I Must Be Invisible

I must be invisible. Invisibility is the only explanation for a pedestrian walking out in the street in front of me and for a car turning left across my path on the way home today. Except not invisible to other cyclists, since a guy on the other side of the intersection shook his head and said, “He didn’t even see you,” as I rode past.

One of the golden rules of transportation cycling is to assume you’re invisible. Good advice.

Other than this not-so-minor problem, my ride today was lovely. The temperature was warm enough for a t-shirt and the sky was blue. A Diana Mini shot from my lunch break walk conveys the feeling of the day.

Ah, the ups and downs of life on two wheels.

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28 thoughts on “I Must Be Invisible

  1. Melissa S. says:

    How could you be invisible? You’re so cute!

  2. Sox says:

    Melissa is right, but I too always seem to be invisible and I am not nearly as cute as you.

  3. Chris says:

    where did you get those pumps ?

  4. Amanda says:

    I’m convinced I saw you riding down Superior on my lunch break.

    It was exciting to recognize someone in this city by their bike and helmet combination.

  5. E A says:

    Wow! Summer clothes already!? I was still wearing my jacket (aka my invisibility cloak) today. ;-)

    Glad you’re safe. More great commuting weather the rest of this week, too!

  6. Rupert says:

    Melissa S. is right on … cute, definitely not invisible. But it’s not about that. Shame.

    Now here’s the thing, being on 2 wheels makes us invisible. I ride regularly, but I commute on 2 mechanized (gasp) wheels – on a lovely Vespa. Started out all cool, nice outfits. Very stylish – my wife said so, and she knows!

    After 4 near crashes caused by motorists turning out infront of me, cutting me up, and pulling into my lane while me beside them (as in not even trying to look), I went nuclear.

    Went to Army Surplus and bought a hi-viz police patrol jacket. Yellow. Reflective stipes. Ugghhhh.

    NOW they see me! The bad news is that high viz yellow is just such a bad look, you become invisible as a *person*. I’m a giant reflective thing-on-a-bike. Then I turn up at work, walk in the lobby and everyone assumes there’s been a shooting in the building.

    Thank goodness spring is here; I put the hi viz away for the summer.

    Ride safe.

  7. bikinginla says:

    Well, at least I don’t feel so bad about not being seen myself. If they could miss someone who looks as good on a bike as you do, they could miss anyone.

  8. Dave says:

    Dottie, how do you take a photo with your Diana Mini at lunch and have it processed and ready to upload in one day? Am I missing something? Do you work at a camera shop?

    Cheers

  9. Doohickie says:

    I know how important style is to you, and I’ve heard some arguments lately that by looking good and having fun while cycling we encourage others to get on a bike, but…. even in daylight you may want to consider blinkies front and back as well as one of those hi-viz yellow jackets or maybe a vest.

    I had a close call on a right hook today. My self-preservation radar went off and I noticed the blinker come on just before the turn. I yelled/screamed at the top of my lungs, “HEY! WATCHIT!” but got no response from the driver. It wasn’t that close, really, but I tried to make it look closer than it might have been (didn’t seem reckless at the time but in the retelling…)

    Amusingly, a few houses down an elderly lady was working on the flower bed around her mailbox and I rode by a half minute later. She looked at me and I sheepishly smiled and said, “Maybe I need to get a horn.” She smiled quietly and went back to her flowers.

    For the record, I had the hi-viz and the blinkies, so sometimes the best we have is “assume you’re invisible.”

  10. Doohickie says:

    Oh, and Rupert: lol @ I turn up at work, walk in the lobby and everyone assumes there’s been a shooting in the building.

  11. Lorenza says:

    It happens to me frequently. I like to cycle slowly, as I want to get from A to B without arriving breathless, thankfully riding slowly allows me to miss the near hits more often than not, and by being extremely aware of what happens around me. Drivers live in their little tin bubble and just forget that it’s not just them on the road. I still drive but now that I cycle more than driving, I have noticed how much a better driver I am only for the fact that I am constantly aware of ‘others’ :) I also think that by default driving makes other people stressed and aggressive, which immediately equal danger!

    In the past when I did get a bit too close to being knocked down and we all came to a halt I just (usually) said “WHAT were you trying to achieve?” and the drivers in question have suddenly realised their stupidity and apologised profoundly. Perhaps by just staying calm and asking them such a simple question it makes them see sense and perhaps they drive off a bit more aware of ‘others’. I think it’s all about education on the matter and that cycling becomes embedded in the urban culture, just as much (if not more) than driving cars. Our cities have become saturated anyway, so something gotta change!

    I’ve also learnt to cycle at least a good metre if not more away from the kerb, so that if cars have to overtake me or turn they have to do it properly, and not squeeze me in. This way I have realised I have become a lot more visible.

    (I use lots of lights on my bike and wear an helmet, bright coloured coats/jackets but no hi-viz. We are not robots we are humans…)

    :) happy cycle! ♥

  12. invisible darren says:

    hey! i too am invisible… the people round here actually look straight into your eyes as you’re coming down the road, and STEP OUT right in front of you as you’re about to pass!!!

    i swear, next on my list of bike projects is to hook up twin car horns powered by 12 volt RC battery pack, all packed nicely into a front handlebar bag

  13. donna says:

    What Invisible Darren says is exactly what I find to be the case on the streets of downtown Toronto especially in the financial district. Pedestrians think that you should be able to stop for them at any time and any speed. I always give them the right of way, but it never ceases to amaze me how many people step out without checking to see if the road is clear.

