Seeing Things

I was waiting for an appointment the other day when I struck up a conversation with another woman in the lobby. She noticed my bike helmet and the conversation quickly turned to a discussion of cars versus cyclists.

It was just on of those casual conversations you have with a stranger in passing. After voicing the usual complaint about cyclists never stopping for red lights she added that she just “was not looking for cyclists.”

I started thinking about the word “looking.” Do drivers only see what they are looking for? And are they only looking for other cars? Which would mean, to a driver, a city intersection looks like this:

Seeing Things: Driver's POV

But when I bike through an intersection I am not looking for anything. I am seeing everything. If I were to travel through same intersection at the same moment I might see something like this:

Seeing Things: Cyclist's POV

But I probably see every street like this because I have to compensate for what the drivers are not looking for.

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52 Comments on "Seeing Things"

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This comic is great, it illustrates the philosophic idea of “Umwelt” perfectly:

Alan Wright

BIKE MIRRORS – BIKE MIRRORS – BIKE MIRRORS. That weird looking device hanging off my bike glasses keeps me aware of what is coming up behind me and gives me plenty of time to react. You would not drive a car without mirrors, so why would you ride a bike with one????

Mike R

I tell my 9-year-old son all that time that drivers don’t see us when we’re walking. We don’t own a car and make several trips downtown by foot each week. It’s amazing how often drivers blow right through the crosswalk to make their righthand turns on red without ever looking to the right. As a cyclist and pedestrian, I am always looking at my surroundings, trying to keep safe.

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