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What is the biggest threat to you while cycling in traffic?

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Advocacy & Safety Cyclists should expect and demand safe accommodation on every public road, just as do all other users. Discuss your bicycle advocacy and safety concerns here.
View Poll Results: What is the biggest threat to you while cycling in traffic?
bike lanes
0.52%
cross-traffic (intersections)
7.33%
drunk drivers
1.57%
inattentive drivers
50.79%
narrow lanes
5.76%
rubble/debris/potholes/poor road surface
7.85%
same-direction traffic
5.76%
you
11.52%
other
8.90%
Voters: 191. You may not vote on this poll

What is the biggest threat to you while cycling in traffic?

Old 02-09-07, 11:18 AM
  #51  
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Originally Posted by LittleBigMan
"CONGRATULATIONS! Those of you who answered correctly have each won a copy of 'Effective Cycling,' by John Forester."

Actually, in this case, a copy of Robert's The Art of Urban Cycling/Lessons from the Street would be the more appropriate prize.
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Old 02-09-07, 11:18 AM
  #52  
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Why would I consider myself the greatest danger? The greatest danger is that which you have no control over, or worse, can't even anticpate. Unless you are an admitted ****z like Diane (sorry dear, couldn't resist ), you have more control over yourself than you do over all the other external factors. Indeed, it looks like a lot of folks are choosing the one thing they have the least control over - the attentiveness, competence and actions of the other person.

But of course as long as just one person answers the poll in the way HH intended, he'll disegard everything else and claim vindication for yet another wacky theory.
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Old 02-09-07, 11:23 AM
  #53  
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Originally Posted by chipcom
Why would I consider myself the greatest danger?
Well, I certainly do.

...consider you the greatest danger, that is.

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Old 02-09-07, 11:27 AM
  #54  
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Originally Posted by chipcom
Why would I consider myself the greatest danger? The greatest danger is that which you have no control over, or worse, can't even anticpate. Unless you are an admitted ****z like Diane (sorry dear, couldn't resist ), you have more control over yourself than you do over all the other external factors. Indeed, it looks like a lot of folks are choosing the one thing they have the least control over - the attentiveness, competence and actions of the other person.

But of course as long as just one person answers the poll in the way HH intended, he'll disegard everything else and claim vindication for yet another wacky theory.
I agree with Chip (or his dog, depending which side his head is on)

I would never consider myself as the biggest threat to my safety while cycling in traffic. While I certainly can make mistakes, I always have %100 percent control over my own actions. I may have some control of most of the other threats, but it will never be %100.
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Old 02-09-07, 11:44 AM
  #55  
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Once one gains control within then control begins to take form externally
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Old 02-09-07, 11:57 AM
  #56  
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Originally Posted by LittleBigMan
Well, I certainly do.

...consider you the greatest danger, that is.

YOU ARE CORRECT SIR!

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Old 02-09-07, 12:06 PM
  #57  
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I chose "other" because Al Qaeda wasn't listed.
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Old 02-09-07, 12:11 PM
  #58  
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Originally Posted by chipcom
YOU ARE CORRECT SIR!

Dang, ol' Ed gets to lookin' younger all the time!

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Old 02-09-07, 12:22 PM
  #59  
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Originally Posted by chipcom
Why would I consider myself the greatest danger? The greatest danger is that which you have no control over, or worse, can't even anticpate. Unless you are an admitted ****z like Diane (sorry dear, couldn't resist ), you have more control over yourself than you do over all the other external factors. Indeed, it looks like a lot of folks are choosing the one thing they have the least control over - the attentiveness, competence and actions of the other person.
I believe that just about any threat from an inattentive motorist that originates in front of you or off to the sides can be neutralized by remaining in the moment and keeping your head in the proper place -- by being ready for it and staying one step ahead. Inattentive motorists are as inevitable as tides and sunsets. No matter how or where you ride, or what kind of hi-vis flashing vest you're wearing, you will still have to deal with inattentive drivers. It's ultimately up to us to be ready for them, and not surprised. Inattentive motorists are a constant, while cyclist awareness is not. That's why I see "you" as the key variable, not the inattentive drivers.

Drivers behind us are a different case indeed. We can be 100% vigilant and still get run down by an inattentive driver from behind. That sucks. Lack of control laces this threat with a particularly sour taste. But hit-from-behind is less of a threat to those of us who ride in city centers with heavier traffic than to those who spend most of their time on high speed roads in rural areas. In urban areas the vast majority of the threat is in front of the cyclist in plain view; as the roads get lonelier the intersections, alleys, driveways, pedestrians, and parked cars disappear, and a very real threat emerges from the rear. Damn that rhymes.

