Why we're invisible to drivers


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Why we're invisible to drivers

Post by WingAdmin » Mon Nov 04, 2019 1:08 pm



A really good article on the biology of our eyes and brain, and why drivers don't see bikes on the road:

https://www.roadandtrack.com/car-cultur ... -the-road/
The late-model Ford Escape and I arrived at the intersection in my neighborhood at about the same time. I recognized the driver, a nice guy whose kids play with mine. I brought my Honda CB1100 to a stop and waited. So did he. Which was unusual, because he didn't have a stop sign. No, wait—he's stopped to talk to another one of our neighbors. I gave him about 30 seconds to change his mind and go forward. When he gave no sign of ending his conversation, I let the clutch out and started crossing the intersection.

Naturally, about half a second later, my neighbor started driving forward, still looking back at the person to whom he'd been speaking. I beeped the horn and twisted the throttle at the same time. He came to a sheepish halt about where my right leg would have been had I not accelerated out of the way and waved apologetically.

Think about that for a minute. Although my neighbor hadn't looked ahead for more than half a minute, he naturally assumed that the road ahead of him was clear. Sounds crazy, right? In fact, his behavior was less crazy than it might sound, and chances are that we've all done the same thing ourselves, for reasons that are both inherently biological and completely normal.

IF YOU COULD SEE A RAW FEED OF THE IMAGE SENT TO YOUR BRAIN BY YOUR EYE AT ANY GIVEN TIME, YOU'D BE HORRIFIED.

The first thing to understand is that our eyes don't see very much. We tend to think of eyes as cameras, but in reality they are biological devices with considerable limitations. If you could see a raw feed of the image sent to your brain by your eye at any given time, you'd be horrified. It's mostly blurry, it has a blind spot near the middle, and it's upside down.

Luckily for us, our eyes are constantly in motion, even when we think we are looking straight ahead. They send several pictures every second to the brain, which then assembles the best and sharpest parts from each picture into a mental image. That's what we see. When you read the print on this page or screen, your eyes are flicking all over that page or screen, assembling a complete picture that you can then read.

Think of an old-school radar screen. There's a bright green line that tells you what the radar is seeing at that very moment, and it sweeps in a circle, continually refreshing the screen. Compared with the human eye, the line is the small area it can focus and see at any given time, and the whole screen is the image we have in our minds.

The human eye isn't really that great when compared to other outstanding eyes in the animal kingdom, such as the ones attached to eagles, some grazing animals, and (wait for it) sharks. But when it's combined with the human brain as an evolved system for hunting deer and the like, it's not bad. The problems start when things happen faster than the eye-brain system can "see." Since the eye is only looking at a very small area at any given time, it's possible that an alien or hugely advanced predator of some type, could actually hide in plain sight by moving quickly enough to avoid the eyeball's motion. (This is part of the plot of Blindsight by Peter Watts, a great book that I can't recommend enough to all of you.)

Luckily for us, the eyeball-tracking aliens haven't arrived—or they have arrived, and they are simply content to sit around and harmlessly make fun of us for being so blind. I can't say for sure, because I wouldn't be able to see them. But there are things that move quickly enough, and are small enough, that we don't necessarily "see" them even when they are right in front of us.

As you might guess, motorcycles fall into that category of things that we don't always perceive even if they are right in our field of vision. A motorcycle approaching head-on from a distance occupies a very small part of a driver's vision. If it's going quickly, it's possible that the eye simply won't get around to looking at it enough to make it "stick" in the brain before it arrives in the driver's immediate vicinity. That part is important because the brain can really only see things that it understands.

Your brain has a sort of visual shorthand for objects. For instance, chances are that you aren't really seeing everything around you right now, especially if you are in a familiar environment. You're just seeing the shortcuts that your brain is placing there to conserve processing power and attention. That's why people become fatigued more easily in foreign countries or really unfamiliar terrain; their brain is working overtime trying to account for all the things that it doesn't normally see. For this same reason, if you don't expect to see a motorcycle or pedestrian during a certain part of your morning commute, your brain will often ignore a motorcycle or pedestrian right in front of you, particularly if they aren't moving sideways across your field of vision.

