Sunday, 27 April 2014

High visibility target

There's an aspect of motorcycling known as 'target fixation'. What this basically means is that you end up going towards the thing you're looking at, which is why you'll notice that when you watch motorcycle racing, the riders are never looking straight ahead in the bends but at the bend's exit. If you're out for a ride and find yourself going into a corner a bit too hot thinking "Ooh fuck I'm gonna hit that tree", then if you stare at it then you most certainly will. The key is to look at where you want to go rather than where you're afraid you will go, and the chances are that you'll make it - unless of course you've grossly overestimated the laws of physics in which case you're stuffed anyway, but at least you would have made a brave effort to rescue the situation.
As time has gone by I've come to wonder whether the same sort of rule applies in other areas.
For example, I generally make sure I wear something very bright when I'm cycling so that I can be seen by drivers from further away, allowing them more time to plan their evasive manoeuvres and denying them the excuse of "Sorry mate, didn't see you" should the worst happen.
I'm beginning to wonder though if this is a bit counterproductive. Catching someone's attention is all well and good, but if their eyes are being drawn too strongly towards a retina-burning orange Hi-Viz shirt then maybe they're actually more likely to hit you than if you were wearing something a little more subdued. It's just a guess of course, but I suspect this may be the reason for so many people finding it necessary to pass so close that I could easily punch their door mirror off even when there's no oncoming traffic around.
Another example of this would be the Fiat Seicento I had a few years ago. It was the Abarth model with all the body kit and alloys (no more powerful or faster than the normal one, but it did look as if it ought to be) and it was possibly the most livid shade of bright yellow it's possible to be without venturing into the realms of 'dayglo'. Seemingly as a consequence of this, every other car that came near it felt obliged to drive within six inches of the back bumper, almost to the point of trying to barge it off the road. It didn't matter if I was in a queue of traffic with everyone sitting at a constant speed and nowhere for anyone to overtake or make faster progress - the idiot behind would be trying to park in my boot. Now either this was due to people's attention being so focussed on what appeared to be a bright yellow running shoe that they didn't realise what they were doing, or that they were simply enraged by the colour (in addition to the hatred usually received by anyone driving a very small car) and therefore hated me with a venom normally reserved (quite rightly) for kiddy fiddlers.
I think this may have had a lot to do with the decision to sell that car because even though it was enormous fun to drive, with the ability to put a silly grin on my face every time I drove it, the pay-off in terms of the way I got treated by other motorists on the road was too much to tolerate.
And it wasn't only me. Talking with one of the tutors at one of the local advanced drivers meetings, he said that he and a friend both bought a Skoda Octavia VRS at around the same time. He bought one in an anonymous dark blue and went about his business with no aggravation whatsoever. His mate bought one in yellow and suddenly found himself on the receiving end of aggressive behaviour wherever he went.
Perhaps this explains the massive popularity in the hordes of dull monochrome cars on the road today. Most people buying a new car seem to choose it in some shade of grey that blends in with the sea of other grey cars - presumably in the hope of not being noticed.
On my cycle ride today I saw a few other riders taking advantage of the early Sunday morning with its lack of traffic, and none of them was wearing bright clothing. Maybe they'd come to the same conclusion as me - only somewhat earlier - that any sort of attention you draw to yourself is highly likely to be of the negative variety and therefore to be avoided. So I think I'll ditch the Hi-Viz orange shirt and just wear black stuff while keeping my fingers crossed that I don't get mown down because someone hasn't seen me.

'Yellow Peril' - the unfortunate hate magnet.