Originally Posted by chipcom
But of course as long as just one person answers the poll in the way HH intended, he'll disegard everything else and claim vindication for yet another wacky theory.
Maybe not so wacky this time. I sense HH's ideas have evolved a bit. Now he is talking about awareness rather than acting as a vehicle as the most important factor. The mere mention of such an idea has been known to send the Vehicular Cycling braintrust into a tailspin.

Robert
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Old 02-09-07, 12:27 PM
  #60  
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Conspicuously left out of the list are aggressive drivers. The ones that look you straight in the eye and then turn left in front of you when you have the right of way. These are cowards who reason "I'm bigger than the bike, he'd better get out of my way."

Its very easy to avoid stupid people, ones that aren't looking, distracted by the cell phone, they are all very easy to get around.

The aggressive ones, the ones that are aiming for you, are harder to avoid and more dangerous.
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Old 02-09-07, 12:42 PM
  #61  
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Inattentive drivers seem to be well ahead here....

This seems to be in line with my experience - drivers just not paying attention, generally at intersections. The most worrysome point on my commute (here in the USA) is an intersection where traffic from a similar sized side road joins, merging in from the right. Although merging traffic is instructed to yield, drivers often dont. This seems to be because they didn't see (another car) or (far less frequently) thought they could beat or cut off the cyclist they did see. The answer is to be alert. Because lerts live longer

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Old 02-09-07, 01:08 PM
  #62  
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Originally Posted by RobertHurst
I believe that just about any threat from an inattentive motorist that originates in front of you or off to the sides can be neutralized by remaining in the moment and keeping your head in the proper place -- by being ready for it and staying one step ahead. Inattentive motorists are as inevitable as tides and sunsets. No matter how or where you ride, or what kind of hi-vis flashing vest you're wearing, you will still have to deal with inattentive drivers. It's ultimately up to us to be ready for them, and not surprised. Inattentive motorists are a constant, while cyclist awareness is not. That's why I see "you" as the key variable, not the inattentive drivers.

Drivers behind us are a different case indeed. We can be 100% vigilant and still get run down by an inattentive driver from behind. That sucks. Lack of control laces this threat with a particularly sour taste. But hit-from-behind is less of a threat to those of us who ride in city centers with heavier traffic than to those who spend most of their time on high speed roads in rural areas. In urban areas the vast majority of the threat is in front of the cyclist in plain view; as the roads get lonelier the intersections, alleys, driveways, pedestrians, and parked cars disappear, and a very real threat emerges from the rear. Damn that rhymes.



Maybe not so wacky this time. I sense HH's ideas have evolved a bit. Now he is talking about awareness rather than acting as a vehicle as the most important factor. The mere mention of such an idea has been known to send the Vehicular Cycling braintrust into a tailspin.

Robert
I agree that awareness, and planning for Murphy, are the most important things we can do to minimize our risk when doing anything, not just cycling...but that does not translate into lack of awareness being our biggest danger. Bear with me for a sec.

Ever see someone all hunkered down in a fighting hole as stuff is blowing up all around them? They are real aware of what is going on around them, yet when the one with their name on it comes in, they're toast. Being aware isn't enough to keep bad things from happening, even when you know what those bad things are. When your number comes up in the big lotto of life, you're gonna have a bad day, no matter how aware you are, what tactics you use or what levels of protection you invoke. The thing that gets you can be the thing you weren't even thinking about, or the thing you were thinking most about and prepared for...it don't matter.

My vote was 'Other'. We are not the greatest danger, nor are the other things on the list. The greatest danger is that it's our turn to have a bad day. That's not to say we don't do everything we can to minimize the dangers of what we know can hurt us, but in the end, what is going to hurt us, if and when something does, is totally out of our control.
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Old 02-09-07, 01:11 PM
  #63  
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Originally Posted by Ed Holland
Inattentive drivers seem to be well ahead here....

This seems to be in line with my experience - drivers just not paying attention, generally at intersections. The most worrysome point on my commute (here in the USA) is an intersection where traffic from a similar sized side road joins, merging in from the right. Although merging traffic is instructed to yield, drivers often dont. This seems to be because they didn't see (another car) or (far less frequently) thought they could beat or cut off the cyclist they did see. The answer is to be alert. Because lerts live longer

Ed
Ed along with that situation is the "right on red" rule which seems to make drivers more anxious to get on with the turn and take less time to ensure that the entire way is clear.