Alright. Let's take a typical case. A driver is preparing to turn left from a side road onto a main road. There's a GSXR-1000 flying down that main road because what's the point of having something that fast if you don't wind it out, right? So our driver looks left and doesn't see the Gixxer because it's pretty far away. He looks right. Now he looks left again. The bike is much closer, almost on him, but because he didn't see it last time—and this is important—his brain simply discards the Gixxer as a result of his brain not expecting to see it. His brain is already busy doing this discarding for everything from his blind spot to various floaters in his vision to his own eyelashes. What's the harm in adding just one more object?

So the driver pulls out and BAM it's a GSXR-1000 in the door and at least one person who will wind up either dead or crippled. And the driver will tell the cop, "I didn't see him." And the cop will chalk it up to the Suzuki simply moving too quickly or to the driver being inattentive. But there truly is that third possibility: The driver looked right at the Suzuki but failed to truly "see" him.

This sort of thing happens with bicycles and pedestrians as well, of course, but it doesn't happen nearly as often because bikes and people tend to move slowly compared to a motorcycle. It happens even more often when people are stressed or frightened, because these emotions tend to freeze up the muscles, including the muscles of the eyes. When that happens, you get tunnel vision, which is simply the eye refusing to do its normal tracking deal and the brain helpfully filling in all the areas away from the eye's fixed center focus with plain black.

Tunnel vision is why I work very hard to keep my novice trackday students from being next to another car on track. They literally won't see the car next to them because their eyes won't move enough to pick up that visual information and add it to their visual map. The same is true, of course, for people who are learning how to drive on the street for the first time. The field of vision for those drivers is very small.

So, let's go back to my neighbor. He hadn't looked forward in more than 30 seconds, but his brain was telling him that nothing was likely to change. Sure, it had been a while since he looked forward, but he probably wasn't consciously aware of just how long it had been. He might have even thought that he had looked forward prior to driving forward, because his mental map of the intersection was so strong. Of course, the information was outdated, and there was 800 pounds of motorcycle and rider directly in front of him. But it's okay. I expect stuff like that to happen, and as a result I still have both of my legs. Woo-hoo!

MAKE AN EFFORT TO LOOK AROUND, EVEN AT THINGS THAT DON'T SEEM IMPORTANT.

Can we improve the way we see on the road (and track) just by understanding our vision better? Yes, we can. Make an effort to look around, even at things that don't seem important like the side of the road or, if you're an SUV driver, your rear-view mirror. The more you consciously look around while driving, the better and more varied the visual information your brain receives will be, which will lead to a much higher-quality mental picture.

In short, you'll learn how to see things that are invisible to you right now. That's like a super power, right? So use it for good, and not evil. Unless you're a club racer. In which case you should absolutely use it for evil. I certainly do. But no matter how you use your new super power, do me a favor and look out for the old guy on the big black Honda bike, okay? Especially if you're my neighbor.
A very telling paragraph from this article:
Alright. Let's take a typical case. A driver is preparing to turn left from a side road onto a main road. There's a GSXR-1000 flying down that main road because what's the point of having something that fast if you don't wind it out, right? So our driver looks left and doesn't see the Gixxer because it's pretty far away. He looks right. Now he looks left again. The bike is much closer, almost on him, but because he didn't see it last time—and this is important—his brain simply discards the Gixxer as a result of his brain not expecting to see it. His brain is already busy doing this discarding for everything from his blind spot to various floaters in his vision to his own eyelashes. What's the harm in adding just one more object?



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Re: Why we're invisible to drivers

Post by AZgl1800 » Mon Nov 04, 2019 9:29 pm

I've read that before.

Unless a target is moving sideways across your vision, it just disappears.

That is the reason that I have a swimming pool noodle lashed to my trunk, hanging to the left. That flopping that it does, gets people's attention.

and, as I approach intersections, I weave from lane edge to lane edge to create the widest horizontal weave possible... I have seen the effects of this over and over, nearly every time that I come to a stop.

When I am going to have to stop behind another vehicle, I do NOT just pull up behind them and stop. I accentuate that weave further back than normal, and then I stop about 3 car lengths behind the vehicle in front of me, and angled to the left edge, or the Best Escape route..... and keep the bike in 1st gear, clutched and idle up a bit. Keeping an eye on the guy behind me, I keep toggling the hand brake lever to restart the middle flasher over the trunk lid.... until that vehicle comes to a stop.

I've already spent 8 of my 9 lives, don't want to try again.


