Somanaut's Blog

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Invisible Bicycles

I got hit once. I could see the driver’s eyes, and I knew he did not see me. He was looking for cars, not for a bike. By accelerating quickly, I avoided getting hit on my body, but the car still hit my back wheel, launching me into the road. While we waited for an ambulance, the driver and I chatted. He was a really nice guy, and a bike enthusiast. He felt bad, and was questioning how he could not see me.


How did that happen? Years later, I read The Invisible Gorilla. It is an amazing book that explains why I got hit by someone who theoretically could easily see me. The authors write about how we see what we are looking for, and, more importantly- why we don’t see what we aren’t looking for!


The book was born from a psychology experiment. A video was made. Two groups of people, one dressed in red, one in blue, were filmed bouncing basketballs to each other. The video was shown to subjects who were told to count the number of time the blue players passed the ball to each other.  Simple enough, huh?


Except..  in the middle of the video, a person dressed in a gorilla suit walks through the scene. After subjects watched it, they were asked if they saw anything unusual. Half did- so half did not see a big hairy gorilla person cut through the middle of a basketball court. Were they just not very smart? No, they were all Harvard psych students, so while they might be privileged and arrogant, they were not dumb.


Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons wrote about some other bizarre instances of people missing the obvious, in ways that mattered. It’s a fun book, written in clear easy language, so you don’t have to go to Harvard, or put on a gorilla suit, to read it. You can also see some cool videos they did here


Back to us marvelous bike riders! Until bikes are common on the streets, riders have to assume that car drivers are not really watching for us, even if we are ridiculously visible.

Be very careful, please! Ride defensively, wear safety gear, get great lights, and as much as possible allow yourself room to escape.


March 8, 2016 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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