Today, I’d like to talk a little about really honing our powers of observation:
Observations skills (and the use we make of the information gathered during observation) are arguably the most important skills we have to help us stay safe out there on our scooters.
Imagine a scenario where two riders encounter the same situation while doing their daily commute. For our purposes it could be any hazard situation. Let’s say – a car suddenly coming over the brow of a hill encroaching on your side of the road.
(Actually, I’m using this example because it’s a real-life situation that cropped up while I was taking my advanced motorcycle test).
For one rider, it’s a complete non-event. For the other, it’s a panic stricken, stressful moment. How could that be so?
The first thing that the rider A knew was that suddenly there was a car coming towards them on their side of the road.
Here’s what happened for rider B:
As he was riding up the hill, he noticed that there was someone walking a dog on the pavement/sidewalk on the other side of the road. So what, huh?
Well, rider B surmised that it’s entirely possible that the dog could suddenly put his head into the roadway. If the dog did that, then a vehicle coming over that hill could swerve to avoid the dog.
So, what did rider B do? He gave up his normal position, and moved to the opposite side of his lane just in case that should happen. Ultimately, that is exactly what did happen! When the car did appear over the brow of the hill – encroaching on rider B’s side of the road, it was pretty much a non-event.
What rider B did there was make an excellent use of an observation link.
Opportunities for observation links such as that outlined above surround us all the time. Learning to recognise them, pay attention to them, and act on them can make a huge difference to your riding.
Ultimately, it will make your riding a much more relaxing occupation simply because you’re avoiding many, many potentially hazardous situations before they have even developed.
Let me give you some examples of more basic observation links here, and hopefully it will stimulate you to come up with your own:
Be on the lookout for the resultant traffic.
Here are some more examples where making observation links can help immensely with your riding:
- You are passing a row of parked cars. One of them is occupied. Expect the driver to open the door..
- You are rounding a bend in a country road, and you see hay/straw in the road. This should warn you to expect slow-moving farm traffic round the corner.
- You smell diesel fuel. Take extra care and be on the lookout for the spillage.
- A child is looking across the road. He/she could be looking at a friend or a pet who could be coming across at any moment.
- Trash cans (rubbish bins) at the kerb. Collection day. Be on the lookout for the collectors.
- The passengers in a bus you are following are beginning to stand up. The bus is about to stop.
- A bus is waiting at a stop. Expect passengers to come out from in front of it.
- A cat runs across the road. Be on the lookout for the dog chasing it!
- High-speed motorcyclist (or scooterist) passes you riding recklessly. Expect his friends to be chasing!
- A brief flash of reversing lights on a car. It is an automatic, and the driver has either put it into park, or put it into drive. Do you feel lucky today?
- Foreign, or out-of-town license/number plate on a vehicle. The driver likely doesn’t know the area. Be prepared for sudden changes of direction, or erratic driving.
- Overgrown vegetation on a pavement/sidewalk. Prepare for pedestrians stepping into the road.
- On a fast road, where it is rare to see a pedestrian. You see someone walking. Look out for his/her disabled vehicle ahead.
- Balloons on a gate-post. Be prepared for children, or generally increased pedestrian traffic.
- Oncoming drivers have their sun-visors down. Be away they have difficulty in seeing you.
These are just a few of endless possibilities to use observation links to your advantage. You can see that what we’re trying to here is to enhance our observation skill from merely observing hazards that are occurring immediately, to applying intelligent thought to that which you see – to enable you to avoid hazards even before they present themselves to you.
Next time you’re out riding, try to come up with some of your own. You may be surprised how many you can come up with – and it’s a interesting exercise.
Until next time, Scoot Safely!
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