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Re: Why we're invisible to drivers

Post by minimac » Tue Nov 05, 2019 7:32 am

SMIDSY -sorry mate,I didn't see you.
https://www.roadsafety.mccofnsw.org.au/a/84.html

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Re: Why we're invisible to drivers

Post by khspe2 » Tue Nov 05, 2019 9:50 am

Precisely why I believe that the most effective safety device for the described scenario is a headlight modulator. Steady state headlights get lost that far away. There’s a reason that they are used on locomotives.
I know some people find it annoying. I’ll tell them that it served it’s purpose if they needed to do complain to me.

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Re: Why we're invisible to drivers

Post by AZgl1800 » Tue Nov 05, 2019 1:45 pm

khspe2 wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 9:50 am
Precisely why I believe that the most effective safety device for the described scenario is a headlight modulator. Steady state headlights get lost that far away. There’s a reason that they are used on locomotives.
I know some people find it annoying. I’ll tell them that it served it’s purpose if they needed to do complain to me.
Those actually are mechanical and hinged on bearing assemblies.
Never any worry of burning out that expensive headlight.

but, the point is valid, headlight modulators save lives.

My property abuts the UPRR tracks for over 600 feet.
My driveway is a mere 250 feet from the RR crossing.
I know the semaphores work, because I see them everytime I hear a RR horn....

Still though, I do NOT trust those signals to tell me a train is there, I look both ways, before I cross those RR tracks .

The crossing at my house is one of the worst I have ever seen, it is above the county road by about 4 feet. And the US-169 highway which parallels it, is almost 10 feet lower down yet.

when parked on that crossing, waiting for a train to pass, drivers can see under the train cars, and all of the traffic that is oncoming for a mile !!!
that is a severe rake of a ramp.
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Re: Why we're invisible to drivers

Post by Andy27012 » Wed Nov 06, 2019 1:12 am

khspe2 wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 9:50 am
Precisely why I believe that the most effective safety device for the described scenario is a headlight modulator. Steady state headlights get lost that far away. There’s a reason that they are used on locomotives.
I know some people find it annoying. I’ll tell them that it served it’s purpose if they needed to do complain to me.
I know of a rider with a modulator who was next to a semi. The driver of the semi thought he was signaling him that it was ok to come over and came over on top of him. Not certain what the solution is but this is why i will never equip my bike with one.

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Re: Why we're invisible to drivers

Post by Andy Cote » Wed Nov 06, 2019 5:29 am

I have seen a small number of folks report that another driver said "I thought you were signaling okay."

IMHO these other drivers did not see you (as described above) and only recognized their mistake after the fact, using the modulator as an excuse. If one actually looks at a correctly installed modulator they will never mistake it for some one manually flashing their own high beams. Further each driver is responsible for themselves and if there isn't enough room, regardless of what the other guy waves or signals at them, is supposed to be smart enough to not cut traffic. Be honest, we have all done a bonehead move at least once, majority do not result in collisions. Afterwards we feel it in the stomach knowing how close we just came.

Be defensive, be calm and carry on.
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Re: Why we're invisible to drivers

Post by saganaga » Wed Nov 06, 2019 11:10 pm

Vision is such a weird thing. If you want to know more, the terms to look up are "foveal vision" and "saccadic masking".

Interestingly, the foveal vision may be part of the reason why identification of suspects in crimes can be so bad. Crimes can frequently have items that demand attention (such as a gun), and by focusing on that, witnesses may not adequately look at the face of the criminal committing a crime. (There's other factors as well.)

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Re: Why we're invisible to drivers

Post by C-dub » Wed Nov 06, 2019 11:44 pm

The problem I have with people thinking another driver was giving them the "okay" to move over because of a modulated light is that flashing the high beams doesn't mean that. Turning the lights off and on tells someone that it is okay to move back over in front of you. For a semi truck, for example. A motorcycle cannot do this because we cannot turn or lights off unless someone has rigged theirs up to do that.

