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View Poll Results: How long can you safely turn and look behind you while riding in traffic?

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  • Never look back

    0 0%
  • a split second glance

    40 41.24%
  • 1-2 seconds

    43 44.33%
  • 2-5 seconds

    11 11.34%
  • Whatsa in front of me isn't important

    3 3.09%
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  1. #1
    your nightmare gal chipcom's Avatar
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    Whatsa in front of me is not important!

    Wanted to get some opinions concerning a claim made in another thread.
    "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey

  2. #2
    Commuter JohnBrooking's Avatar
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    I'm the only one to say 1-2 seconds so far, but that was just a guess, so maybe it doesn't count. In reality, I hardly ever look back, and when I do, it is only for a split second, because...

    I use a mirror!
    Quote Originally Posted by MadfiNch on Commuting forum
    What's the point of a bike if you can only ride it on weekends, and you can't even carry anything with you?!
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  3. #3
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    I'm confused. Did you mean to say, "what's behind me is not important?" I also use a mirror and only look back if i am going to be turning across a lane in front of traffic. BEst to double check the mirror.

    BTW, i didn't vote in the poll because none of them fit really for me.

  4. #4
    Packfodding 3 caloso's Avatar
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    I don't use a mirror. I let go and stretch out with my feelings, using the Force. Occaisonally, I need to look back and 2 sec seems to be all the time I need to see everything back there. And it's probably the maximum safe amount of time.

    The bigger issue is can you look back and hold your line?
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  5. #5
    I couldn't car less. jeff williams's Avatar
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    A quick glance every 10 seconds in heavy traffic prob.

  6. #6
    Senior Member iamtim's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ranger
    I'm confused. Did you mean to say, "what's behind me is not important?"
    I think, if you look at the order of the poll options, that he's saying you look behind for so long that you must feel what's in front of you really isn't important.

    Tim.

  7. #7
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    I use a glasses mount mirror, and only look over my shoulder prior to making a lnae change. This look provides a visual clue to drivers that you are about to make a lne change. I use my mirror to keep aware of the traffic behind me, and look over my shoulder to make the lane change when I know there is a gap in the traffic. I probably dont use the mirror enough, because I am often being dropped by cyclists who sneek up behind me.

  8. #8
    The Improbable Bulk Little Darwin's Avatar
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    I use a mirror, and tend to take quick glances behind me (in the mirror) every 10 seconds or so. I only look back over my shoulder occasionally except when I am getting ready to move over.

    Just as when I am driving, I try to be aware of what is going on around me.

    I think that cyclists who see nothing unless they are about to run over it are no better than people who drive cars and continually focus on their hood ornament like it is a pair of cross hairs.
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  9. #9
    Dominatrikes sbhikes's Avatar
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    I read something once where they did some study and learned that some people have vision that remains steady no matter how much the body is jostled around, whereas other people's vision lacks that steadiness, so when their body is jostled around their vision is too. I'm one of the latter.

    If the road is really bad I can barely see in front of me, let alone behind me. That is why some people love to let 'er rip on their recumbents and go 30-50 mph down hills and I prefer to stay under 30.

    Looking behind me I can't hardly make out anything at all. And I can't seem to turn all the way around and look directly. So, I'll do a quick glance and hope my peripheral vision can pick up on anything coming my way. Otherwise, the mirror is the only thing I use.
    ~Diane
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  10. #10
    Cycle Year Round CB HI's Avatar
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    I also use a mirror and mostly turn to look as a backup prior to changing lanes; but I have turned to give a bad motorist the 5 second evil eye.

  11. #11
    hill hater nova's Avatar
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    Normaly a secound or 2 some times alot less. Realy it depends on the road. If theres a big ditch beside me for 50 or 60 feet and no drives roads etc then ill look back longer. If im on a residental street ill just glance now and then for a split secound. Now as we all know when you look back you also tend to want to turn the dirction of the shoulder you look over. So i tend to pratice looking back in silver creek where i can do longer looks safly at the begining of a season.

  12. #12
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    I look around 2 seconds or a bit more. On a low traffic, calm street, I look for one to two seconds. Any less and it doesn't register for me. I never knew that! Just timed myself.

