I/Bruce had 2 new clients come in last week within a few hours of each other. Both had almost identical stories of drivers headed the opposite direction making left turns directly in front of them (aka, the “Left Cross”), causing the cyclist to slam into the passenger side of the vehicle. Both clients were very experienced riders, not your average weekender. Both were following the law, both were wearing appropriate safety gear, neither were listening to music or distracted in any way. Talking to these 2 cyclists, who both had serious but fortunately not catastrophic injuries, made me once again wonder why it is that motorists don’t see bicyclists headed towards them.
Actually, that’s an inaccurate statement. The drivers see the cyclists, but only with their eyes, not with their brains. I confirmed the difference while cross examining a defense expert in a case involving the death of a cyclist. The expert conceded that sight is a function of the brain, not just of the eyes. If the eye sees something but the brain doesn’t register it, then it’s as though there is nothing there. I’ve had clients tell me “I made eye contact with the driver, but he turned in front of me like I wasn’t even there.” Eye contact yes, registering in the brain, obviously not.
Not convinced? Take this 1 minute test, it’s easy:
Like it or not, most drivers aren’t looking out for bicycles, they’re looking for cars. An oncoming bicycle may not register in the driver’s brain because they’re situationally blind to seeing the bike. It’s a mind game that’s incredibly dangerous for us when we’re on the roads.
So what can cyclists do to minimize the likelihood of becoming a victim of the Left Cross or it’s evil sister, the Right Hook? Simply stated, anything that forces a driver consciously to notice you will help.
1. Use a front headlight, even during the day. I like to set mine on a flashing setting. A bright white light makes you more visible even during daylight. Same for a flashing rear light;
2. Wear bright colored clothing, highly visible and with reflective material;
3. Be mindful of cars going the same direction as you that are ahead and to your left. A vehicle coming from the opposite direction will wait until that vehicle passes, then turn left across your path without any inkling that you’re in the lane. In that example, you are the Moonwalking Bear;
4. If you’re not sure that a driver knows you’re there, wave to get their attention. I’d’ rather look stupid and lose a little bit of time off my ride then end up over the hood of a car (or worse).
Those are just a few thoughts, I’d certainly appreciate any feedback. Let’s all be safe and have fun.