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The “I Didn’t See the Cyclist” Defense

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The “I Didn’t See the Cyclist” Defense

Old 01-19-12, 12:12 AM
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The “I Didn’t See the Cyclist” Defense

It’s the most common explanation motorists offer after hitting a rider.

Even though the cyclist was wearing high-visibility clothing.

Or was well-lit.

Or was riding in broad daylight.

It’s the “ignorance is bliss” defense: “I didn’t see the cyclist, and I didn’t intend to hit anybody. It was just an accident. It’s nobody’s fault.”

Well, yes, it is somebody’s fault. It’s your fault, it doesn’t matter that you didn’t “intend” to hit somebody. You did hit somebody, and if you didn’t see the cyclist because you weren’t paying attention, it’s your fault.

Full article:
https://bicycling.com/blogs/roadright..._-RR-Ignorance
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Old 01-19-12, 12:26 AM
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I saw a tv show a few months ago which was highlighting how the human brain works. They had a hip hop dance crew doing a performance on a stage. Half the dance crew were wearing light coloured clothes and the other half were wearing dark coloured clothes. The audience was asked to cound the number of times the light and dark dancers stepped into and out of two circles of light. When it was over they asked the audience how many times. Some said ten, some said six. Then they asked who saw the penguin. No one saw the guy dressed as a penguin walk across the back of the stage, stop in the middle, wave at the audience, and then walk off to the other side.

No body saw the penguin because they were not looking for a penguin.
When a driver says "I didn't see the cyclist" it is not so much that they weren't concentrating, it is more that they weren't looking for a cyclist, and so were unable to see a cyclist.

That, of course, does not mean the driver is not culpable.
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Old 01-19-12, 01:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Ndw76
I saw a tv show a few months ago which was highlighting how the human brain works. They had a hip hop dance crew doing a performance on a stage. Half the dance crew were wearing light coloured clothes and the other half were wearing dark coloured clothes. The audience was asked to cound the number of times the light and dark dancers stepped into and out of two circles of light. When it was over they asked the audience how many times. Some said ten, some said six. Then they asked who saw the penguin. No one saw the guy dressed as a penguin walk across the back of the stage, stop in the middle, wave at the audience, and then walk off to the other side.

No body saw the penguin because they were not looking for a penguin.
When a driver says "I didn't see the cyclist" it is not so much that they weren't concentrating, it is more that they weren't looking for a cyclist, and so were unable to see a cyclist.

That, of course, does not mean the driver is not culpable.
I couldn't find a link to that... Do you think you could turn one up? It'd go well with the moonwalking bear video.


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Old 01-19-12, 02:36 AM
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Law enforcement is really really lame to accept this defense without question.
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Old 01-19-12, 06:19 AM
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It's not an excuse, it's an admission of guilt.

However, until and unless legislators get serious and pass laws mandating loss of license, criminal charges, and and hefty penalties for negligent drivers who maim and kill, drivers will continue to "not see us." Same issue for motorcyclists.

Couple news stories about granny or soccer mom going to jail for hurting other road users and you can bet drivers would start "seeing" cyclists...
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Old 01-19-12, 06:31 AM
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Originally Posted by mconlonx
It's not an excuse, it's an admission of guilt.

However, until and unless legislators get serious and pass laws mandating loss of license, criminal charges, and and hefty penalties for negligent drivers who maim and kill, drivers will continue to "not see us." Same issue for motorcyclists.

Couple news stories about granny or soccer mom going to jail for hurting other road users and you can bet drivers would start "seeing" cyclists...
THIS.

When the USA gets serious, and REALIZES that driving is the core activity that makes us who we are, that it's NOT A RIGHT, that (as we were taught in the military) "the maximum effective range of an excuse is ZERO", then this condoned criminality may change.

I won't hold my breath, though; the generation coming up is the most EXCUSE-MAKING group I have ever heard! Nothing is their fault because they didn't 'mean to do it'.
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Old 01-19-12, 09:18 AM
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I don’t believe the types of ‘awareness tests’ posted above apply much to how well motorists do or don’t see cyclists in traffic. I also disagree with the old they won’t see us because “they’re not expecting to see a cyclist” line. None are expecting to see a UFO land in front of them either, yet I’m pretty sure if it happened all would see it.

