Invisibility

Sometimes when I’m riding I feel like I have a certain superhero power. Which turns out isn’t all that super.

Invisibility

Because I’m not made of steel.

And even if I could find a use for this superpower…

Invisibility

…it still wouldn’t solve anything.

Invisibility is dangerous. I want drivers to see me, I want their attention.

Invisibility

But even if I tried all this it wouldn’t solve the problem. I’m the elephant on the road, costume or not.

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47 Responses to “Invisibility”

  • I know the feeling. What’s worse are the ones that see you but just don’t care because “You’re in the way!”

    • Tyler

      No kidding. I have literally been hit by cars, and I’m directly quoting them mind you, because I was “in their way”.

      In what type of society is that ok?!

  • Vicki

    How true!

  • Tim

    Sad, actually pathetic, but true. Why should we have to wear obnoxious clothing and be sporting BRIGHT flashing lights to NOT be part of the problem, when the problem really is clueless motorists?

  • Damian

    So, so true! It’s a vicious circle that people start wearing hi-viz and extra lighting to avoid being hit (even though people dressed up like that still do get hit), and then motorists (and the courts!) decide that if a cyclist ISN’T dressed up like that then they are obviously suicidal and therefore it doesn;t matter if they get hit.

    • yes I totally agree. I’m a high-vis denier because I feel like I’m giving in to the notion that cycling is DANGEROUS. Next pedestrians will have to wear it. I have actually seen pedestrian-safety campaigns that suggest they wear light-coloured clothing (!) What next, should they carry LED signs reading CAUTION, PERSON CROSSING ROAD?

      (actually I fibbed a little bit, I do wear a vest at dusk and heavily overcast days, because I think that’s when cyclists really are invisible)

  • Warren

    I can relate – I’m all decked out in flashy clothing, pulling my trailabike, and I still have minivans trying to squeeze me into the curb as they make their (incompetent) turns.
    “The bike lane doesn’t begin until over there!”(pointing)

    Remedy: camera-phone, but quickly, as louts loathe being held accountable for their actions.

  • I know, I know, whatever we wear, it’s never enough to capture a driver’s attention. I have the same prblem when crossing at a cross walk in our neighorhood. There’s a neon green reflective sign in the middle of the road and drivers often do not stop. I stared down an ambulance driver who only looked at me and waved while continuing on through. Jeesh!

  • Island Dave

    I ride a fully enclosed human powered vehicle, AKA a Velomobile. Powerful head lights along with tail/brake lights, a 400+ lumen rear flasher and turn signals. People will ask me if I’m afraid of not being seen, being hit by a car. I tell them that I ride in the safest place that I can be in. In the middle of the travel lane. I stay out of bike lanes. I’ve ridden this “bike” 22,000 + miles in the last 38 months. I have gone from car light to car free over a year and a half ago. I do all my errands in this machine. It’s 14 degrees out right now and I’m about to head off to the grocery store for much needed vittles.

    http://www.commutebybike.com/2011/04/24/vinyard-dave-mild-mannered-velomobile-maniac/

  • Oh man, this is such perfect timing. The drivers here in Grenada seriously do not see cyclists. It’s the worst I’ve ever experienced in the world. I just came home from another ride where at least 3 people almost hit me and your post was the first thing I saw.

    Let’s hope drivers can start seeing us out there.

    Darryl

  • I still drive once every few weeks or so, and what strikes me most about the transition from bicycle to automobile is the decreased level of perception of the world and events going on around you which is enforced by the speed and enclosure of a car compared to a bike. In the words of xkcd, http://xkcd.com/1075/ “You’re in a box on wheels hurtling along several times faster than evolution could possibly have prepared you to go.” Throw in distractions of cell phones, nav systems, kids bouncing around in the backseat, and the isolation of attention that drivers end up with while piloting their (our) two ton machines is indeed somewhere between challenging and outright dangerous. Cyclists, moving slower and being more in the open, have the ability to pay more attention, and that includes to checking out which drivers see us and which ones don’t. Because as surely as drivers often drive too fast and pay too little attention, some just are not looking, so seeing them not seeing us can raise the odds in our favor. Sometimes, it’s very possible to hook their attention by doing something, whether that’s wearing an elephant costume or riding assertively and politely. It seems to me that attention-to-them is often the best way of getting attention-to-me, in the human nature rodeo, which can also help knowing when you’re not getting attention-to-me from someone hurtling along in a metal box, Plan B should be triggered.

