhead bin into your lap.

In the same way, a motorist filters the environment, searching for things that matter. It is vitally important for a driver to know when a car or truck is coming down the road before he/she comes out of a driveway into a travel lane. So he looks, doesn’t see any cars, and proceeds out into the roadway. “Oh, no! There was a bicyclist there! I didn’t see her!”

The reality of that situation is that even though the motorist saw the bicyclist, his brain filtered out the bicyclist. So even though the bicyclist WAS in fact in the motorist’s field of vision, his brain considered and discarded that part of the picture. Now you’re questioning what I’m talking about…Want to see it for yourself? Go here to see what I’m talking about. Really. Take a couple of minutes to watch this video. I’ll wait…

OK, you’re back. That was fun, wasn’t it? Did you fall for it?

Most people fail the test in the video. If you didn’t go take the test, you really should. I’ll give you another chance here.

What happened to you is probably the same thing that happened in the incident I used to start this post. The motorist looked, but didn’t see what was right in front of her.

The Moral

The moral of the story: Please look around you. Please SEE what’s around you. Let’s watch out for each other.


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