In reality cyclists are seen just fine almost all the time, especially the ones who take extra steps to make themselves more visible and relevant to drivers. I’d even say that some cyclists are actually less likely to ‘not be seen’ than something common like just another car, because they stand out as so out of the ordinary. A cyclist in the travel lanes stands out and actually compels people to take notice, in my experience. Let’s not make cycling out to be more dangerous than it really is.
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Old 01-19-12, 09:29 AM
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Originally Posted by AlmostTrick
I don’t believe the types of ‘awareness tests’ posted above apply much to how well motorists do or don’t see cyclists in traffic. I also disagree with the old they won’t see us because “they’re not expecting to see a cyclist” line. None are expecting to see a UFO land in front of them either, yet I’m pretty sure if it happened all would see it.

In reality cyclists are seen just fine almost all the time, especially the ones who take extra steps to make themselves more visible and relevant to drivers. I’d even say that some cyclists are actually less likely to ‘not be seen’ than something common like just another car, because they stand out as so out of the ordinary. A cyclist in the travel lanes stands out and actually compels people to take notice, in my experience. Let’s not make cycling out to be more dangerous than it really is.
Your experience doesn't count. First you are a cyclist... you will look for and notice other cyclists, you are cyclist aware.
Second, motorists pay attention to other large vehicles, motorists glance about quickly while making driving decisions, and in those quick glances, motorists are looking for other large fast moving objects... bikes don't qualify.
Third, motorists may be distracted... either by other traffic, by decisions dealing with traffic, or by devices at their fingertips... from cell phones to car radios to GPS to coffee to a big list of other things that may be in their car.
Fourth, half the motorists out there really are not that good behind the wheel... they are a move or two away from a collision half of the time they drive. (and they don't realize it)

Now go out there and take the lane... good luck.
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Old 01-19-12, 09:29 AM
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I guess if a driver cant see a cyclist, I cant see him having a license for 10 years.
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Old 01-19-12, 09:39 AM
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Originally Posted by genec
Your experience doesn't count. First you are a cyclist... you will look for and notice other cyclists, you are cyclist aware.
I have the same experience. But I'm not talking about seeing the cyclist, I mean being the cyclist. When I first started riding on the roads, I tried my best to stay out of the way of motor traffic. This meant being a gutter bunny. I had far more close encounters with cars than when I took the lane. When I take the lane, I am now clearly something a driver has to deal with, and they do. When I'm on the edge of the lane or on the shoulder, I am something that may be ignored by the driver.

Put another way, if a cyclists hangs out on the edge of the lane, it's an invitation for motorists to pass without changing lanes. When a cyclist takes the lane, it communicates quite clearly that if a car is going to pass the cyclist, it has to change lanes, which gives much more room to the cyclist. Even if the car tries to muscle by with half a lane change, a cyclist equipped with a mirror can recognize this and can bail out toward the ride side of the lane without getting run off the road. If you're already on the right side of the road, there is nowhere to shift to; no safety factor.
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Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."

Last edited by Doohickie; 01-19-12 at 09:45 AM.
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Old 01-19-12, 09:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Doohickie

Put another way, if a cyclists hangs out on the edge of the lane, it's an invitation for motorists to pass without changing lanes. When a cyclist takes the lane, it communicates quite clearly that if a car is going to pass the cyclist, it has to change lanes, which gives much more room to the cyclist.
Most of the time, this is the end result, but there's those motorists that only move into the adjacent lane just enough to leave a whisker's breadth of passing room, which if I spot soon enough, letting me bail off to the right.
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Old 01-19-12, 09:56 AM
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Originally Posted by dynodonn
Most of the time, this is the end result, but there's those motorists that only move into the adjacent lane just enough to leave a whisker's breadth of passing room, which if I spot soon enough, letting me bail off to the right.
A bit more added to my post covers that (probably posted while you were composing your post):

Originally Posted by Doohickie
Even if the car tries to muscle by with half a lane change, a cyclist equipped with a mirror can recognize this and can bail out toward the ride side of the lane without getting run off the road. If you're already on the right side of the road, there is nowhere to shift to; no safety factor.
So far, I've only had to do that once in several years of riding.
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Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."
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Old 01-19-12, 10:00 AM
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Originally Posted by Chris516
Law enforcement is really really lame to accept this defense without question.
That's just really sloppy work on the LEO's part. I guess I've been lucky as all the places I've lived, the LEO's have done their job properly if there's been a crash involving cyclists.