I was thinking about this a bit a while back when Helmet Head told me that I was just dreaming about "the good old days." Well, in fact the good old days included cars that DID NOT turn right on red. So now there are in fact more opportunities for a motorist to be involved in a collision with you than there ever was before.

Of course this situation may not apply for the younger cyclists who have always had right on red as a law during their lifetime. But I know things were calmer (and more predictable) when I was younger.

And of course if you couple distracted motorists with right on red...

Last edited by genec; 02-09-07 at 01:18 PM.
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Old 02-09-07, 01:18 PM
  #64  
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Originally Posted by chipcom
I agree that awareness, and planning for Murphy, are the most important things we can do to minimize our risk when doing anything, not just cycling...but that does not translate into lack of awareness being our biggest danger. Bear with me for a sec.

Ever see someone all hunkered down in a fighting hole as stuff is blowing up all around them? They are real aware of what is going on around them, yet when the one with their name on it comes in, they're toast. Being aware isn't enough to keep bad things from happening, even when you know what those bad things are. When your number comes up in the big lotto of life, you're gonna have a bad day, no matter how aware you are, what tactics you use or what levels of protection you invoke. The thing that gets you can be the thing you weren't even thinking about, or the thing you were thinking most about and prepared for...it don't matter.

My vote was 'Other'. We are not the greatest danger, nor are the other things on the list. The greatest danger is that it's our turn to have a bad day. That's not to say we don't do everything we can to minimize the dangers of what we know can hurt us, but in the end, what is going to hurt us, if and when something does, is totally out of our control.
I tend to agree with you... simply because we cyclists are just as human as the motorists we are talking about... just as the motorist can be inattentive, the cyclist can miss that one "incoming" also.

The thing that constantly irks me is that I have to pay more attention to watch out for the motorists that are not... I am risking more. But like that one terrorist that slips through the tightest security... that is all it takes. I have to be 100% correct in my assesment... yet motorists do not put nearly that level of concentration into doing their job. They are not looking out for me, or peds or anything else except #1... themselves.

HH has said before that we cannot expect motorists to have the concentration of a jet fighter pilot... but apparently he does expect that of cyclists.
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Old 02-09-07, 01:55 PM
  #65  
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Originally Posted by RobertHurst
I believe that just about any threat from an inattentive motorist that originates in front of you or off to the sides can be neutralized by remaining in the moment and keeping your head in the proper place -- by being ready for it and staying one step ahead. Inattentive motorists are as inevitable as tides and sunsets. No matter how or where you ride, or what kind of hi-vis flashing vest you're wearing, you will still have to deal with inattentive drivers. It's ultimately up to us to be ready for them, and not surprised. Inattentive motorists are a constant, while cyclist awareness is not. That's why I see "you" as the key variable, not the inattentive drivers.
Thank you for explaining this so clearly (well, it's clear to me). I like to say inattentive drivers are a given... same concept. What I try to emphasize is the practice of distinguishing those few whose attention matters (or is about to matter) to your safety, from the vast majority of drivers out there about whom it doesn't matter whether they are paying attention and aware of you or not. The reason I say that is a lot of folks seem to get all worked up about inattentive drivers who could be blindfolded and still not be a threat to them. I think being concerned about the irrelevant drivers (while cycling) wastes precious cycles that can be used for paying attention to everything that does matter to one's safety. That's another reason I believe "you" are your own biggest threat.

Drivers behind us are a different case indeed. We can be 100% vigilant and still get run down by an inattentive driver from behind. That sucks. Lack of control laces this threat with a particularly sour taste. But hit-from-behind is less of a threat to those of us who ride in city centers with heavier traffic than to those who spend most of their time on high speed roads in rural areas. In urban areas the vast majority of the threat is in front of the cyclist in plain view; as the roads get lonelier the intersections, alleys, driveways, pedestrians, and parked cars disappear, and a very real threat emerges from the rear. Damn that rhymes.
I don't disagree that we can't completely eliminate the threat from behind, but I would add that the vigilant cyclist can do quite a bit to reduce further the already low probability of being hit from behind. In particular, defaulting to a conspicuous lane-controlling "centerish" position during significantly long gaps in same-direction traffic gives any driver more chances to notice you as he's approaching from behind, which makes him less likely to choose to pay attention to something else as he gets critically close to you. In other words, it makes him less likely to be an inattentive driver as he's passing you... If you're already off to the side as he's approaching from behind (but still not critically close) then the approaching driver is less likely to take notice of you, and more likely to go ahead and choose to attend to something else as he's approaching and passing you. In other words, riding out of his way up ahead long before he is even critically close to passing you makes him more likely to be an inattentive driver when he is passing you...

