Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Cyclists See the World Differently

There are things cyclists know and are aware of that motorists just do not see.

We know which way the wind blows. We are annoyed when weather newscasts fail to note the expected direction and speed of the wind. (I like
Weather Underground) When I step outside, I always note the wind right off. Even when riding in a automobile, I scan for flags and other tells that indicate wind direction. I even plan solo bicycle rides with eye to forcasted wind direction.

What do you think when you see a bridge? I know that the downhill trend is ending and when I cross the bridge, it will now become an uphill trend. Motorists often don't know when they are going up or down a hill unless it is really steep. Cyclists are much more aware of subtle terrain differences.

How often does a cyclist fall asleep while riding? 'Nuff said!

Cyclists seem to be better able to time a traffic light sequence. To preserve energy/momentum, we will coast up to a signal, hoping to avoid stopping. It is a very personal and immediate cost to return to cruising speed for a cyclist.

Motorists seem to have no clue as to how much raw energy it takes to accelerate to normal speed. They race around us at maximum acceleration (Full power, Scottie!) just to wait at the next light as we pull up behind them. (Scanners indicate no intelligent life forms, Capt. Kirk!) Evidence to me that gasoline prices are not yet dear. Gas pumps provide a remote and disassociated cost.

We have different perceptions of what makes a road "smooth" and "rough". An automobile will perceive a road as rough when their suspension bottoms out- a blemish in the road a cyclist may not notice. But cracked and uneven pavement that threatens to unseat a cyclist may not register for a motorist at normal speeds!

Cyclists are very much more familiar with "road kill" than motorists are. And we are more familiar with loose dogs. Motorists are only physically endangered by large animals of the size of deer or more. While hitting an animal is rare for cyclists due to out lower speeds, even hitting tiny animals can be catastrophic for a cyclist.

Cyclists see more wildlife than motorists. Even in urban settings I have seen coyotes when out early on my bike, but never when in a car. Same thing with bobcats and song birds.

Tell me dear reader, either one of you, what are ways cyclists see the world different than automobile operators?


  1. Humanity.

    The kid learning to ride without training wheels for the first time. I cheered him on as I rode by.

    The elderly gentleman who wheels his walker down the street and sits on it at the corner a big tree in the morning. We exchange pleasantries as I stop at the stop sign.

    Folks in the neighborhood walking their dogs. The father who was having a big adventure with his 11 year old daughter riding bikes to B3 for dinner.

    People in cars who roll down their window to ask me directions, thank me for leaving room for them to turn right on red, or inquire about my bike, my commute or my bravery ;-) (they far outnumber the ones who roll down their windows to yell unkind stuff).

    Particularly because my commute has so many residential roads now, I feel much less isolated and more connected to my community when I ride a bike than when I drive a car.

  2. Golly, you got an awful lot of them. Five more:

    How the traffic signal detector cameras and induction sensors work (or don't) at intersections.

    The fantasy about getting a ticket for speeding in a 35mph zone - a document worth framing, especially after getting off by telling the judge "I couldn't possibly have been going that fast - I was only on a bicycle!"

    Waving to the red-headed school crossing guard every morning as I ride by & wishing school was back in session.

    Knowing how long it takes traffic to reach Old Denton Road along the 170 Freeway from a visual reference point.

    The lady on Friday; walking her dog, who surreptitiously dropped her bag of dog droppings behind the power transformer when she didn't notice the only person in the vicinity - a cyclist riding to work...

  3. @ChipSeal
    "How often does a cyclist fall asleep while riding?"

    Apparently, this can be an issue in some endurance races: "The worst accidents tend to be to those who fall asleep in the saddle."

    "People in cars who roll down their window to ask me directions, thank me for leaving room for them to turn right on red, or inquire about my bike, my commute or my bravery ;-) (they far outnumber the ones who roll down their windows to yell unkind stuff)."

    This has been my experience as well. Motorists simply do not experience the world in the same way as those of us who choose a bicycle for transportation.

    One of the biggest advantages is adaptability. As cyclists, we are able to bypass incidents those in motor vehicles must spend long moments enduring.

    Many have been the times I have been able to collect spare change at intersections. If one even notices such things, it is certainly not easy to do that in a car.

    Continuing on the serenity of nature theme: There can be something Zen about riding at daybreak in a light rain shower.

  4. ... and the late summer evening ride after the temperature has subsided just enough that momentum produces a cool breeze.

  5. Chipseal alluded to it in his post, I think, but the one thing that really jumped out at me is the smell in the air. I've rediscovered the smells of purity in the city- wet pavement after it rains, the smell of newly mowed grass, the various perfumes of blooming flowers.

    The one negative I've noticed is that I seem to notice a lot more people throwing cigarette butts and other litter out of their car windows. Yuck, people.

  6. I'm kind of like Keri - it's human interaction. There are a handful of people on bikes that I see often on my commute. A smile, a nod, and a "good morning" from people you don't know is a great way to start your day.

  7. Just a few more:

    All the people, including the Keller Motorcycle Cop, that waved at me on the way in to work this morning. It seemed that half of NE Tarrant County was out getting their newspapers as I rode by. It really IS a Texas thing.

    Running at speed down a quiet, two lane road at dawn, before the full morning light hits. And feeling the temperature drop as you swoop through the creek bottoms.

    The peacock I saw this morning. And the two dogs on the way home that really WANT to get a hunk of my leg but their yard has a good fence. I blow them kisses as I go by.

    And yes, the smell, especially on those mornings when it's just misty enough out to get condensation all over the bike and me.