Originally Posted by rydabent
I guess if a driver cant see a cyclist, I cant see him having a license for 10 years.
Depends on the situation. At this time of year, the low angle of the sun in the morning will make a westbound cyclist virtually invisible in the morning and and eastbound one in the afternoon. Throw in all the distractions cagers have, and that just adds to the mix.
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Old 01-19-12, 10:54 AM
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Originally Posted by genec
Your experience doesn't count. First you are a cyclist... you will look for and notice other cyclists, you are cyclist aware.
Second, motorists pay attention to other large vehicles, motorists glance about quickly while making driving decisions, and in those quick glances, motorists are looking for other large fast moving objects... bikes don't qualify.
Third, motorists may be distracted... either by other traffic, by decisions dealing with traffic, or by devices at their fingertips... from cell phones to car radios to GPS to coffee to a big list of other things that may be in their car.
Fourth, half the motorists out there really are not that good behind the wheel... they are a move or two away from a collision half of the time they drive. (and they don't realize it)

Now go out there and take the lane... good luck.
LOL, my experience counts, and so does yours!

While it is certainly true that someone could possibly ‘not see’ a cyclist, a car, or even a full size emergency vehicle running lights right in front of them, how often does it happen? And is there any proof that it happens more often to cyclists than motorists? Have you never seen a motorist pull out right in front of a moving car, or plow into one that was completely stopped?

While ‘I didn’t see him’ certainly is possible, and may be the most often given excuse, I’d bet that ‘Seen, but failed to use due caution/follow the law’ is more often to be the case when a cyclist is hit. And yes, my experience leads me to believe that taking the lane addresses this more common motorist mistake quite well.
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Old 01-19-12, 11:27 AM
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Originally Posted by mconlonx
It's not an excuse, it's an admission of guilt.

However, until and unless legislators get serious and pass laws mandating loss of license, criminal charges, and and hefty penalties for negligent drivers who maim and kill, drivers will continue to "not see us." Same issue for motorcyclists.

Couple news stories about granny or soccer mom going to jail for hurting other road users and you can bet drivers would start "seeing" cyclists...
It is too easily used by motorists, and too easily accepted by LEOs'. If it is motorist-motorist situation, there is always one party being held responsible. But in motorist-cyclist situation, the cyclist will be found at fault when they caused the accident. But the motorist won't if they caused the accident.
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Old 01-19-12, 11:34 AM
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Originally Posted by AlmostTrick
LOL, my experience counts, and so does yours!

While it is certainly true that someone could possibly ‘not see’ a cyclist, a car, or even a full size emergency vehicle running lights right in front of them, how often does it happen? And is there any proof that it happens more often to cyclists than motorists? Have you never seen a motorist pull out right in front of a moving car, or plow into one that was completely stopped?

While ‘I didn’t see him’ certainly is possible, and may be the most often given excuse, I’d bet that ‘Seen, but failed to use due caution/follow the law’ is more often to be the case when a cyclist is hit. And yes, my experience leads me to believe that taking the lane addresses this more common motorist mistake quite well.
In answer to your first question... yes, I have seen motorists pull into moving cars and stopped ones... this is discussed in some detail in the book "Traffic Why we drive the way we do." I suggest reading it to gain some insight into what you are really dealing with on the road. This is not to scare you, but simply to get you to understand that you really have to be on the ball to ride a bike in traffic... and survive.

I have also seen motorists ready to pull right into me as I have crossed just feet in front of them (they were about to make a right on red)... and I have seen the eyes and "horror look" on their faces as they suddenly became aware that I was there. And we are talking low speed... not me suddenly flying into their view. Drivers can and will look right through you, as if you are invisible. How can they do that if you are so obvious to them?
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Old 01-19-12, 12:20 PM
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Originally Posted by genec
In answer to your first question... yes, I have seen motorists pull into moving cars and stopped ones... this is discussed in some detail in the book "Traffic Why we drive the way we do." I suggest reading it to gain some insight into what you are really dealing with on the road. This is not to scare you, but simply to get you to understand that you really have to be on the ball to ride a bike in traffic... and survive.