    This is bizarre, this poll. I think it might be kind of troll-y because chipcom is trying to goat helmet head. If that is the only reason for this, I'm sorry I participated.

  13. #13
    your nightmare gal chipcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody
    I look around 2 seconds or a bit more. On a low traffic, calm street, I look for one to two seconds. Any less and it doesn't register for me. I never knew that! Just timed myself.

    This is bizarre, this poll. I think it might be kind of troll-y because chipcom is trying to goat helmet head. If that is the only reason for this, I'm sorry I participated.
    Not a troll at all. HH modified his original comment, and I am fine with that. I am just curious to see what others think is a reasonable time to take your attention away from what is in front of you.

    Personally, I am glad to see so many people using mirrors for situational awareness, but always giving a look before hanging their okole out there.
    "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey

  14. #14
    Chairman of the Bored catatonic's Avatar
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    If I had contact or Lasik, I would be able to see in a split second glance...however glasses screw that up nicely.

    However I have been known to look for about 2 seconds, then scan teh front, then another 2 seconds, rinse wash repeat...for a while.

    I also turn my head to the side to cut back the wind turbulence around my ears so i can hear behind me from time to time...if I thought I heard something, I do this to make sure.
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  15. #15
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chipcom
    Not a troll at all. HH modified his original comment, and I am fine with that. I am just curious to see what others think is a reasonable time to take your attention away from what is in front of you.

    Personally, I am glad to see so many people using mirrors for situational awareness, but always giving a look before hanging their okole out there
    .
    I'm so relieved that you approve of the way we ride.

  16. #16
    your nightmare gal chipcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody
    I'm so relieved that you approve of the way we ride.
    I'm so relieved that you are as anal as usual.
    "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey

  17. #17
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    I have never used a mirror, but as I get older maybe that's a good idea. Regardless I look back for only a split second especially when lane changing, but I rely more on my hearing to locate cars when just riding straight. I use a different approach to turning my head then others here most of the time, I don't really turn my head per say, rather I dip my head and look under my arm most of the time, but sometimes I turn my head just depends on the situation or mood!

  18. #18
    hill hater nova's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chipcom
    Not a troll at all. HH modified his original comment, and I am fine with that. I am just curious to see what others think is a reasonable time to take your attention away from what is in front of you.

    Personally, I am glad to see so many people using mirrors for situational awareness, but always giving a look before hanging their okole out there.
    I need to get me a mirror my self prob one that mounts on glasses. Thats why im waiting till i get me some better glasses than these burger king wild wild west ones i have now heh.

    I use to have a bar end mirror till my bike got knocked over one day and broke it. Turns out the mirror it self was glass. Supriseing as i only paid 2.99 at kmart for it.

  19. #19
    Banned. Helmet Head's Avatar
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    Wow. 42% (24/56) selected the longest they can safely turn and look back is only a split-second.

    Folks, you gotta work on that! Go to an empty parking lot with straight lines you can follow, ride along the lines, and practice looking back longer and longer without veering off the line. It's not that hard, but does take a little practice. For safe cycling in traffic, you should be able to hold a 2-second backward look.

    The purpose of a look back is not only to look and see what's going on... it's also to let motorists see you looking back. That tells them you'd like to merge left.

  20. #20
    lws
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    I thought about this topic as I was riding through the city this morning.

    This is what I do, and what is my understanding of the recommended technique for a left turn.

    First, a quick glance behind to see what the overtaking traffic situation is. This isn't a full stare, it's just a check out of the corner of my eye and doesn't prevent me from seeing ahead as well. Other drivers (cars, trucks, bikes, buggies, whatever) see me looking and get a little heads-up that maybe something is going on with me, not sure what, but maybe they should watch closely.

    Once I identify a gap in traffic, a DECISIVE hand signal -- not the little one-finger dangly thing I see many cyclists sporting, but a full-on, from-the-shoulder, open-palm signal, briskly snapped out there, says "Okay, I'm executing a change in direction, and I mean it."

    This is followed by some brief checking out of the corner of my eye to see that the gap in traffic still exists. Usually, I see that the overtaking traffic has seen my signal and tacitly acknowledged it by slowing.

