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Why don't they see us?

Discussion in 'New Riders and Riding Tips' at netrider.net.au started by raven, Jul 3, 2010.

  1. Well for one thing - we ARE a small target.

    Alot of drivers aren't just idiots. Would you say YOU are an idiot when you're driving your car? I know I'm not, AND I'm bike centric, and still don't spot the odd bike rider now and then.

    So apart from being a small target, there is another major issue often not considered. The background.

    Be conscious of the general background that is behind you as you ride along. Consider just how well you might be blending in. The fact that you exist, doesn't mean you're "seen".

    Of course this applies at night especially!

    Coming home from work, peek hr traffic - a driver ahead waits to pull out into the traffic. Consider what he is seeing as he looks down the road in your direction...mmm...what's behind you - a myriad array of headlights, maybe a shopping centre all lit up. You would be wise to consider yourself hidden within the sparkling, glaring, jittering lights. Effectively invisible to the regular cager, just trying to get home like you are.

    So, just be a little aware of the background and assume you might be lost in it, and ride accordingly. Even in broad daylight.
  2. Good points - not too mention sunrise and sunset.....

    We can also be our own worst enemy, droning along in cars blind spots

    Sorry for the clichés but; ride like you're invisible, expect the unexpected and it doesn't matter whose fault an accident is....
  3. People dont see you because they are not looking. Been quilty of it myself before.
  4. exactly, if you ride like you dont expect people to see you, you cant go too far wrong.

    a certain amount of paranoia in a motorcyclist is not a bad thing

  5. (oz_johnno
    if you ride like you dont expect people to see you, you cant go too far wrong.)
    Tried that but found out that it doesn't work for cops.........they can see....
  6. There's another aspect to this - our brains automatically extrapolate conclusions from snippets of information. When I'm driving, if I see a car in the right hand land moving up faster than I am going, I seem to make a calculation as to roughly when I am expecting this car to move through my blind spot and pop out in my peripheral vision.

    I make it a point to ride "predictably" whenever possible so that those drivers who have seen me actually have a pretty good read on where I am.

    I have lost count of the number of bikes who've caught me by surprise both when I'm driving and when I'm riding... and I'm pretty diligent at scanning and checking mirrors (though I know I need to improve - I still catch myself focusing on the car I'm following rather than just keeping track of it with "peripheral" vision if you know what I mean). If you want to be seen you can improve your chances by riding in such a way that you are where drivers expect you to be.
  7. The way I see it - Other road users should be looking for us (and vice versa), but we don't have to turn it into a game of hide-and-seek.

    Consciously stay out of blindspots, and try to avoid looking like a gap between cars.
  8. I spend a lot of time in the car for work & I see plenty of riders that seem to sit in blind spots when I'm driving. I only know they're there because I've been checking my mirrors and see them coming up behind me. That said, there's plenty of cars that like to sit in other drivers blind spots also.

  9. Hence why I wear a fluro vest over my riding gear. I don't give a toss if it's not cool, I want to be seen. I believe it helps enormously to being seen rather than the regular all black that we typically wear.
  10. I read a study ages ago that concluded that motorists were much more aware of and likely to see vehicles their own size or larger rather than smaller ones. This held true for cars, trucks, busses etc. who saw other trucks but missed cars. The study also conceeded that cyclists and riders who drove bigger vehicles were generally more observant of all traffic.

    An example of this to a lesser extent is when you get a new car, all of a sudden you spot the same model everywhere. When you jump on a bike, all off a sudden you see every single bike on the road whereas if you are a driver only you just don't notice them.

    Me personally, I focus on not putting the bike in positions where a driver who hasn't seen you can take you out. Avoid sitting beside cars on the freeway, taking care passing stopped traffic etc.
  11. I'm with Drewbytes, I wear a fluoro vest.

    I also find that staring at the driver yelling "can you see me, can you see me" inside my helmet (which is bright yellow and silver) helps me feel better.

    I like the points about staying out of drivers blind spots, something else to think about for me.
  12. Another thing to think about is that our visual system and brain are designed for pattern recognition. We recognise shapes and fill in the details. How do we form these patterns, you ask? Repeated exposure. We see trucks, cars, and vans on the road in huge numbers, and our brain becomes wired to recognise these as potential hazards. There are far fewer motorcycles on the road, so unless you have a particular interest in bikes you are unlikely to form the same degree of automatic pattern recognition for motorcycles that you have for other vehicles.

    Here in Australia we use the acronym SMIDSY, for Sorry Mate, I Didn't See You. In the UK the police reports have a different acronym for the same phenomenon. LBDNS - Looked But Did Not See. You can be wearing a high-viz vest on a canary yellow bike and have a car driver look straight at you before pulling out directly in front of you. They may have looked directly at your bike, but their brain didn't recognise one of the patterns it has been trained to detect, so they were never consciously aware of your presence.

