Not being seen on the road is one of the easiest ways to come to a sticky end. The problem is that doing the obvious things, like using lights and wearing bright clothing, just isn’t enough, because the human brain does some very clever things that have the unfortunate side-effect of making you invisible to drivers.
That’s the topic of this video by Canadian motorcycling channel Fortnine. While it’s aimed at riders of bikes with engines, the phenomena being discussed are equally relevant to cyclists.
Did you know for example that your brain effectively takes a series of images as you pan from side to side, rather than scanning continuously?
These images are the result of your eyes moving in a series of jumps called saccades and the result is that it’s possible to skip over dangers completely, effectively not seeing them at all.
If you’ve ever experienced a SMIDSY (“sorry mate, I didn’t see you”) despite a driver seemingly looking straight at you, this might well be why.
Fortnine’s Ryan explains this issue with help from some amusing graphical demonstrations and then delves into related brain weirdness including selective attention, peripheral blindness and more.
It’s sobering to think even drivers who think they’re being attentive may unwittingly not see you at all, but armed with that knowledge you can adapt your riding and hopefully minimise the potential for unfortunate encounters.
Matthew Loveridge (formerly Allen) is an experienced mechanic and an expert on bike tech who appreciates practical, beautifully-engineered things. Originally a roadie, he likes bikes and kit of every stripe, and he's tested a huge variety of both over the years for BikeRadar, Cycling Plus and others. For a long time Matthew's heart belonged to the Scott Addict, but he's currently enjoying Specialized's sublime Roubaix Expert and having a torrid affair with a Giant Trance e-MTB. At 174cm tall and 53kg, he looks like he should be better at cycling than he actually is, and he's ok with that.