One of my favorite uses of a mirror is to monitor approaching drivers to the rear from a centerish position during significantly long gaps in same-direction traffic, look for signs that they have noticed me, and to effectively time when I do move aside to allow them to pass easier (assuming of course that it is wide enough, safe and reasonable to move aside). In some situations the lane is wide enough to share, but only if they slow down first. This technique is useful to get them to slow down before you move aside to let them pass.


Maybe not so wacky this time. I sense HH's ideas have evolved a bit. Now he is talking about awareness rather than acting as a vehicle as the most important factor.
I don't know if my ideas or cycling have evolved, but certainly the way I write about it has, and that's thanks to you. I'm much more careful about emphasizing the role and importance of vigilance and paying attention to a cyclist's safety, while I used to take that as a given. In fact, this is one my arguments against bike lanes, because I observe it in myself as well as in others that bike lanes seem to induce carelessness in cyclists; ironically, it is the flipside of the same coin that makes bike lanes so popular: cyclists feel more comfortable, relaxed and less stressed when riding in bike lanes. I think what they mean is that they don't feel as compelled to pay as much attention to and "worry about" the traffic around them as they do on roads without bike lanes. If paying attention to traffic stresses a cyclist out, I suggest he or she needs to figure out how to be able to pay attention without stressing out, rather than masking the stress and avoiding paying attention by riding in bike lanes... I mean, that's not much different from taking a tranquilizer - it doesn't address the root issue.

The mere mention of such an idea has been known to send the Vehicular Cycling braintrust into a tailspin.

Robert
I have not witnessed that. Anyone in particular react this way?
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Old 02-09-07, 01:55 PM
  #66  
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Originally Posted by genec
Ed along with that situation is the "right on red" rule which seems to make drivers more anxious to get on with the turn and take less time to ensure that the entire way is clear.

I was thinking about this a bit a while back when Helmet Head told me that I was just dreaming about "the good old days." Well, in fact the good old days included cars that DID NOT turn right on red. So now there are in fact more opportunities for a motorist to be involved in a collision with you than there ever was before.

Of course this situation may not apply for the younger cyclists who have always had right on red as a law during their lifetime. But I know things were calmer (and more predictable) when I was younger.

And of course if you couple distracted motorists with right on red...
All true, good point.

Right on red is still one of the things I'm getting used to, as a relative newcomer to this country, speaking as a cyclist and a reasonably experienced motorist. Now you mention it I had a close call whilst making a left turn at traffic lights with a left turn arrow. Though I was the last vehicle through, the arrow was still green. A "right on red" driver approaching from the opposite direction turned in front of me, almost provoking a collision. Luckily, I was a lert

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In the UK there is no equivalent "left on Red" although its allowance was discussed a few years ago.
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Old 02-09-07, 02:00 PM
  #67  
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Although there has been a tendancy to dress things up in extremely verbose terms, cycling (or driving for that matter) in traffic requires one very important skill: Anticipation

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Old 02-09-07, 02:07 PM
  #68  
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Originally Posted by genec
HH has said before that we cannot expect motorists to have the concentration of a jet fighter pilot... but apparently he does expect that of cyclists.
I will say that I believe bicycling safely in traffic puts a higher demand on paying attention/concentration than driving a car safely in the same traffic, perhaps a higher demand than riding a motorcycle safely in the same traffic.

When I drive to work I'm often on auto-pilot. Sometimes I can't recall a specific part of the drive from that day.

But this is never the case when I ride my bike to work.
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Old 02-09-07, 02:21 PM
  #69  
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Originally Posted by genec
Originally Posted by chipcom
The greatest danger is that it's our turn to have a bad day. That's not to say we don't do everything we can to minimize the dangers of what we know can hurt us, but in the end, what is going to hurt us, if and when something does, is totally out of our control.
I tend to agree with you...
And I couldn't disagree more.

With respect to cycling in traffic, if something is going to hurt us, whatever it is, the high likelihood is that it's something that is within our control, but we fail to control it, rather than something that is "totally out of our control".

I contend that only a tiny percentage of bike crashes results from situations that are totally out of the cyclist's control. In the vast majority of cases, in practically all of them, the cyclist could have done something, or not done something, that was predictable, to have avoided the crash.

Another way to say this is that I believe it is possible to define a set of best practices for cycling in traffic such that it can be shown that in the vast majority of crashes the cyclist was not following at least one of the best practices in the set.

As for the tiny percentage over which we truly have no control? Well, there is nothing we can do about that, and they are highly unlike to occur anyway, by definition... therefore, they are not on my radar of concern.

