Thursday, March 13, 2008


This awareness test has been getting a lot of "press" from the cycling blogs I read. If you haven't checked it out, go ahead and do so before reading the rest of this post, otherwise, it just won't make much sense.


I've been seeing posts about "the test" for most of the week, and really didn't care that much about it. Finally today I decided to take it and see what the noise was about. I guess I'm not like any of the other cycling bloggers, because I found it ridiculous.

It is intended to show that you miss things because you don't think to look for them, but that's not what it is really testing. The whole set-up is designed to blind you to the other things occurring in the frame. You're not being tested on awareness, you're being tested on focus, the opposite in many ways from awareness. To be aware of the situation you need to avoid getting focused in on a single point, in this case having to watch one of two balls and see which color team is tossing it around. That requires focus, both to make sure you're following the correct ball and that you're keeping an accurate count of the tosses. Awareness would be seeing that there were two teams, that they were tossing balls, but not really caring about how many times or who.

I suppose at some level the point can be made that this is the mentality of many drivers, that if you (cyclist) don't look like a car then the drivers won't see you. Again, if that is what they want to show, then it is not an awareness test, or demonstration, but a lack of awareness.

I don't need a nifty little dancing bear to tell me that getting to focused on a single thing is bad when you're cycling, I just need to ride for about 30 seconds. I think that is true for any cyclist. I know that drivers aren't looking for me, so I ride in a conspicuous manner. I know that drivers aren't prepared for me to appear from certain places, and that's why I don't ride on the sidewalk or use crosswalks with my bike. I put myself in a place where drivers will be looking for other cars, I ride upright, not down in the drops, to maximize my profile, I wear contrasting colors to make it less likely that I will blend with the background.

More important than any of that, though, is that I ride expecting the drivers to not know I'm there. I watch traffic around me, including a mirror. I don't blast across streets, even when I have the light. I keep my speed at a point where I can stop easily if a car appears in front of me.

In short, I do what I can to be conspicuous on the road, but only in case I miss something. Cyclists have a right to expect to be safe on the roads, but we all know that most drivers are not going to see us. I take my right to be safe and file it in the back of my head, and ride as if it does not exist, and the only way to be safe is by making it happen through my actions.

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