Distractions. Our lives are full of them from the moment we wake until we retire at night. Most of the time they go unnoticed. That is, until their consequences become obvious. It is the distraction that comes at exactly the wrong moment that often results in an undesirable event. Being aware of those moments, understanding when a distraction could do you harm is the key to avoidance. Whether we are driving our cars, riding our bikes or even just crossing the street, there are times when we need to be on alert for potential accidents.
There are a few professions that actually train one to recognize and respond to distractions. Pilots, for instance, are trained and tested every two years on how to deal with disruptions in the cockpit at critical moments. In fact, there are two “sterile” phases of a flight: taking off and landing. During this period, non-essential discussion and activity is prohibited. Complacency often rears its ugly head and this rule is stretched or broken sometimes with disastrous results. Piloting is an extreme example but the principle is the same for every activity we engage in.
Think back to your last spill on your bike. Was there a distraction of some type, if not experienced by you then perhaps by someone else? We can be the victims of someone else’s distraction. As I am driving my car I try to be on the alert for other drivers that are preoccupied. Sometimes the distraction is talking on the telephone, or putting on makeup, or mowing down on a Big Mac. So does my watching for them then become a distraction for me? You bet. One of my biggest distractions is daydreaming. I can’t say how many times I have driven past my turn or exit because I was deeply engaged in thought of something other than navigating. Or not being able to remember driving past a certain area on my way to somewhere. I think, ‘what was I thinking about at that moment?’ Scary, I know.
So how does this all apply to bicycling? There are times while riding a bicycle when we need to be aware of the potential for accidents. A good example is when approaching crowded rest stops where there are many cyclists slowing, stopping, passing through and merging. Large biking events experience most of their incidents at rest stops. Turning corners and passing through intersections are also particularly hazardous. Riding fast in a large group for an extended period requires discipline and awareness. Riders need to try to recognize when hazards are present and focus on what they are doing. Watch for others that may have become complacent or preoccupied. You would not be out of line to politely mention to them that they need to pay better attention for the sake of the group.
Indeed, there are times when we want diversion; to enjoy the leisure activity and entertainment of a casual ride. There is not much that is more enjoyable than to take in all the nature of a summer ride on the trail or tree covered road with friends and family. Even then, we should be ready to recognize when our discipline and awareness needs to come back to mind for the safety and well being of all those around us.