Vehicle driving is blinkered compared to bike riding. In fact ‘driving’ and ‘riding’ seem to be the wrong way round. ‘Driving’ suggests an active involvement. ‘Riding’ suggests a passive involvement. How active are you in your car? How passive are you on your bike?
Project on from the classic “I just didn’t see him” excuse and you’ll know that a lot of ‘drivers’ are passive until an instant sense-trigger brings them to life. That sense trigger could be a flashing red light, road furniture, a big scary looking truck or a dull thump followed by someone rolling over the bonnet.
Bicycle ‘riders’, on the other hand, tend to be permanently sense-triggered because we’re actively involved in what we’re doing. As a rule, active involvement stirs up the sort of self-preservation instinct that results in us being very aware of what others around us may or may not be doing.
Could this possibly have something to do with the fact that around 2,500 people are killed and about 225,000 injured (25,000 seriously) in ‘incidents’ involving motor transport on UK highways most years? It’s estimated that 20 million people will die and 200 million will be seriously injured on the world’s roads between 2000 and 2015 – take a look at http://www.makeroadssafe.org.
Okay, statistics and estimates can become distorted, but even the most road-lobby-protective politician can’t deny that we have a bit of a problem here. And of course all the death and injury statistics don’t include the degenerative illnesses that come from pollution, or the stress of trying to live up to the expectations of the shrunken world of the powerfully rushed, or the tragic families of victims, or those working in the emergency services, often prematurely aged and permanently numbed or distressed by dealing with carnage.
Depressing, eh? Especially when you see the constant flow of anti-cyclist rants in the mainstream press, as though we’re a significant part of the problem. We’re not. We’re insignificant, but easy for haters to use as scapegoats while conveniently managing to ignore the real problem.
Superficially, driving appears to be quite easy. If there's a hazard there'll probably be a warning sign telling you about it. It seems to me that actually looking for the hazards would be a far better idea. When you're on your mountain bike in the woods there won’t be a big sign saying ‘Small Child Playing Obliviously Around Next Corner', but you tend to be permanently aware of the consequences of riding a bike half blind.