  • Randy

    You’ve SO put your finger on it…. it amazes me the number of things people do to avoid driving their car while driving their car. People would never text while holding a running chain saw….

  • Scott Wagner

    I think “invisibility” is an excuse. The problem is that we are IN THE WAY of the automobile operators whose goal is to get from HERE to THERE as quickly as possible, regardless of the impact upon cyclists, pedestrians, other automobile operators, the environment, or any other factor. When an automobile operator wants to be at the Home Depot, and not where he is, “invisibility” is simply a poor defense for ignoring and dismissing what we really are to him – impediments.
    This is why separated bike lanes are a good idea. Rip out parking spaces on one side of the street, set a barrier between this lane and the auto lane, and stripe it for bike travel both ways. Lost automobile parking as a result? Too bad – ride a bike instead. Works in Montreal and elsewhere!

    • Ethan Fleming

      You make a very good point. It is also one out of many reasons why I feel people should have to take, and pass a psychiatric evaluation test before they can even take the test for a license, let alone get one.

  • Chrissy J

    There was a similar TV advertisement shown in the UK promoting awareness of motorcyclists:

    As a motorcyclist (and bicyclist) I can’t say it made much difference. If people can’t see a 180 lb woman on a 450lb motorcycle, which fills a big chunk of windshield space, what chance does the same woman have on a bicycle?

  • Mighk Wilson

    Sorry folks, but here in supposedly bicyclist-unfriendly Orlando I have no problems being seen wearing normal clothing. My hypothesis? I drive my vehicle (aka bicycle) in the middle of the regular-old general-use travel lanes.

    But I must admit I DO have problems with motorists not seeing me sometimes and doing stupid things. Almost always those times are when I’m biking in bike lanes. I think it’s because the bike lanes guide me into motorists’ blind spots, and the stripe makes motorists think, “Oh, he’s over there in “his place” where I don’t have be concerned about him.”

  • That’s a general problem with bike lanes, you are made less relevant. Most people don’t think of lane position, including within general travel lanes, as a visibility enhancement, but it really is.

    • Ethan Fleming

      Very true. It is unfortunate that a lot of drivers in Boston have this dillusional idea in their heads that if there is a bike lane the bicyclists are required to stay in the bike lane and bike lane only. Drivers get upset at me all the time for riding out of the bike lane. I have had a few actually try to call the cops on me but the cops never come.
      The city doesn’t have to make more bike lanes or cycle tracks. We need to educate the drivers to accept bikes are going to be in the middle of the lanes.

  • Lee Hollenbeck

    I run blinking lights front and rear, 24/7. Side mirror helps too. I also really like my helmet light. Side visibility is so overlooked. Try wheel lights at night.

  • Sarah

    Until cyclists become more of a “critical mass” on our city streets, I think this problem will remain status quo. Here in Portland , Oregon, we still do not have enough people on bikes and when I ride on our streets alone I feel vulnerable. becasue usually I am the Lone cyclist sharing the road with hundreds of cars. We have growing bike infrastructure, but the. Umber of bicyclists is not growing fast enough, and we remain invisible, lone cyclists.

  • Every once in a while I spot someone with a WEAR ALL THE LIGHT mentality, and I love it. Also, there’s a woman who bikes through Cambridge, MA, singing pretty loudly, which is its own case for a certain kind of visibility.

  • I just want to know if you’ve ever portrayed a bald guy in a positive light.

    Some of my best friends are bald.

  • traffic cyclist

    Nice Toyota Camry! Makes me want to buy a new car…

  • Sue

    Great blog!
    The invisibility super power reminds me of the SMIDSY campaign by the UK Cyclists Touring Club – Sorry mate I didn’t see you.
    http://www.stop-smidsy.org.uk/

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