Superstitions can kill you

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Superstitions can kill you

Post by Horse »

When a colleague asked me whether I'm superstitious,
I had a simple answer: 'No'.

That's "No, not in the 'Friday the 13th' sense" - and I certainly don't believe that stepping on the cracks in the pavement will allow the monsters to get me (well, not recently).

But there are superstitions which make sense. Walking under a ladder, for instance, can be unlucky for you if the person 'upstairs' drops their hammer. So some superstitions are a bit like stereotypes and cliches - there may be some 'real' reason or 'truth' behind the belief.

Similarly, superstitions are often supposed to involve 'luck' - but it can be possible to swing that luck in your favour. I don't walk under a ladder unless I've looked 'up' first - and from some way back. Indeed, a friend says there are two types of luck: good and bad.

Many riders believe they're 'unlucky' when they're involved in crashes - but I can't help wondering whether they've relied on 'luck' rather than choosing which luck they'll rely on - like the quick check up before walking under that ladder. Indeed, the way some riders rely on racing leathers and a bright headlamp to keep them 'safe' you'd think they've discovered the biking equivalent of a 'lucky' rabbit foot - and they were never lucky for the rabbit!

Biking has its cliches and stereotypes, riders tend to have the same basic types of crash again and again:
- Junctions: the well-known 'SMIDSY', or RoWV (Right of Way Violation)
- Corners: usually crashing at speeds where the bike could have got around, but the rider failed to achieve it
- Overtaking: often passing a group of vehicles in one move, without checking 'why' the group is moving slowly

None of these types of crash are big secrets. There are even more detailed 'cliche' bike crashes that continue to catch riders out - the 'taxi does a U-turn' is a classic example.

So if riders have the same types of crash, over and over, involving the same basic situations, why is there surprise that the crash has happened, why are they considered 'bad luck'?

More importantly: why don't riders take the effort to reduce their reliance on good luck? By looking at the situations you're riding towards, and then either influencing the situation, or altering the way you react to it, you can change the 'luck' and put it in your favour.

Let's change the wording, rather than 'luck', let's use a more 'modern' set of terms: Why doesn't the rider use 'Risk Assessment' and 'Risk Management'? Look at the road ahead, and start to take control - rather than sitting and waiting to see what happens. Instead of trusting to good or bad luck, use another more modern term: change from 'reactive' to 'pro-active'.

Each of the three main types of bike crash has its own details, its own clues, and likely effects on the rider.
- SMIDSY crashes are more likely to be urban, at slower speeds, and involve injury more than death.
- Cornering crashes are more often 'rural', at higher speeds, and more like to be fatal.
- Overtaking is usually rural, and at much higher speed.

Although all three have different build-up - often by a very simple sequence of seemingly minor decisions - there are ways in which a rider can think about the situation ahead.

There are two simple questions to ask which give a good idea of this:
- "How can that affect me?"
- "What if that happens?"

In traditional 'Roadcraft' terms, this is using 'Observation Links'; finding a small detail, a clue, and using it to 'link' to a likely outcome. This is hazard perception, but not in the form used within the DSA's Hazard Perception Test where you're marked only on reacting to 'developing hazards' (where you must change speed or direction), instead we're looking at risks, seeing potential danger before you must take urgent action.

Of course, it isn't really as simple as 'pro-active versus reactive', it's more a matter of reacting sooner to a hint of a problem, rather than waiting for it to develop. Often your only 'early reaction' will be to notice a potential problem then keep an eye on it in case it worsens.

Then there's the extra mental step of looking for problems where they don't exist (or, at least, can't be seen). Here you're using guesswork or imagination to create a mental picture of problems likely to occur. In an odd way, you move from superstition to fortune-telling and looking in to the future! Of course, this is not so much 'end of the pier palmistry' as informed decisions.

Essentially, you're looking and planning for possibilities from 'clear, straight, road' to 'narrow, blind bend with oncoming vehicle', depending on what you can see ahead, and what your imagination tells you. In 'old Roadcraft' terms:
- What can be seen
- What can't be seen
- What can reasonably be expected to happen

Having an idea, imagined or otherwise, of what you're about to meet allows you to plan a response - or range of them. This pre-planning reduces your reaction time if something does happen, and can help avoid panic reactions.

This might seem a doom-laden, down-beat, way of thinking about your riding. If nothing you've planned for happens, then you continue on, if something untoward does happen then it's no big deal - you already have it predicted and planned for.