    To take it back to Raven's original post - imagine how much less likely they are to see you if you are on a grey bike (like mine) against a grey road, in poor light conditions. Or, as other people have pointed out, if you are cruising along in somebody's blind spot for ages so they never even have a chance to register your presence.

    I'm a firm believer in riding as though people haven't seen me, and might change lanes on top of me or pull out in front of me at any moment.
  13. Good post mate...and thanks for adding a little bit of the science behind "why" we get missed...
    Come to think of it...considering my first example...at night in peak hr with alot of lights scattered around, and the facts that you described, I'm actually a bit amazed that we get seen as much as we do! - seriously!

  14. Back in the dayI used to have to comute through london used to have helly hanson sailing gear for waterproofs now these thing are white and bright yellow.
    This doofus cut me up sorry mate didn`t see you. Are serious I look like a xmas tree
  15. There was one study that found people who personally knew and were close to someone who rides were less likely to be involved in an accident with a bike...

    So let's not forget the social aspects, as they too play a large part. Our vision is so much more than simple optics - a lot of processing goes behind the scenes before something finally registers on the radar of our consciousness and produces a response!
  16. I used to drive a race support truck occasionally - try to imagine a semi trailer painted in day-glow orange, fluro white and silver.....yet even in that thing I still had someone pull out in front of me claiming that they didn't see me!

    I think you just have to assume that you are invisible until proven otherwise...
  17. Yup - this is an important part of it. The more important something is to you, the more weight it gets with pattern recognition. Somebody already mentioned how when you get a new car you suddenly start seeing the same model of car wherever you go. Does that mean everybody went out on the same day and bought the same kind of car? No. They were always there, but you didn't see them. Now they rank more highly in your pattern recognition schema, so you see them all the time.

    The same thing happens when you start riding bikes. Or when a close family member starts riding bikes. The importance of motorcycles just went up dramatically for you, so when you see one on the street the pattern recognition is reinforced far more than when you didn't care about bikes one way or the other. Before you know it, you are spotting bikes in traffic far more often than ever before. It isn't because there are suddenly 10 times more bikes on the road. It is because you have trained your brain to look for them.

    Which raises another interesting thing. If you don't care about bikes, and aren't looking out for them, which bikes do you think are most likely to get your attention?

    Another aspect of human vision is that we are attracted to things that move rapidly across our visual field. How do you attract somebody's attention in a crowd? You wave your arms. The movement attracts their attention to one spot of colour in the throng of people. The same thing happens in traffic. If you shift position suddenly in your lane, the way your headlight moves sideways relative to all the headlights around you can attract the attention of oncoming drivers. This can be a useful trick if you think somebody is about to do a right turn in front of you. A quick shift from one wheel track to the other can increase your chances of being seen.

    It has a negative aspect too, though. The bikes most motorists will notice and remember are the ones who come flying past their window at a speed much greater than the rest of the traffic. They make a quick movement across the visual field, which attracts attention, and are usually revving pretty hard so they are also loud. So on a person's commute home form work they might be passed by (or pass) a dozen bikes moving with the traffic, but the one rider who splits past them like a rocket is the only bike they actually recognise as a motorcycle. I have my own suspicion that this is one of the reasons why we get such a bad reputation. It is not that everybody speeds and splits - it is just that these are the only ones the average driver actually notices.
  18. I truly hope alot of noobs AND experienced riders, as a refresher, are reading this thread!

    So, we have to accept the fact that we are far less likely to be seen, in general, ranging to virtually invisible alot of the time.

    Clearly, if a reasonable driver can't, or is far less likely to recognize us on the road, it is a fact of life that WE as riders, have to accept it and take control by being the masters of anticipation through constant vigilance and proactive riding- for our own sakes.

    It is utterly useless to expect what cannot be realistically be expected...

    Now throw in the large percentage of drivers who either resent us, could care less about us, are bad drivers or are just plain aholes to ALL road users, and we as a group are in a seriously dangerous environment.

    Ride accordingly.
  19. Some don't look. Some don't see. Some don't care.

    Get a big, white tourer, wear a white helmet and experience an instant 75% reduction in SMIDSY situations :grin:.
  20. Funny that you mention this PatB - I find that approaching cars from behind at night (regardless of bike colour) gets some instant results from cagers also.

    Assuming I may be a bike cop, they slow to (below) speed limits only to be disgusted (one actually shook his head at me when I passed him at ~105km/hr..wtf ???), then accelerated to his previous 120+ km/hr speed.

    If there's one thing that irritates me immensely is being on a highway/freeway constantly attempting to maximise my distance from cagers (I use discretion and am happy to speed over the limit momentarily to do so) only to have them re-approach from behind.

    But the icing on the cake always goes to these knobs who, upon seeing a police car in the distance, then and ONLY then return to normal speeds, even slower (hard braking, in some cases!) resulting in them re-approaching, this time from the front !

    But alas, we are the ones being 'hoons'...please !