    Then I turn my head and give them the full eye-contact. This says "I see you, and I know you see me." If I don't see their eyes, then I have to be concerned that they are distracted, but I have never had that happen in twenty years.

    That takes about two seconds, and I decisively move straight to the left side of the lane, slow and stop if neccessary, before turning left.

    I do this in heavy traffic or light traffic, on any road around here. The only roads I avoid are the limited-access ones, and the hellacious raceways through strip-mall land. Some of my favorite roads have two lanes in each direction and few lights. Your roads might be different, I don't know.

    Did you ever notice, when driving your car, that if you're trying to change lanes, or turn into traffic, and another motorist doesn't want to let you in, that he refuses to meet your eyes? Certainly on the highways around Boston, drivers pulled that sort of thing all the time. Pretending they don't see. But if they do make eye contact with you, they always let you in.

    Same is true on your bike.

  21. #21
    your nightmare gal chipcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Helmet Head
    Wow. 42% (24/56) selected the longest they can safely turn and look back is only a split-second.

    Folks, you gotta work on that! Go to an empty parking lot with straight lines you can follow, ride along the lines, and practice looking back longer and longer without veering off the line. It's not that hard, but does take a little practice. For safe cycling in traffic, you should be able to hold a 2-second backward look.

    The purpose of a look back is not only to look and see what's going on... it's also to let motorists see you looking back. That tells them you'd like to merge left.
    Please cite your qualifications to tell others that they must 'work on' taking their eyes off the road in front of them for a longer period of time than they feel is safe, especially when riding in traffic? Do you also suggest that drivers do the same? Tell us what happens when a dog darts out in front of you while you are playing touchy-feely with the driver behind you, or when the motorist in front of you suddenly decides to move into your path, not even aware that you are there? HH I know you mean well, but IMHO you are advocating an unsafe practice. I'm a strong advocate of looking and making eye contact, but I think it is up to the rider, not you or I or anyone else, to determine the safest manner and time period required to do so for them.
    "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey

  22. #22
    I can't find my pants mirona's Avatar
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    At least 1-2 seconds and I hold my line perfectly fine. Never use a mirror. I would rather develop the ability to look behind me if need be than to rely on a quick glance or mirror.

  23. #23
    Dominatrikes sbhikes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Helmet Head
    Folks, you gotta work on that!
    There it is. The unsolicited advice. Nobody likes unsolicited advice. I don't.

    The post after:
    Quote Originally Posted by lws
    This is what I do...
    I find posts like this to be more informative and worthy of my attention, even if they say essentially the same thing.
    ~Diane
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    8.5 mile commute. I like bike lanes.

  24. #24
    your nightmare gal chipcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sbhikes
    There it is. The unsolicited advice. Nobody likes unsolicited advice. I don't.

    The post after:


    I find posts like this to be more informative and worthy of my attention, even if they say essentially the same thing.
    I like how you can say things in a much friendlier and diplomatic manner than I can. Aww shucks, I just plain like ya.
    "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey

  25. #25
    Senior Member filtersweep's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chipcom
    Please cite your qualifications to tell others that they must 'work on' taking their eyes off the road in front of them for a longer period of time than they feel is safe, especially when riding in traffic? Do you also suggest that drivers do the same? Tell us what happens when a dog darts out in front of you while you are playing touchy-feely with the driver behind you, or when the motorist in front of you suddenly decides to move into your path, not even aware that you are there? HH I know you mean well, but IMHO you are advocating an unsafe practice. I'm a strong advocate of looking and making eye contact, but I think it is up to the rider, not you or I or anyone else, to determine the safest manner and time period required to do so for them.

    I often ride in darkness- and a Niterider system still creates a lot of guesswork- particularly as there are so many leaves on the road (making odd shadows)- so unfortunately there is much riding on faith in what is or isn't in front of me. Also, it really sucks that I cannot make eye contact at night/pre dawn... although a helmet mounted light would be nice for spotting drivers (and perhaps blinding them).

    On the flip side, I also use a take-a-look mirror, and find I don't need to double-check (by turning) very often. There really isn't a blind spot.

    I am a mirror convert- a born again. I used to scoff at "geeks who wore mirrors"- now I feel naked without one.

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