Having identified actual or potential danger, there's one final action you must take, and that's to believe what you've decided enough to take notice of it! For instance: if a narrow bend has a limited view it's reasonable to expect oncoming traffic. In fact, it's more than 'reasonable' - it's essential to think like that if you wish to avoid becoming a bonnet mascot! If you've decided that, what are you going to do about it? Your planning must allow for stopping within - at most - half the distance you can see is clear, and being prepared to stop if necessary.

I used the term 'essential' to expect oncoming vehicles, and ride with that in mind. Do you agree it's essential, or do you rely on luck? When you arrive at a blind bend, can you roll a 'six' every time?
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Re: Superstitions can kill you

Post by The Spin Doctor »

Nice post... mostly ;) Here are some picky bits to reconsider.
Horse wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 9:22 am So if riders have the same types of crash, over and over, involving the same basic situations, why is there surprise that the crash has happened, why are they considered 'bad luck'?
Because we're never taught about crashing. Instead everything propagates the myth that a crash is 'someone else's fault' and down to 'poor skills'. We can't accept that WE must be at fault if we crash, so it must be 'bad luck'.

It's simple enough to look at crashes, work out how, where and where they happen, and what can be done when to avoid getting into trouble.

But you have to start from the opposite end of the telescope. Rather than see crashes as the outcome of poor riding (and thus fixable by 'good' riding - a strategy that clearly fails as even expert riders have the standard crashes), you need to look at how we perceive the environment around us and how we detect - or fail to detect - the traps it sets up. You identified this clearly enough years ago when you criticised the then-new DSA advice to avoid cornering crashes - "GO SLOWER". How does that help, exactly, you asked, when entering a decreasing radius corner?
Horse wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 9:22 am Of course, it isn't really as simple as 'pro-active versus reactive', it's more a matter of reacting sooner to a hint of a problem, rather than waiting for it to develop.
Actually, it IS as simple as being pro-active rather than reactive because being pro-active MEANS reacting sooner! It means taking as much control of a situation as possible by shaking out a problem so that it falls in your favour, rather than waiting to see what happens and then trying to deal with the consequences as they develop.
Horse wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 9:22 am In 'old Roadcraft' terms:
- What can be seen
- What can't be seen
- What can reasonably be expected to happen
...is another trap. How many people crash when 'what they reasonably expected' happened? I'd suggest very few. It's the UNREASONABLE that catches us out. Hence my focus on always looking for the 'Worst Case Scenario'.

Rather than thinking it "reasonable to expect oncoming traffic... if a narrow bend has a limited view", my take is to expect the driver of that oncoming vehicle to have made a complete cock of it and be on the wrong side of the road... or to expect the local farmer has spread mud over the corner from the field that has its exit just out of sight... or to expect that the driver of the car ahead is about to stop just around the blind bend so his ten year old daughter can get out to feed the pony in the field. None of those are 'reasonable'. But they've all happened - the first two on such a regular basis that they've become expected events. And I'm still expecting the final horse-feeding incident to happen again even if the one and only time it's happened to date was over a decade ago...

But if no-one ever tells you that drivers stop mid-corner (or the road may be covered in mud, or drivers make cock-ups just like bikers and run wide in bends), how are we to expect that?
Horse wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 9:22 am There are two simple questions to ask which give a good idea of this:
- "How can that affect me?"
- "What if that happens?"
Slight rephrasing... "what if...?" question followed by "what then...?" solution.

But those comments aside, it's what I've been saying since I first got online in 1994, have been teaching as 'Survival Skills' since 1997 - the name wasn't picked by chance, and which forms the underpinning thinking of 'No Surprise? No Accident' which I put my name to at least six years ago now. But the fact you have to post this tells us we haven't even begun to fix the problem.
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Re: Superstitions can kill you

Post by Horse »

The Spin Doctor wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 9:44 am Because we're never taught about crashing. ...

It's simple enough to look at crashes, work out how, where and where they happen, and what can be done when to avoid getting into trouble.
Never?

*cough* Some people *cough* included this in courses from 1988 ;) :clap: :wave:

The Spin Doctor wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 9:44 am You identified this clearly enough years ago when you criticised the then-new DSA advice to avoid cornering crashes - "GO SLOWER".
You missed perhaps the most important point of their advice:

Go slower next time :eh: :crazy:
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Re: Superstitions can kill you

Post by The Spin Doctor »

Horse wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 10:28 am Never?

*cough* Some people *cough* included this in courses from 1988 ;) :clap: :wave:
Aye, there's Pat Hahn over in Minnesota too, and Nick Ienatsch who wrote 'The Pace' back in 1991! But until the internet, who knew?

Besides, the vast majority of post-test training in the UK Is STILL "ride properly and you won't crash" Roadcraft-based...

