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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49 Responses to “Invisibility”

  • I adore Boston for all or her Dunkin Doughnuts. Thank you for your insightful art.

    • Ethan Fleming

      I find it odd
      There is a really disturbing large number of Dunkin Donuts and TD Bank locations all over the city.

  • The worst is when you make eye contact with a car driver and they proceed to run you down

  • Howard Abts

    My experience has been the same as Mighk’s: when I began riding more assertively, I no longer get passed with inches of clearance, no longer get caught behind parked cars, and no lo0nger get forced to the curb. If I get honked at and sworn at a bit more, and I’m not sure I do, that’s fine with me: not many motorists honk at bikers they don’t notice.

  • Ethan Fleming

    I like the part about throwing a trash bin at the taxi cab. There are a lot of dangerous taxi cab drivers out there. I have wanted to throw a trash bin at one for as long as I can remember.

  • Ian

    Thank you, thank you, Bikeyface for all your work. It’s wicked good.

    I’m a CyclingSavvy basic course graduate (Dallas, 2010?), and generally I agree with their tenets on lane position, the five layers of safety, etc., as a good coping strategy for cycling/driving on roads and stroads (pace Charles Marohn).

    Partly the result of such training, I too experience few problems with drivers; frequent hand or eye communication and a generous dash of the ‘Golden Rule’ rarely disappoints. I am, however, not blind to the fact that I also fall into the category of the confident, white, male cyclist. Not everyone fits that category, nor do they need it to ride a bike, thank goodness. Yet, categorizing is a factor in how drivers treat you, a cyclist, on the roadway, no matter what your ‘skills’ level. I believe that most drivers not only see the cyclist, but also categorize him or her on sight, and will treat them according to their disposition, all decided in a few seconds. My experience says that, where I live, confident, white males may more likely catch a break from a driver, whereas a female cyclist or a person of color, occupying the same lane position could be made to feel out of place.

    No one should feel obligated to ride the way I do, not even other confident, white males. And even for me (confidence oozing from every privileged pore), the basic proposition of having to be ever watchful of driver behavior can be enervating. I live in Norman, Oklahoma, a sleepy college town of no particular distinction, so what it must be like cycling in Boston, which I hear is a bit larger than Norman, I have no idea. If asked, I would give no advice on the matter; as the saying goes, you don’t really know a town until you’ve cycled a mile in their bike lanes. Ok, two miles.

  • I admit that I’m bald and I drive.

    I guess this must be something we (cyclists) are all thinking about on dark winter days and nights. No one really wants to be part of a sad statistic. I’m sure the motorist who ran down an elderly woman in a crosswalk last night, down the road from me, is very sad he did not see her in the rain and dark. But they are not the one in hospital today.

    After seeing the aftermath of that unfortunate incident, I jotted down in my Evernotebook the outline of a story on this very issue. I have the perspective of nearly fifty years of cycling … and much less time behind the wheel. We all need to pay attention to the road, and others who share them.

  • Bikey,

    It’s a very nice take on the subject, as ever. I called my bike blog (http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.com/) the Invisible Visible Man on the grounds that, as a large man of 6′ 5″ the only way I could make myself invisible to people was to put on high-visibility clothing and get on a bicycle. There’s a serious problem of perception here.

    I hope my high-visibility clothing and lights help. But the only recent time I was knocked off by a car – when I was living in London – the vehicle came up behind me, on a clear road, turned across my path and took out my front wheel. It was a bright, sunlit winter’s day and I was wearing a bright red jacket and silver helmet, against a backdrop of a snow-covered sidewalk. Many people are, for whatever reason, not looking out for bicycles.

    Invisible.

  • Kevin Love

    In places where the police actually enforce the traffic laws, cyclists miraculously become visible. In countries as far apart as Japan or The Netherlands, a “near miss” due to negligent car driving will land the car driver in jail for a long time.

    Let’s imagine if the Boston police were to actually start enforcing the laws regarding dangerous car drivers by arresting these criminals and putting them in jail where they belong. What a concept! Imagine the police enforcing the law by arresting violent, dangerous criminals!

    I predict that if the Boston police were to start doing their job, then cyclists would miraculously become visible.

    • traffic cyclist

      Look, Kevin, I bet I’ve cycled more miles than you have. And even if I don’t drive, I would not catagorize inattentive drivers (who are not conditioned to see cyclists) as criminals who belong in jail. How sure are you that during your cycling life you have not ‘near miss’ a pedestrian?

  • Hey! I don’t consider my bright clothes obnoxious. I like them and each to their own, right? I should be allowed to wear what I want and not be judged. I don’t judge you, so don’t judge me. I ride my bike because I love it and I stay alive by pretending all drivers are blind so it doesn’t matter what I wear.

