|Normally when riding this street, cars are parked the entire way up the road. On the day of this photo, car parking was minimal, but it's easy to get a sense of how it feels traveling by a line of parked cars.|
Fortunately, as I had experienced similar circumstances in the past, my ninja (okay perhaps not very ninja) like reflexes caused me to veer out into the main lane to avoid getting struck by the door. By chance, there were no vehicles in the lane at that moment, for which I was thankful. The woman who had tossed her door open didn't even realize that she nearly missed throwing me from my bike and potentially injuring me.
At the time, I was very upset because I couldn't understand why she hadn't looked in her side view mirror before exiting the vehicle (at minimum), but I also had grown used to this habit of drivers, so at least I had enough awareness to narrowly avoid the situation.
In this instance, I didn't really think much about the circumstances, but was just annoyed and a bit angered by the situation. Since this incident though, I've experienced a number of both similar and dissimilar situations that have caused me to wonder if hearing is the sense many depend on the most in slow-moving traffic situations.
|Offices were not yet open when this photo was taken early one morning, but generally speaking there is a great deal of both motorized and pedestrian traffic in this area.|
Again, I didn't give it much thought at the time. After all, traffic is supposed to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, but the more I thought on the insignificant moment in time, I came to wonder if we humans are relying a bit too much on our sense of sound and not enough on visual and other information?
So many similar happenings have taken place over the years. A person is exiting a vehicle and opening the trunk of her car, only to be startled by my wheels spinning by a second later because she didn't bother to glance up; An individual sits with windows down in his car, looking to his left while waiting to make a right turn, but never looks to his right to notice that I'm sitting in the bike lane, waiting to cross the street. When he starts to make his turn and realizes I'm there, it's as though he's spotting an anomaly and generally responds with displaced anger.
While riding on well-traveled local roads, I have to wonder if humans are relying too much on one sense and not using a variety of these in order to make decisions. A simple turn of the neck or glance in a mirror could potentially save someone from injury, yet it almost seems as though the responsibility for safety falls to those on a bike. Which is not to say that every person on a bicycle is completely aware at all times either, but rather that since a bicycle makes little sound and most people seem to be listening for motorized traffic whether on foot or driving, the onus seems to frequently fall on people riding to remain aware of everything taking place around him/her.
When I was learning to drive as a teenager, my mother always referred to this idea as "defensive driving;" basically, having the awareness and ability to react to any situation or potential situation in traffic. It requires the use of multiple senses (and at times it feels even the use of sixth sense is needed). Because we don't always know what a person will do in a given situation, we prepare mentally to maneuver around a problem before it even happens, so that if/when it happens, we make the appropriate adjustments.
If many people are relying so heavily on the sense of sound, are we really behaving in a manner consistent with the idea of defensive driving (or walking, biking)?
Whether exiting a motorized vehicle or traveling on foot, a number of people seem to rely on their sense of sound above others. Perhaps this is a broad generalization, but in my experience to date, it seems to hold true in a number of instances. As soon as I started paying attention to the reasons behind these moments, I started to wonder if it truly is about hearing and sound being too heavily relied upon in traffic situations.
What do you think? Are our ears doing more of the work when on city streets and roadways? Have distractions lowered awareness when out in traffic (such as cell phones, iPods, etc), thus distracting our sense of sound to a greater degree? Is it a combination of factors, including the ever-increasing traffic on many streets? Feel free to share your experiences and what you believe to be contributing factors to close calls on streets.