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Old 02-22-05, 12:21 PM   #1
billh
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Cycling 6th sense . . .

I wonder if this area of the brain gets trained during bicycle commuting?

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"It appears that this area of the brain is somehow figuring out things without you necessarily having to be consciously aware of it," Brown said. "It makes sense that this mechanism exists because there are plenty of situations in our everyday lives that require the brain to monitor subtle changes in our environment and adjust our behavior, even in cases where we may not be necessarily aware of the conditions that prompted the adjustment. In some cases, the brain's ability to monitor subtle environmental changes and make adjustments may actually be even more robust if it takes place on a subconscious level."
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Old 02-22-05, 12:56 PM   #2
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I don't mean to highjack this thread, but this new study supports my hypothesis about drivers being less aware of cyclists in bike lanes than cyclists in WOLs. Why? Because a cyclist in his own lane is not interpreted as a significant presence in the environment that is worth bothering the conscious with. Now, a cyclist up ahead that's actually in the driver's path, or near it, that's something to be aware of...
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Old 02-22-05, 01:00 PM   #3
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maybe, but not in my brain. or else how do i explain ignoring trail closed signs and attempting to ride through what can best be described as a river yesterday. i was doing ok until it got up to my waist and i realized my pannier was completely submerged and THEN the lite bulb went off that maybe this wasn't a good idea. also my numb brain failed to notice that i was riding along with a pretty swift current (which is why i was able to get as far as i did) until i decided to turn around and found that hey, this is not going to be so easy. fortunately i am a man-beast and was able to carry my bike over my head back out of there. that was the only way. i was a little wet when i got to work, but then, it was raining anyway. so now i know what flood plains are for. so yeah, maybe that part of my brain IS smarter now!
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Old 02-22-05, 01:06 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by billh
I wonder if this area of the brain gets trained during bicycle commuting?
Absolutely.
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Old 02-22-05, 01:19 PM   #5
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The article really doesn't go into what sorts of clues the subconcious is picking up on. They just used blue left and right arrows to introduce "mutually exclusive" options. Supposedly, the clues are something obvious to the primitive brain like "big noisy beast to my left" or "dangerous drop-off to my right" . . . or maybe more subtle things, can't think of any examples. What would the aboriginal tribesmen sense in a coming tsunami that the regular accountants, engineers, etc could not? Some faint sound, changes in the wind, air pressure?
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Old 02-22-05, 01:24 PM   #6
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Serge, i bet if they looked at images of your brain they would find out what a "one-track" mind actually looks like.
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Old 02-22-05, 02:08 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by billh
The article really doesn't go into what sorts of clues the subconcious is picking up on. They just used blue left and right arrows to introduce "mutually exclusive" options. Supposedly, the clues are something obvious to the primitive brain like "big noisy beast to my left" or "dangerous drop-off to my right" . . . or maybe more subtle things, can't think of any examples. What would the aboriginal tribesmen sense in a coming tsunami that the regular accountants, engineers, etc could not? Some faint sound, changes in the wind, air pressure?
This totally agrees with my experience. When you're in the zone, you can sense when a driver is going to buzz you from behind before you realize you can hear it, you can tell which driver is going to look right through you and turn in front of you. Your brain is processing all those signals, you just don't know it. The human brain is so much more complex and sensitive than we give it credit.
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Old 02-22-05, 02:39 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Serge *******
Now, a cyclist up ahead that's actually in the driver's path, or near it, that's something to be aware of...
You mean that's something that a driver usually is NOT aware of. I don't buy this bike commuters brain are more 1337 than non-commuters. You simply become familiar with the environment that you're in.

You do the same thing when walking, driving, playing tennis, flying an airplane etc.
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Old 02-22-05, 03:05 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Serge *******
I don't mean to highjack this thread, but this new study supports my hypothesis about drivers being less aware of cyclists in bike lanes than cyclists in WOLs. Why? Because a cyclist in his own lane is not interpreted as a significant presence in the environment that is worth bothering the conscious with. Now, a cyclist up ahead that's actually in the driver's path, or near it, that's something to be aware of...
The article was talking about the brain's ability to "monitor subtle changes in our environment and adjust our behavior." Furthermore, it says that this ability "may actually be even more robust if it takes place on a subconscious level."

It is not about "significant presence". I don't see any correlation to your hypothesis.

You are really stretching on this one, Serge.
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Old 02-22-05, 04:26 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by operator
Quote:
Originally Posted by Serge *******
Now, a cyclist up ahead that's actually in the driver's path, or near it, that's something to be aware of...
You mean that's something that a driver usually is NOT aware of.
Actually, what I mean is whether a driver is going to be aware of a cyclist up ahead depends a lot on the cyclist's position, and subtle differences can make big differences. In particular, the further the cyclist is to the right and out of the driver's path, the more likely is the driver to not be aware of the cyclist. If the cyclist is perceived to be in the driver's path, or close enough to matter, the driver is more likely to be aware of him.