I have also seen motorists ready to pull right into me as I have crossed just feet in front of them (they were about to make a right on red)... and I have seen the eyes and "horror look" on their faces as they suddenly became aware that I was there. And we are talking low speed... not me suddenly flying into their view. Drivers can and will look right through you, as if you are invisible. How can they do that if you are so obvious to them?
I have read ‘Traffic’ and highly recommend it to everyone, whether they drive a car, ride a bike, or walk on our roads.

I don’t disagree with any of your points, but I feel that actually ‘not being seen’ is not as common as you seem to feel it is.

What about the 'right hook' where the driver thought they were far enough ahead of the cyclist? The side clip where the driver thought they could safely squeeze through? The ‘left cross’ or ‘pull out’ where the driver thought the cyclist would/could give way?

In all too many of these cases (most?) the driver clearly DID see the cyclist, but continued on in an unsafe manner anyway. Not being seen as relevant is what we are often actually dealing with here, and taking a more assertive position helps to address this. I believe your experience on the bike demonstrates this.
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Old 01-19-12, 12:42 PM
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Originally Posted by AlmostTrick
I have read ‘Traffic’ and highly recommend it to everyone, whether they drive a car, ride a bike, or walk on our roads.

I don’t disagree with any of your points, but I feel that actually ‘not being seen’ is not as common as you seem to feel it is.

What about the 'right hook' where the driver thought they were far enough ahead of the cyclist? The side clip where the driver thought they could safely squeeze through? The ‘left cross’ or ‘pull out’ where the driver thought the cyclist would/could give way?

In all too many of these cases (most?) the driver clearly DID see the cyclist, but continued on in an unsafe manner anyway. Not being seen as relevant is what we are often actually dealing with here, and taking a more assertive position helps to address this. I believe your experience on the bike demonstrates this.
Let me clarify a bit... your examples are classic... The motorist has glanced and is aware of the cyclist in those situations (although in left hooks that may not be the case at all), but because of the quick glance rather than a good solid look and see, the motorist is not aware of the actual speed of the cyclist and thus fails to account for their position... common occurrence.

This is why I practice and preach a "Look Twice" methodology for any road user... first you are taking a bit more time to make what otherwise can be a hasty decision, second, by looking twice, you get a better "what has changed" picture in your mind... this is especially important for seeing "unusual" traffic, such as pedestrians, cyclists and motorcycles. And of course keeping your head on a swivel and surveying all traffic is always a good idea. But these notions are either not taught or are not reinforced, and drivers become lazy and complacent with casual glances. Cyclists have more to lose, so such lessons tend to sink in better for a cyclist, although honestly, anyone can be come complacent.

Last edited by genec; 01-19-12 at 12:49 PM.
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Old 01-19-12, 01:45 PM
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Originally Posted by genec
Your experience doesn't count. First you are a cyclist... you will look for and notice other cyclists, you are cyclist aware.
Second, motorists pay attention to other large vehicles, motorists glance about quickly while making driving decisions, and in those quick glances, motorists are looking for other large fast moving objects... bikes don't qualify.
Third, motorists may be distracted... either by other traffic, by decisions dealing with traffic, or by devices at their fingertips... from cell phones to car radios to GPS to coffee to a big list of other things that may be in their car.
Fourth, half the motorists out there really are not that good behind the wheel... they are a move or two away from a collision half of the time they drive. (and they don't realize it)

Now go out there and take the lane... good luck.
I slightly disagree with this. As a cyclist on the road, I have to look for motorized traffic. That is exactly why, I 'take the lane'. Additionally, The transportation infrastructure THROUGHOUT THE WORLD, pursuant to where cyclists' are preferentially asked to ride on the road, puts them at a distinct disadvantage. By riding on the shoulder/along the curb, a motorist can never accurately see how close they are to a cyclist when passing i.e. U.S.=drive on right w/ steering wheel on left, U.K.=drive on left w/ steering wheel on right; A motorist cannot see through the passenger-side door panel to see how close they actually are.
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Old 01-19-12, 01:57 PM
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Originally Posted by genec
Let me clarify a bit... your examples are classic... The motorist has glanced and is aware of the cyclist in those situations (although in left hooks that may not be the case at all), but because of the quick glance rather than a good solid look and see, the motorist is not aware of the actual speed of the cyclist and thus fails to account for their position... common occurrence.
Yes. As cyclists we need to be aware of this possibility.