Flashing the high beams has traditionally meant for the slower person ahead to move to the right out of the fast lane or for someone in oncoming traffic to dim their high beams.
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Re: Why we're invisible to drivers

Post by virgilmobile » Thu Nov 07, 2019 12:04 pm

I thought of putting on on my bike...
Untill I talked to a "motor man" who rode his bike on duty for several years.
His honest opinion was that a modulator can be confused with the "go ahead" signal and that many cagers here have been using that flashing headlight to direct traffic (against the law by the way). He just opted to flash his high beams when needed to get there attention.
With this in mind,I rigged up a finger momentary contact switch tied to the high beam relay..
When I do see a possible problem,a few taps of my finger flashes the high beams.
It does get there attention.

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Re: Why we're invisible to drivers

Post by C-dub » Thu Nov 07, 2019 2:48 pm

virgilmobile wrote:
Thu Nov 07, 2019 12:04 pm
I thought of putting on on my bike...
Untill I talked to a "motor man" who rode his bike on duty for several years.
His honest opinion was that a modulator can be confused with the "go ahead" signal and that many cagers here have been using that flashing headlight to direct traffic (against the law by the way). He just opted to flash his high beams when needed to get there attention.
With this in mind,I rigged up a finger momentary contact switch tied to the high beam relay..
When I do see a possible problem,a few taps of my finger flashes the high beams.
It does get there attention.
A button that could create a short duration strobe like that would be awesome. Especially when used with LED headlights.
I am not and have never been a LEO. My avatar is in honor of my friend, Dallas Police Sargent Michael Smith, who was murdered along with four other officers in Dallas on 7.7.2016.

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Re: Why we're invisible to drivers

Post by virgilmobile » Thu Nov 07, 2019 3:38 pm

Yup.I have led driving lights attached to the thumb switch too.


This is my prototype home made plastic printed 2 switch housing..Thumb and finger operated.No need to move your hand from the grip.




At just one of the designs I have for "under the grip" switch mounts.
Found out the mount I designed fits all gl1500's (under mounting tabs)and even some gl1800's.
I just never trying to market them.Each one takes 8 hours on the printer.
Because of its design,injection molding wouldn't work..just too many layers.



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Re: Why we're invisible to drivers

Post by WingAdmin » Thu Nov 07, 2019 4:38 pm

It's what I have my Bluetooth controller buttons mounted on as well. :)

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Re: Why we're invisible to drivers

Post by virgilmobile » Thu Nov 07, 2019 7:05 pm

I just knew that mountimg spot would come in handy for "add ons".
Easy to reach and still keep a hand on the grip.
Maybe I'll redesign just the mount so a variety of things can be attached

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Re: Why we're invisible to drivers

Post by heli_madken » Fri Nov 08, 2019 7:33 am

I have Denali LED spotlights and their CanSmart controller on my BMW R1250RT. When you pull the high beam flash switch three times in quick succession it modulates the spots in a pattern over about 5 seconds.

It is the most effective light system I have ever had as it draws attention straight away even when the vehicle isnt necessarily in line of site, off to the side for instance.

As the LED's have a blueish hint to them I believe in some cases cage drivers think you are emergency services. Sometimes they over react significantly, great for dealing with middle or offside lane hoggers who instantly dart out of the way but I guess in some respects this could be dangerous.

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Re: Why we're invisible to drivers

Post by Andy Cote » Mon Nov 11, 2019 3:21 pm

I have been watching a show called Brain Games on NETFLIX. It has some information regarding how we draw conclusions and make decisions.
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Re: Why we're invisible to drivers

Post by Elmobile » Sun Dec 01, 2019 7:32 am

Another article which explain what foveal vision is all about:
www.motorcycleconsumernews-digitalmagaz ... pg=39#pg39

Interesting to see how we can be "pre-programmed" to see or not see what is in our field of vision...

Motorcycle training should include some awareness of this physiological fact and that constant scanning of your surrounding is still you best defense!

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Re: Why we're invisible to drivers

Post by gyronutjoe » Sun Dec 01, 2019 12:06 pm

I also read that. Anyway I saw a goldwing gl1800 from quite a distance away. Couldn't help but see him. He had 2 10ft wip antennas illuminated with purple leds the whole length. They swung back and forth as he drove. Talk about an eye catcher. It made him very visible.

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Re: Why we're invisible to drivers

Post by amonera » Sun Dec 01, 2019 1:47 pm



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I will start with this link to a video... It is really interesting...

I know what in us may be legal to use headlight modulators but in Europe, is the best way to get pull over and get fxxxx ... (Fined, I meant fined, don't think bad)
I think our better chances are colour. Noise could be an asset (even when you can get also fined for this depending on your city) but if you are on a long trip you don't want to hear the rumble of your engine for 12h.