You missed perhaps the most important point of their advice:

Go slower next time :eh: :crazy:
:D
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Re: Superstitions can kill you

Post by Horse »

The Spin Doctor wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 9:44 amIt means taking as much control of a situation
Or:
'Taking responsibility'?

Locus of control is a psychological concept that refers to how strongly people believe they have control over the situations and experiences that affect their lives.

Link that to:

The Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) started as the Theory of Reasoned Action in 1980 to predict an individual's intention to engage in a behavior at a specific time and place. ... The TPB states that behavioral achievement depends on both motivation (intention) and ability (behavioral control).
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Re: Superstitions can kill you

Post by Rockburner »

The Spin Doctor wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 9:44 am

Rather than thinking it "reasonable to expect oncoming traffic... if a narrow bend has a limited view", my take is to expect the driver of that oncoming vehicle to have made a complete cock of it and be on the wrong side of the road... or to expect the local farmer has spread mud over the corner from the field that has its exit just out of sight... or to expect that the driver of the car ahead is about to stop just around the blind bend so his ten year old daughter can get out to feed the pony in the field. None of those are 'reasonable'. But they've all happened - the first two on such a regular basis that they've become expected events. And I'm still expecting the final horse-feeding incident to happen again even if the one and only time it's happened to date was over a decade ago...

But if no-one ever tells you that drivers stop mid-corner (or the road may be covered in mud, or drivers make cock-ups just like bikers and run wide in bends), how are we to expect that?

Even simpler to understand is "What if there's another 'you' coming the other way?"

Not a great leap of imagination to understand that on a fun biking road another biker might be coming the other way, riding just as fast and using just as much road. Head ons might be unusual, but it's a good way to get riders to understand that they're not the only vehicle on the road, (which sometimes seems to be the attitude).
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Re: Superstitions can kill you

Post by Wossname »

"What can reasonably be expected to happen".

2 key words: "reasonably" and "expected". The problem is, people can use use the excuse/explanation for a crash by saying "how could I possibly have predicted that?" - and that the only way to have avoided that would be by riding everywhere at 5mph.

My anecdote: out on some small winding country roads, came round a corner to find a farm trailer loaded with silage bales, stationary, just off the road in the entrance to a lane on my L, the tractor out of sight because of the height/narrowness of the entrance to the lane. At the "critical" moment, the trailer starts reversing out into the roadway in front of me. Cue hard, fast countersteering, twice, and I had to duck below the level of the trailer's angled overhang, to avoid being wiped off.

What do I learn from this? In this instance, forget "reasonable" and "expected". Instead - "unexpected things happen unexpectedly". But I'm not sure how helpful that really is.

Take care out there....
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Re: Superstitions can kill you

Post by Horse »

"Things will happen"? So create time and space to react.

eg Passing a delivery lorry, parked nearside, facing towards me.

No-one near it, or in the cab. 'Axle view' showed no feet. But I still didn't ride close when passing. Which was just as well when one of the rear doors swung open. The guy was stood on the raised platform.
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Re: Superstitions can kill you

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Horse wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 12:14 pm
The Spin Doctor wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 9:44 amIt means taking as much control of a situation
Or:
'Taking responsibility'?

Locus of control is a psychological concept that refers to how strongly people believe they have control over the situations and experiences that affect their lives.

Link that to:

The Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) started as the Theory of Reasoned Action in 1980 to predict an individual's intention to engage in a behavior at a specific time and place. ... The TPB states that behavioral achievement depends on both motivation (intention) and ability (behavioral control).
Both taking control and taking personal responsibility for protecting ourselves and others.

You can be taking responsibility but not necessarily in a way that takes EFFECTIVE control - by which I mean influencing outcomes by being proactive vs letting it play out around you by being passive. Think about someone driving along bang on the 30 limit thinking that's responsible driving... straight past a school at kicking out time.
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Re: Superstitions can kill you

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Rockburner wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 12:30 pm Even simpler to understand is "What if there's another 'you' coming the other way?"

Not a great leap of imagination to understand that on a fun biking road another biker might be coming the other way, riding just as fast and using just as much road. Head ons might be unusual, but it's a good way to get riders to understand that they're not the only vehicle on the road, (which sometimes seems to be the attitude).
Head-on collisions between bikes are more common than most of us probably think.

Personally I always imagine Mad Max driving something covered in spikes coming the other way. That was the image I used to offer trainees who were riding a bit fast on a CBT ;)
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Re: Superstitions can kill you

Post by Horse »

The Spin Doctor wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 2:00 pm
Rockburner wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 12:30 pm Even simpler to understand is "What if there's another 'you' coming the other way?"
Head-on collisions between bikes are more common than most of us probably think.