  14. man, i totally have the power of invisibility on my bicycle too!!!
    now if only i could harness my superpower to shoot fire through my eyes…

  15. Doug D says:

    I once dodged a guy who pulled a 3-lane lane change into where I would have been if I hadn’t seen him coming (he missed me by about an inch). I watched him not even glance at the mirror or out the side. He wouldn’t have seen a hummer. Surprisingly, he wasn’t on the phone or watching TV or reading a book.
    I had two HID headlights, red lights on the side and back of my bike, my bike was covered with reflective tape and I was wearing a yellow safety vest and yellow reflective pants.
    When I confronted him, he swore that I was invisible…

  16. Cherilyn says:

    In fairness, I’ve had it both ways. I’ve had drivers cut me off or crowd me (love it when they’re on the phone!) and I almost hit a guy who was biking at high speed on the sidewalk. I never saw him because I’m looking for people walking on the sidewalk, not biking fast.

    I’m no longer invisible on a bike because I usually travel with an entourage of young boys, and people are generally respectful.

    Your experience definitely makes the case for bike lanes!

  17. Michelle B. says:

    I find that my lovely bell does a fairly good job at alerting folks to my presence. Sometimes after a close call I will simply continue to ring my bell for several blocks, just to make sure everyone notices me. :)

  18. Sara C. says:

    Yesterday, while crossing a major intersection as a pedestrian, with plenty of foot traffic at rush hour, when I definitely had the light, A car trying to make a left turn almost ran me over. And I live in New York city, where drivers are more aware than usual that they’re sharing the road with different modes of transportation.

    I’m convinced that EVERYONE who is not in a gigantic surburban assault vehicle is potentially invisible to drivers. Period. No matter what you wear or how many lights you have.

    Also, sidebar question unrelated to the issue at hand – do you have any tips for riding in a pencil skirt? I’m down with anything a-line or a dirndl style, but fear riding in more confining skirts and would love advice.

  19. tastymoog says:

    ugh, I hate when trucks (cars, too) pull into the bike lane way before turning. Even worse is when they speed up to cut you off at the corner! :/

    I am rather slow and paranoid cyclist, and I try to always bike with someone else. I’ve seen too many accidents in my supposedly bike-friendly city.

  20. Tinker says:

    Here in Texas, for decades, there has been a “Drive Friendly” campaign going on. I can’t say it has made bicyclists and motorcyclists safer, in fact it may have lulled some into a false sense of security.

    As a long term motorcyclist (35 years and counting) I “Drive Paranoid”. By that I mean I think constantly, if this nitwit was REALLY out to get me, what’s the nastiest thing he could do? And I try to take steps so he can’t do that thing, or something similar.

    It IS a lot safer, but I have greater contempt for the driving “skills” I see each day. (When you keep your paranoia turned up to 11, what do you say when it burns out?)

  21. superbk says:

    I feel your pain everyone. In DC, I constantly feel invisible even though there are tons of cyclists. I recently switched commuting routes from the faster, potentially more hazardous, route to one almost completely routed via bike lanes. It’s definitely made my commute more relaxing. I did this after a car literally ran me off the road in Logan Circle, and I (admittedly not so smart) was so enraged I followed the driver to the next light, knocked on his window, and notified him how he almost ran me over. He was very courteous and apologetic (probably because I looked psychotic), but I decided I needed more calm in my commute.

    I consider myself a pretty considerate DC cyclist: ride in the road, stop at lights, take my turn, etc. but I’m still invisible to most cars, even with many blinkies and dynamo lights on my vintage (read: large) 1969 Raleigh.

    I am pretty defensive and ALWAYS use an entire lane if there’s more than one available. That way cars have to go around me or be extremely obvious they are trying to kill me.

    Le sigh. Stay safe!

  22. [...] days, most Americans support safe walking and biking. If an attractive, cycle-chic woman can be invisible on a bike, there’s no hope for any of us. A busy Portland bridge gets a lovely 15-foot wide bike lane. Free [...]

  23. katie says:

    @superbk “That way cars have to go around me or be extremely obvious they are trying to kill me.” LOL. But that’s my strategy as well!

  24. BikeWorkPlay says:

    I agree, how could you be invisible when you look so cute! What a shame :(

    Nice photo! Love these Diana picies.

  25. invisble darren says:

    too true!

    if i saw Dottie roll down my street, i’d stop and smile sheepishly, whip out my camera or if i dun have my camera with me… i’d start clapping!

  26. Dottie says:

    Funny, on my way home today, a pedestrian meandered in the middle of the road in front of me, saw me as I slammed on my brakes, smiled and said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t see you at all.” More evidence.

    @Amanda – That was me!!

    @Chris – The shoes are Coach, purchased several years ago at a Saks outlet.

    @Dave – One hour photo.

    @darren – That’s a fun idea, maybe I’ll start clapping when I’m on foot and bikes go by :)

  27. David says:

    If cute Dottie was rolling down the street, believe me, I would notice her. :)

    It’s spring time and people are coming out of the woodwork. I have way more near collisions with cyclists coming toward me, than with cars.

  28. Val says:

    Kind of the opposite for me – I frequently have people walking up to me in the store, on the street, etc., randomly accosting me to say: “I see you riding your bike everywhere!” To me, the first three words are the most important. I don’t wear Hi-Vis (can’t stand the look), but the bike is well lit, and well reflectorized. Mainly, I credit the hat (see here: http://tinyurl.com/ykegxso ), which seems to attract attention and have a humanizing effect. Maybe you could accessorize the styrofoam with some feathers or ribbons? Streamers are good, and anything that moves will attract the eye.

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