Last edited by Helmet Head; 02-09-07 at 03:00 PM.
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Old 02-09-07, 02:24 PM
  #70  
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people parking, getting out of parked cars, leaving a parking space.
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Old 02-09-07, 02:28 PM
  #71  
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Originally Posted by Helmet Head
That was the intent.

I suppose I could have clarified that answer as "you - (I, the cyclist, am my own biggest threat)"

You should have put in an option for living. Living is pretty dangerous. This poll is stupid. Don't you ever get tired of your agenda? I mean switch it around every now and again. Get a new agenda. Push that on people for a while. Then when people get sick of that one, get a new one. After about three or four, you can start recycling.
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Old 02-09-07, 03:45 PM
  #72  
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Originally Posted by Helmet Head
And I couldn't disagree more.

With respect to cycling in traffic, if something is going to hurt us, whatever it is, the high likelihood is that it's something that is within our control, but we fail to control it, rather than something that is "totally out of our control".

I contend that only a tiny percentage of bike crashes results from situations that are totally out of the cyclist's control. In the vast majority of cases, in practically all of them, the cyclist could have done something, or not done something, that was predictable, to have avoided the crash.

Another way to say this is that I believe it is possible to define a set of best practices for cycling in traffic such that it can be shown that in the vast majority of crashes the cyclist was not following at least one of the best practices in the set.

As for the tiny percentage over which we truly have no control? Well, there is nothing we can do about that, and they are highly unlike to occur anyway, by definition... therefore, they are not on my radar of concern.

Which is exactly what chip said. Except he pointed out as unlikely to occur as you feel they are, they DO occur.

Just like any one of us is unlikely to win the lottery... someone does.
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Old 02-09-07, 03:49 PM
  #73  
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Originally Posted by sbhikes
I voted "you". But does that mean you or does that mean me? Either way. That's my vote.
Wow. sbhikes, HH, and I are all in agreement! (Assuming you voted "you", HH, which I assume is your whole point.)

I've had a near miss in the past with someone pulling out into traffic and coming towards me, and I've also slipped on black ice. As a result of #1, I am even more attentive to stupid traffic moves, and as a result of #2, more watchful for black ice. As someone else said, I think my own inattention is more dangerous than almost anything motorists could do. (Notable exceptions do exist, of course.)
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Old 02-09-07, 04:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Helmet Head
And I couldn't disagree more.

I didn't expect you to understand. You are of the school that we control our destinies, I am of the school that we do the best we can, but when it's all said and done, we don't have any control. Perhaps it is our experiences that color our outlooks. Actually, I used to think like you, that as long as I was in control and paying attention, nothing bad could happen to me. But over the years I have seen too many instances of people doing everything right, yet coming out badly.

Here's one for you to ponder. Pickett's Charge - thousands of men walking and running across a field with tons of hot lead literally raining down upon them - what form of control, attentiveness or training determines who gets hit and who doesn't? How does one man make it all the way across, unscathed, while another, taking advantage of all of his training and all available cover, not? What did the first man do right and the other wrong?
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Old 02-09-07, 04:18 PM
  #75  
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Originally Posted by genec
Which is exactly what chip said.
Huh?

This is exactly what Chip said:

Originally Posted by chipcom
That's not to say we don't do everything we can to minimize the dangers of what we know can hurt us, but in the end, what is going to hurt us, if and when something does, is totally out of our control.
What he's saying is that we'll take care of everything we can control, and then, if something gets us, it WILL be something we can't control. His statement is not even leaving any room for the possibility that something will get us that we could control, but failed to control.

What I'm saying is totally different. Not only am I leaving room for the possibility that something will hurt us that we could control, but failed to control, I'm saying that it's MUCH more likely for something like that to hurt us than is something that is truly "totally out of our control".

They could hardly be any more different.

Except he pointed out as unlikely to occur as you feel they are, they DO occur.
No, that's what I pointed that out. He implied that the ONLY way we are going to get hurt is by something totally out of our control.

Just like any one of us is unlikely to win the lottery... someone does.
Yes, the likelihood of something hurting us that is truly "totally out of our control" is probably comparable to someone winning the lottery jackpot, after buying only one lottery ticket.

What's MUCH MORE LIKELY to hurt us is something that IS within our control, but we failed to control.

Therefore we should focus on what we can control, and make sure we control it, rather than waste cycles on that which is highly unlikely to hurt us in the first place, and which we cannot control anyway.

Last edited by Helmet Head; 02-09-07 at 04:40 PM.
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