Personally I always imagine Mad Max driving something covered in spikes coming the other way. That was the image I used to offer trainees who were riding a bit fast on a CBT ;)
I had someone challenge me, a sort of 'Go on, say something that will make me slow down!'

I asked him whether he'd ever seen a tractor will one of those 'set of spikes' attachments?
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Re: Superstitions can kill you

Post by Horse »

The Spin Doctor wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 1:57 pm
Horse wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 12:14 pm
The Spin Doctor wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 9:44 amIt means taking as much control of a situation
Or:
'Taking responsibility'?

Locus of control is a psychological concept that refers to how strongly people believe they have control over the situations and experiences that affect their lives.

Link that to:

The Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) started as the Theory of Reasoned Action in 1980 to predict an individual's intention to engage in a behavior at a specific time and place. ... The TPB states that behavioral achievement depends on both motivation (intention) and ability (behavioral control).
Both taking control and taking personal responsibility for protecting ourselves and others.

You can be taking responsibility but not necessarily in a way that takes EFFECTIVE control - by which I mean influencing outcomes by being proactive vs letting it play out around you by being passive. Think about someone driving along bang on the 30 limit thinking that's responsible driving... straight past a school at kicking out time.
That's by my (admittedly limited) understanding what the two together could achieve.

LoC would have riders taking responsibility for their actions.

TPB would give you a prepared plan so that you would deal appropriately with the situation (and the answers ready for the typical mental justifications for not dealing with it that way).
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Re: Superstitions can kill you

Post by Rockburner »

If we're doing anecdotes :

Leading the VD Easter Tour one year in the Borders I came around a square right hander (around a churchyard), doing about 55 iirc but starting on the left of the line, with 10 or so bikes behind me, only to find a UKGser tour coming the other way. The first 3 fully panniered GSAdventures were all over the white line trying to look around the guy in front; the third one was almost in the gutter.

Still not quite sure why there wasn't a 15 bike pileup.
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Re: Superstitions can kill you

Post by Horse »

Because you acknowledged their superiority and authority, and got out of their way? ;)
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Re: Superstitions can kill you

Post by slowsider »

Wossname wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 12:32 pm "What can reasonably be expected to happen".

2 key words: "reasonably" and "expected". The problem is, people can use use the excuse/explanation for a crash by saying "how could I possibly have predicted that?" - and that the only way to have avoided that would be by riding everywhere at 5mph.

My anecdote: out on some small winding country roads, came round a corner to find a farm trailer loaded with silage bales, stationary, just off the road in the entrance to a lane on my L, the tractor out of sight because of the height/narrowness of the entrance to the lane. At the "critical" moment, the trailer starts reversing out into the roadway in front of me. Cue hard, fast countersteering, twice, and I had to duck below the level of the trailer's angled overhang, to avoid being wiped off.

What do I learn from this? In this instance, forget "reasonable" and "expected". Instead - "unexpected things happen unexpectedly". But I'm not sure how helpful that really is.

Take care out there....
Did your horn not work? 8-)
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Re: Superstitions can kill you

Post by Wossname »

Good suggestion, thanks. "Consider the use of an audible warning i.e. the horn. Also, check behind for following traffic i.e. rear observation, and consider a slowing down arm signal". Bang. Ouch. Why didn't I just swerve like I first thought - it would have worked better.

Sorry - the less cheeky version is - I didn't have time.

Ah - was your smiley winking?
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Re: Superstitions can kill you

Post by Horse »

I've trained Filly that although it's best to take more effective action, 'I sounded the horn' won't do any harm on an insurance form ;)
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Re: Superstitions can kill you

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slowsider wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 5:03 pm Did your horn not work? 8-)
Depends how you use it... it can be extremely useful if something appears when it's already too late to stop... but if it's used as an "I'm coming through anyway" measure, it's going to be a bit tough if you discover the tractor driver is wearing ear defenders.

I'd back right off, ready to stop... and then go through slowly if the tractor stayed put. That way, you don't rely on the horn doing what you hope it might do.
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Re: Superstitions can kill you

Post by Wossname »

Trouble was, I was already in/on the edge of the "killing zone" when the trailer started coming back - I only just had time to do the swerve. More time, yes - horn, or brake hard, but this was one of those occasions, which happen, when avoiding by a rapid change of direction has the best outcome. Using the horn still leaves the solution in the other driver's hands, and you can't rely on that.
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Re: Superstitions can kill you

Post by Horse »

And it's a delayed reaction if you even get one.

Have to hear it, understand what it is, realise it's aimed at them, think about what actions to take, then do it. By which time you're 150 yards further along the road, possibly looking for a branch of M&S ;)
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