This is why I practice and preach a "Look Twice" methodology for any road user... first you are taking a bit more time to make what otherwise can be a hasty decision, second, by looking twice, you get a better "what has changed" picture in your mind... this is especially important for seeing "unusual" traffic, such as pedestrians, cyclists and motorcycles. And of course keeping your head on a swivel and surveying all traffic is always a good idea. But these notions are either not taught or are not reinforced, and drivers become lazy and complacent with casual glances. Cyclists have more to lose, so such lessons tend to sink in better for a cyclist, although honestly, anyone can be come complacent.
Good advice.

Effective techniques for keeping ourselves safe is what we need more of in A&S… Not, It’s really dangerous out there, good luck!

That’s one thing I really miss about our old buddy HH. (bless his banned soul) He always had a positive ‘can do’ attitude when it came to dealing with traffic in any situation. Much more refreshing than the doom and gloom, the motorists are going to crush you at any moment nonsense.
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Old 01-19-12, 02:02 PM
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Originally Posted by AlmostTrick
.....In all too many of these cases (most?) the driver clearly DID see the cyclist, but continued on in an unsafe manner anyway......
The majority of my incidents are due to this, being that either the motorist did not want to me to end up in front of them, or just did not consider me as legit traffic.
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Old 01-19-12, 02:18 PM
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"This is an awareness test" post #3

Okay the first one I've seen before and saw the bear the first time.

The second one is stupid. Why would anyone notice the race of any of the dancers? Are they trying to say that only black folks have "rhythm," and whites can't dance? Is it supposed to really be that unusual to see a dancer who is a white guy?
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Old 01-19-12, 02:18 PM
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I really can't remember a time where I felt a motorist didn't see, or 'looked right through’ me. I'm not saying it can't happen, but with proper positioning and gear it seems quite rare.

I've had a few look at me as they slowly crept forward, seeing if they could intimidate me into giving up my right of way. I remain assertive, sometimes hold up a stop hand, shake my head or in extreme cases even yell… all the while making sure I know what my options are for last second avoidance should they continue. It helps if you make it a habit to keep aware of all traffic around you. Is the lane adjacent to you open or not? Is there someone right behind you? You should strive to always know!
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Old 01-19-12, 04:59 PM
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While not justifying "Not seeing the bike" as an excuse, I do understand the power of vision psychology. both from driving and riding a bike

I try to make my self visible. Front white strobe light, 2 rear high power blinky. I don't always wear hi-vis, but am never a ninja and at 6' and 270 lbs I am kind of hard to hide.

I have had occaisons when a motorist looked at me and did not see me, then pull out infront of me, mostly drivers taking a left across my travel lane.

Drving I am very aware of bike and try to be aware of pedestrians. I had a close call with almost hitting a pedestrian. It was at an intersection that never has people who walk....or almost never. I was making a right on red. I looked left then looked right and stated. My son yelled, I stopped, no harm...but it did shake me...I looked but was not expecting a pedestian so i did not seem them.

the vision psychology thing is real
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Old 01-19-12, 05:08 PM
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Originally Posted by squirtdad
While not justifying "Not seeing the bike" as an excuse, I do understand the power of vision psychology. both from driving and riding a bike

I try to make my self visible. Front white strobe light, 2 rear high power blinky. I don't always wear hi-vis, but am never a ninja and at 6' and 270 lbs I am kind of hard to hide.

I have had occaisons when a motorist looked at me and did not see me, then pull out infront of me, mostly drivers taking a left across my travel lane.

Drving I am very aware of bike and try to be aware of pedestrians. I had a close call with almost hitting a pedestrian. It was at an intersection that never has people who walk....or almost never. I was making a right on red. I looked left then looked right and stated. My son yelled, I stopped, no harm...but it did shake me...I looked but was not expecting a pedestian so i did not seem them.

the vision psychology thing is real
That is where Look Twice really helps... make this a habit and you'll tend to see those things you only looked at, but did not see. Yeah, it takes an extra second... but it is well worth saving a life.
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