In Asia they use the claxon (horn?) To indicate presence, but in high density areas, it pollutes the city with a horrible noise and stress (I have been living in Hanoi, is a real pain)

In some countries in Europe is allowed to use day running lights that are basically a led focus pointing toward (semi high beam light) but you need to turn it off on sunset because will blind drivers once it's gets dark.

I think a yellow vest, a yellow jacket, a yellow helmet may give you more advantages that you may think. Even during the day I feel disturbed by the light reflected from my yellow jacket.

Also, there are helmets with small flashing lights that she not disturbing (similar to bicycle lights) which the police are ignoring for the moment and are very effective in total darkness before they know what your are, but still nothing compared with the reflection jackets once the photons start bathing you.

The best way would be achieved in the future when all vehicles and persons will have beacons and all vehicles will know where we are. Cars will point their drivers (or autopilots) where we are and try to avoid colliding. This kind of system of course will be tagged as, the government want to track us, but if we'll executed, the beacon can be anonymous and just report presence, not data.

Or we will reach out nightmare and motorcycles will be ban because "we are a danger for the poor fragile cars" when running with autopilots with computers having stokes every time an agile motorcycle goes into the field of view (or detection).

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Re: Why we're invisible to drivers

Post by gwbldad » Sun Dec 01, 2019 6:04 pm

So many good suggestions and ideas posted here...thank you everyone who has posted. I have noticed that when traffic begins to slow and I am the last vehicle in a line before a lengthy distance of the next group of vehicles, flashers and repeated brake light on/off sequence needs to be done to get the attention of the drivers bearing down on me. Even at well designated intersections with multiple large lights, drivers seem to brake at the last moment - sometimes needing to swerve feet away from me to avoid collision. I have learned from others over the years to have an escape plan - while moving and while stopped.

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Re: Why we're invisible to drivers

Post by 5150Jim » Thu Dec 05, 2019 1:41 pm

I was under the impression that a driver doesn't see a motorcycle because they are taught at a very early age to look for cars when crossing the street. Since I have been riding since 1965, when I married in the 70s & had kids, I always told them to watch out for Car, Bicycles, Motorcycles or anything that might run over them. I hoped this would always help them whether walking or driving.

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Re: Why we're invisible to drivers

Post by SlowTyper » Sat Dec 07, 2019 1:31 am

It is my impression that the amount of area the headlight(s) consume(s) is a significant factor in being visible. One ordinary light in the middle is not as attention getting as a wide row of 3 very bright lights. The overall size of the headlight area seems to also affect what others perceive as your distance away.

Personally, I am not a fan of headlight modulators -- I find them distracting when I see them, creating other safety risks. Furthermore, on my GL1200, I use a HID headlight which cannot me modulated. I also have two bright LED driving lights left & right of, and below, my headlight (near the air horns in the picture). This creates a large bright white triangle of light to oncoming drivers -- even at a distance. Knock of wood, but other drivers simply don't pull out in front of me. Nor have deer been a problem.

On the rear and sides of my bike are several red marker LED marker lights. When I apply the brakes, two of them on the back go into wig-wag mode. This gets the attention of people approaching from behind.

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Re: Why we're invisible to drivers

Post by rudolphwolven » Sun Dec 08, 2019 9:18 am

*****
My extra provisions for (hopefully) better attention from others...
DRL's on my 1975 GL1000 K1 / 15.000 miles .............
Very easily mounted beyond and on the bolt of the blinkers..
Plus a modulating stopping light (3x short/3x long/ then constant)























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Re: Why we're invisible to drivers

Post by amonera » Sun Dec 08, 2019 10:17 am

That's a very nice looking Goldwing...

Ohh and (she/he?) has dlr ..

I saw the bike before I saw the lights ;)

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Re: Why we're invisible to drivers

Post by gyronutjoe » Thu Jan 30, 2020 12:53 pm

I also think that the training people get for cars and trucks for motorcycles consist of 1 line in a training manual that says motorcycles are legal transportation. What I believe that should be done is an 8 hour interactive online course on motorcycle safety with a test that is required for everyone in the country to take. If you fail, your drivers license is suspended until you pass the test.
No exceptions even if you drive a motorcycle.



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