  • I agree with where this strip is coming from, but I also believe in using different approaches to visibility for different streets and situations. When I’m tooling around town during the day in low to mid speed traffic then covering the equipment requirements in the vehicle code should be adequate. However, if I’m in a high speed area at night, or a rural area with little to no street lighting, a place where cyclists are not expected, riding in fog or the rain, etc, then I’ll increase my visibility as appropriate. Another aspect of visibility is me having enough lighting so I can see the pavement conditions, reflective street signs, & other cyclists who are riding ninja-style.

    Getting drivers to be attentive is another issue, and one that can partially be solved just by getting more cyclists on the street so they become more expected. The biggest detaining factor as to whether someone bikes or not is their confidence level, so if boosting it means them wearing “all the lights” and a high viz jumpsuit then I’m all for it.

  • dr2chase

    Reminded me of this, which was rediscovered after an intense round of Googling: http://www.newsbiscuit.com/2007/12/03/cyclists-furious-as-council-paint-everything-else-luminous-green/

  • Bikema

    Reminds me of “The Art of Urban Cycling” by Robert Hurst — my main takeaway was to assume that I am invisible and ride accordingly. And one can still get hit riding lawfully wearing a brightly colored shirt in broad daylight because the driver “didn’t even see me”. Argh. (me ok due to acrobatic reflexes, bike front end crumpled)

  • Ivan

    As somebody on advrider commented in a topic on yet another driver turning left right in front of a bike (ummm, the heavier kind of bike):
    “As far as visibility, you could have been wearing a giant pink penis costume on the back of a chartreuse rhinoceros with blinking titties and I’m guessing the asshole still wouldn’t have seen you.”
    They had colorful pictures to illustrate too.

  • devogon

    Can’t say I miss cycling in the States. Go Dutch! Just get on yer bike and go (riding, shopping, on a date, to work, …). No helmet. No cars. Kids on the bike are cool.

  • This is funny because it is so true which makes it kind of sad. I live in a college town and a while ago someone in the bike lane got hit by a car turning right. The guy the whole time blamed the cyclist who would have been hard to miss because it was during the day, in a school zone (speed limit 15 so the cyclist was biking next to him) and the cyclist was wearing a pretty bright orange jersey.
    The guy then had the audacity to demand the cyclist pay for the scratches on his car. Fortuantley he was wearing a helmet and just got a few scratches.

    -Aaron, recently watched leadville bike race

  • Heather

    So true, but I refuse to wear such high visy stuff, but am tempted to get a banner or vest for night time riding. I’ve got the super bright lights, still doesn’t matter. Bicycle are considered vehicles, must by law follow traffic laws etc, so I expect drivers to know and do the same. It’s not like cyclists are invisible. I live in a rural area, and I do see overly safety cautious people WALKING with visy vests on during the day. That is a bit much and speaks more of fear than any actual risk.

    • Heather, agreed, we should not be required to wear fright wigs and giant clown shoes.
      Visibility and communication, as so many have pointed out, need to be appropriate, and can demand confidence.
      1) taking away the immunity of the driver – frequent shoulder checking = ‘I see you’ – flag off side = ‘you crowd me, your precious paintjob is at risk’
      2) Really acting like a vehicle. Signalling your stops, taking the centre of the lane whenever you say you need to = more respect. Seriously.
      3) bringing out the big guns to remove the excuse of ‘I didn’t notice’ – a car drivers attention has *much* competition at night (what, 200 lights in my field of vision and you think that dollarstore light cuts it?) Again, reflectors bounce back the biggest light on the road, those of the car. Better if its wobbly to catch attention. $20 USB bike strobes to scare drivers into thinking these is an ambulance approaching. Whatever is appropriate.

  • Tim

    I am late to this party, I know, but visibility is so paramount. I drive a ‘bent trike, Catrike Expedition. I have flashing lights fore and aft and two large wind socks … US Flag motif on the right (of course) and Maryland Flag motif on the left. If you don’t see me, get off your phone. Oh and cameras.

    • Island Dave

      My ride is, was a Velomobile Quest. About 3′ tall, 30″ wide and 9.5″ long. It had head lights, tail lights, brake lights and turn signals and four way flashers when needed. I also mounted and extra 800 lumens off the front and a 700 lumen red flasher facing rearward. When I’m rolling I run lights night and day. It is a fully enclosed vehicle that had become my primary mode of year round transportation with 32,000 miles in the last 4.5 years.

      Two months ago today at a three way stop “T” intersection on narrow two lane roads with low speed limits, I had come to a stop and with no traffic in sight taken a left hand turn. I had made the turn and was in the middle of the travel lane when a pickup truck that had run the stop sign to my rear side swiped me on my right hand side. He said that he hadn’t seen me which was bull shit because if he hadn’t seen me he would have run me over. He must of been half way off the road in an attempt to pass but because of boulders and a fence along the side of the road he entered my physical space by a good 6″ taking out the side of my Velomobile.

      Being well lit and controlling the lane means nothing when dealing idiots.

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