‘We need to change our roads so drivers can see cyclists’

How refreshing to read a thoughtful article in a local paper (Cambridge News) about why and how to make everyday cycling normal in the UK. There’s an excellent plan of a proper roundabout that works for everyone. When will we see the first of these in Bristol?

Research shows that we don’t perceive things at the edge of our vision – and that’s putting cyclists at risk, says our cycling columnist

Source: ‘We need to change our roads so drivers can see cyclists’

Author Robin Heydon of Cambridge Cycling Campaign looks at recent research confirming once again the imperfect nature of human perception, and the need for road designs that are forgiving of the inevitable errors, a concept known as ‘Sustainable Safety‘ and widely used in Europe.

The visual system we have appears to just make up the details. Filling in the gaps in our visual field with things that it thinks are there, and ignoring the things that it doesn’t see. So, as you approach that roundabout, you are looking at the car, and the area around the fovea is not seeing the person on the cycle also coming around. And this doesn’t just apply to people on cycles. It would also apply to people walking across a side road as you turn into that side road.

Robin goes on to say that given that we probably can’t change the human brain to enhance our peripheral vision, could we make the roads safer, using this knowledge?

One thing we could do is design junctions where we don’t have to look for multiple, different-sized things near each other at the same time. Roundabouts, for example, that put everybody in the same physical space.

You should also take a moment to read the excellent A Fighter Pilot’s Guide to surviving on the roads.