Cyclists Actually ARE Invisible to Drivers


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No. We’re not talking about this altercation again. That’s purposeful malice. But a study in England that tracked the eyes of drivers (they wore special glasses that pinpoint the exact focus of the eye by tracking microscopic movements in the cornea) showed that over 20 percent of cyclists were completely invisible to drivers.

Younger drivers missed spotting nearly one in three riders, and female motorists one in four. Pedestrians faired better; barely four percent went unseen. And even in the UK, where there are a lot more motos, motorcycles were still relatively invisible to 15 percent of drivers. The scariest findings were that younger drivers (20-29) are more distracted and more “blind” to seeing cyclists, and anyone using in-car navigation seemingly is more distracted, too.

The research, done by a British insurance firm, is probably still largely anecdotal. Only 100 drivers were tested, which may not be a large enough sample size to be certain about what happens more broadly. Also, because the glasses really pinpointed when the eye was still vs. scanning, it’s not entirely clear that the drivers failed to see cyclists in their periphery, as a professor of traffic studies has pointed out.

Via Road.cc and The Telegraph.

{ 4 comments…read them below or write one }

  • MC O'Connor

    Yep. And the same is largely true of motorcycles, which is partly why Harley drivers run their hogs so loudly and why many bikes have that flashing headlight. I’ve experienced this first hand, having nearly been hit while on the back of a motorcycle by a car driver that had no reason NOT to see us, as we turned left, legally, in front of him.
    It’s why, as a cyclist, I always assume any car in or near my path does NOT see. Cuz he or she probably doesn’t, even if they do. Ride defensively!

  • Hakim

    My opinion, that kind of drivers are not mentally healthy and most probably their minds are still sleeping enjoying their day dreams, and their vision was being blocked with fantacies.

  • Tim

    “The research, done by a British insurance firm, is probably still largely anecdotal.”
    yup. also,
    “because the glasses really pinpointed when the eye was still vs. scanning, it’s not entirely clear that the drivers failed to see cyclists in their periphery, as a professor of traffic studies has pointed out.”
    Thanks for adding that, it’s safe to ride your bike and we’re still at a much greater danger of being injured or killed driving a car then being hit by one.

  • hapfel

    I’ve got an Issue with the study. Or at least with how its presented:

    According to the study 22% of the cyclists aren’t “seen”. We know that there are cyclists who drive so far into the road that a collision will take place until the car driver makes a detour, i.e. until he/she has seen the cyclist (me for example).
    So, according to the study these cyclists would have a 78% chance of -not- being hit by each car which passes them. Just because the space just in front of the car is occupied by the cyclist so the driver *has to* make a detour, it’s not enoughtfor a near miss to drive straight on.
    The overall chance of two cars passing without a single collision would then be 78%*78% = 60%, three cars 60%*78% = 47%, n cars 78%^n.
    After some 100 cars the overall probability – according to the study – of *not* being hit by at least a single car would be 78%^100 = 1.6e-9%.
    Another, maybe even more drastic way to put it is if the whole world (6 billion people) would go by bike but for 90 car drivers, and those 90 car drivers would pass these 6 billion people on bikes, only *one* of the 6 billion would remain unscathed (and only if those car drivers wouldn’t be able to learn from their mistakes, of course).
    Well, I always thought that insurance companies were pretty good at statistics. And I thought that studies would at least be checked against *some* common sense. Obviously this need not be…

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