Quote:
Originally Posted by PaperBoy
The article was talking about the brain's ability to "monitor subtle changes in our environment and adjust our behavior." Furthermore, it says that this ability "may actually be even more robust if it takes place on a subconscious level."
Yes, I know. It is the robustness of the driver's subconscious to monitor subtle changes in the lane position of the cyclist up ahead, and adjust the driver's behavior accordingly, that I'm talking about. If the cyclist is "out of the way", then no adjustment is required. If the cyclist is in the driver's path, the driver needs to slow down and/or merge left to pass. That's what I mean about "significant presence": subtle changes in the lateral position of the cyclist ahead makes his presence more or less significant to the driver.

Last edited by Serge Issakov; 02-22-05 at 04:31 PM.
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Old 02-22-05, 04:48 PM   #11
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It is the robustness of this poster's subconscious to monitor subtle changes in the lane position of the poster up ahead that leads me to believe that this thread has been hijacked even though my puny little brain may not be necessarily aware of the conditions that prompted the adjustment.
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Old 02-22-05, 04:54 PM   #12
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People often wonder how I can find my way on hiking "trails" that get swallowed up by the chaparral, and even on "trails" I've never been on before (quotes are there because sometimes the actual trail is not there). There are clues if you let your mind be open to them. Similar to what caloso said about being able to sense what a driver is going to do. We probably nurture this sense more as cyclists than as drivers because cyclists are more out in the environment, more out in the sounds, the smells, the weather, whereas motorists are in a cocoon cutting off some of their senses from the outside real world. Your body also has knowledge, learns, and informs you of the world around you, not only your mind or your eyes.
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Old 02-22-05, 05:26 PM   #13
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It's funny how they need a study to prove this experience. I remember when I would be messengering in Seattle around rush hour and 5th Ave would be a solid parking lot. You could shoot the lane, like the motorcycles do in California, at full speed. It was one of those things that if you thought about what you were doing you would get too much in your head and clip a mirror or something. In those sorts of situations it feels safer to be closed in by all of those cars as they don't have anywhere to move and you can easily manuever around them. I know there were definitely days when I had raced across downtown in a matter of minutes and I could barely even remember doing it. You just kind of file away all of the potholes, slippery grates, and difficult intersections and think about other things.
Though I don't know if this 6th sense always makes us more aware than motorists, I think in some ways it might foster the same sense of mindlessness that we accuse motorists of in these forums.
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Old 02-23-05, 01:26 AM   #14
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- - In 2000 I got back in bicycling after a long hiatus. I noticed the increased alertness had carried over into my driving habits.
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Old 02-23-05, 07:33 AM   #15
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Actually most drivers seem pretty conscious of one thought:

ME FIRST! ME FIRST! ME FIRST!

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Old 02-23-05, 08:28 AM   #16
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I just bought a helmet (a high end Giro) and wore it for the past two days. I have ridden all my life without a helmet. The wind noise the helmet is generating is totally messing up my spider-sense of what is happening on the road around me. Or maybe it's blocking my esp?

Those of you whohave been wearing helmets for some time, do you ever get acclimatized to the noise and start to hear what's going on around you again?
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Old 02-23-05, 08:31 AM   #17
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huh?

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Old 02-23-05, 10:17 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mars
I just bought a helmet (a high end Giro) and wore it for the past two days. I have ridden all my life without a helmet. The wind noise the helmet is generating is totally messing up my spider-sense of what is happening on the road around me. Or maybe it's blocking my esp?

Those of you whohave been wearing helmets for some time, do you ever get acclimatized to the noise and start to hear what's going on around you again?
"spidey-sense" . .. I love it!
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Old 02-23-05, 10:18 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Treespeed
I don't know if this 6th sense always makes us more aware than motorists,
I've always felt that I do have an increased awarness on a bike that I don't have in a car and that it's this awareness that keeps me safe, as opposed to a popular comment by motorists that cyclists are in more danger because of the naked exposure in traffic on the bike.

I'm safe because of the exposure and, it seems to me, drivers are more likely to get into accidents because they are so removed fron the actual enviroment of traffic with all the automobile distractions such as, being sealed off from the existence of what the road "feels" like, comfortable seats, radio, passengers activities and now cell phones and DVD players.
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Old 02-23-05, 11:01 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mars
Those of you whohave been wearing helmets for some time, do you ever get acclimatized to the noise and start to hear what's going on around you again?
Ironically, the more vented the helmet, the more turbalence there is, the louder the noise. My ears used to be ringing (well they still do) in the summer after getting home everyday. It's not as bad in the winter cause I wear a pair of 180's under my helmet and it blocks out or smooths out the flow of wind over my helmet a lot.

