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  Other Thoughts (2)

  Being Aware
  Bubbles and Barriers
> Cover
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  Looking Ahead


Suppose you're a pedestrian, ready to cross the street at an intersection; and suppose there's a car (car A) ready to turn left across your path, but waiting for a gap in traffic.

In that situation, you've got to worry a little, right? The driver could easily be too focused on the oncoming traffic. Ve might see a large gap and drive through it without looking for pedestrians; or, worse, ve might see a small gap and drive through it quickly. So, you can cross the street, but you have to keep your eyes on the car and be ready to jump.

If, however, you can identify a car (car B) in the oncoming traffic that definitely isn't turning right, you can scoot across the intersection as it passes, and have it provide cover for you. Then you don't have to worry about car A at all!

There are a few points I'd like to make here.

  1. Warning! Scooting can be dangerous! As a pedestrian, if you don't move slowly and predictably, you risk getting hit even by drivers who are paying attention to you.
  2. On the other hand, who are you going to trust with your safety: yourself, or some driver you don't even know? Look at the incentives: if you get hit by a car, the driver will feel bad about it, but you'll be in the hospital, or dead. So, scoot away, just be sure to be aware of what's going on around you. (I mentioned the same idea in Trucks.)
  3. I have a slight preference for going around intersections counterclockwise. When I go clockwise, it sometimes happens that I'll get halfway across and find myself blocked by turning cars that are ignoring my right of way. Then the light will change, and I'll be stranded in the middle of the road. So, if I'm walking somewhere and need to cross both roads, the natural path justifiably depends on whether I'm coming or going.

What does this have to do with good driving? Well, it turns out that the idea of using cover applies to cars as well as pedestrians. In certain situations, you can dispose of a particular worry by arranging for another car to provide cover, or simply by observing that one already is. Unfortunately, I can't tell you what the situations are. I notice them fairly often when I'm driving, and I think, “oh, another example of cover, I should remember this”, but then somehow I never do. Probably I'll remember one as soon as I've posted this essay, and have to come back and add a note; if not, well, hopefully the pedestrian example conveys the idea clearly enough that you can notice the situations for yourself.

One thing I do remember is that tractor-trailers are excellent sources of cover. They're very large and visible, so people know they're there, and they're also very massive, so people tend not to try stupid maneuvers around them. And, you can count on them remaining in place as cover! If you're next to one, it may block your view, but it may also provide cover that makes it unnecessary for you to have a view.

The idea of using cover also applies to bicycles. Bicycles are an interesting case, actually … they're as vulnerable as pedestrians, so they have incentive to look for cover, but they move at the same speeds, and along the same paths, as cars, so they find cover in the same places. So, if I really wanted to find examples of cover, I'd go ride my bicycle.

(Of course, here I'm only talking about one of the many ways that a bicycle can be used. To get the same paths, I'd have to be in car mode, riding on roads rather than sidewalks; and to get the same speeds, I'd have to be on local roads, with perhaps a 25 mph speed limit.)


  See Also

  On Biking

@ July (2006)