I wouldn't think of it as a 6th sense as more of having enough blood pumping that you're just more awake. Almost every commute, I always dread getting out of work or out of the house for the first 5 minutes then once I get going, it's a blur all the way till I get to my destination. And once I get there and I think back on all the close calls, that's when I get scared and start thinking, "how the hell did I let myself get in THAT situation." But those things you don't even have time to think about out there.

Also, the more you mix with traffic, the more cues you pick up that you just wouldn't physically be able to as a pedestrian or a driver. You just "learn" to pick up movement in a parked car, pedestrians not looking while they're walking into the intersection, sense whether there is or isn't a car coming down the intersection from the movement of pedestrians so you know whether to run the red or not, and a bunch of other things.
Like solving a rubik's cube blind folded in less than 45 seconds.
Like hitting a patch of ice, skidding, and being able to pull yourself out of it instinctively.
Like manually running a tensile fatigue test on a piece of metal and being able to load and unload at specific points without looking at the stress/strain graph by just looking at how the numbers change on the display panel.

When you're out there long enough and you learn to pick up on things before you even consciously think about it, which to some people is this sense of having no "fear" of anything or having a 6th sense. Though I think I'd rather like to have a healthy dose of fear in me to keep me alive.
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Old 02-23-05, 11:56 AM   #21
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I think everyone is correctly describing what happens, we just have different ways of describing it. This is how I explain it.

You learn to anticipate better. You start to react when a hint of motion is present. You react to sounds much better. You must learn things that you might not learn in a car. You see a hint of motion inside a parked car that may be a door about to open.
You hear the door latch you could not hear if you were in a car. You do have better visibility. You can hear cars coming up from behind, even if you need to concentrate on a problem in front of you. You can hear cars on side streets sometimes, before you see them. A lot of this gets programmed into the subconscious. You don't always know it's working, but you can't even shut it off. It's a sub routine going in the background like a firewall protecting you, while you pay attention to the obvious things at the same time.
The perfect example is slvoid's description of responding to a skid on the ice and recovering. You can not think that through, by that time you would be on the ground. The process is learned, stored and switched to automatic and it happens so fast you don't even know how you did it. After it happens you think about it, then you may get scared. At that point it does not matter.

It's similar to the hunter recognizing that an animal was here because of the grass being flattened where he lay down. A lot of people would just miss that. Or the hunter realizes that all of sudden all the small birds and animals are quiet, either they noticed him, or another predator is near by. All the birds take flight when the hunter has been still for an hour, something else is coming. It's like the Indian scout feels the vibration in the ground as the stampede of buffalo is a long way off. No one else understands.

A cyclist picks up the same things. You see a car or pedestrian react oddly to something you can't even see, like a car on a side street, you get ready to slow or stop.

I believe the term correct technical term for this is "Situational Awareness". It does vary by individual as well.

I realized one day riding in traffic that I have an invisible safety space all around me in all directions, when something gets into or close to that space I just feel it. In front it's my stopping distance, on the sides it's an awareness of closeness if someone were to move sideways. In the back in my mirror it's if something is too close for me to slam on the brakes. I rode a long way with a friend in heavy traffic the other day and he wanted to be close enough to talk in heavy traffic. It messed me up all day and was very annoying.
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Old 02-23-05, 12:11 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mars
I just bought a helmet (a high end Giro) and wore it for the past two days. I have ridden all my life without a helmet. The wind noise the helmet is generating is totally messing up my spider-sense of what is happening on the road around me. Or maybe it's blocking my esp?

Those of you who have been wearing helmets for some time, do you ever get acclimatized to the noise and start to hear what's going on around you again?
I have a Giro Pneumo and I'm not aware of any wind noise issues. So if there are any, I've learned to ignore it and not be affected by it.
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Old 02-23-05, 12:30 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Serge *******
I have a Giro Pneumo and I'm not aware of any wind noise issues. So if there are any, I've learned to ignore it and not be affected by it.
The same thing happens to me. You do block it out. All summer it just does not seem to exist. Then in the cold weather when I have to cover my ears the wind turbulence is quieted. It's very different even relaxing, and in some cases I can sort out other noises better. I don't think you live in a place where it get's that cold ? Without the winter head cover I woud never know the difference.
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Old 02-23-05, 12:57 PM   #24
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I have a Pneumo too and one day I forgot my 180's earmuff's and WHAMO, I couldn't hear myself think.
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Old 02-23-05, 01:14 PM   #25
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I have the Pneumo too. I find it very loud, but as I said before, I have never worn a helmet before. If you own a Pneumo, try this: turn your head 90 degrees to your course. All that wind sound stops. Seems like a nice helmet, though, and pretty cool looking as such things go.

I'm glad that you can get used to the noise, but right now I feel disconnected from stuff around me. Much more nervous changing lanes and such without my "spider-sense" to help me out.
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