Sometimes you just have to write…
In my post last week I listed some of my pet peeves, several of which referred to bicyclists. A few days after posting it, I was driving in our neighboring town, on my way to an appointment, when a girl on a bike pulled out right in front of me.
The road I was driving on was a narrow, residential road, with a speed limit of 30 kph (18 mph). Because the road was quite narrow and I had to go over a large speed bump to enter the street, I probably wasn’t even up to 30 kph at the moment the girl appeared.
She was coming from my right, from a bike path that ends at the road there, and I think she was intending to take a right, so she would be going in the same direction as me. The road itself has no bike path, so she would have to ride on the road, along the curb. I had the right of way in this situation.
However, she didn’t do what she should have: either wait for me to pass, or go very slowly on the turn so she could stay out of my way along the curb. Instead, she maintained full speed, and biked almost straight ahead, presumably with the idea of making a big wide right turn somewhere past the middle of the road. Or maybe she was crossing the road to one of the houses on my left. I don’t know.
Thinking back on the incident, I can only feel amazed at the speed and abilities of the human brain. Within, I would guess, about a second, a long series of reactions in my brain enabled me to respond to this sudden event. But not only that, I was able to add in extraneous thoughts: thoughts that did not contribute to my response in any way.
Here was the sequence of flashes through my brain, though I’m not absolutely certain of the order in which I thought each one:
At this point, I was past her, and we’d both come to a full stop in the middle of the road. I think she was as shaken up as I was, and I hope she learned something from it. We looked at each other, and she waved to me to indicate she was okay. My destination was within that same block, so I inched the car down the street and parked. I’m not sure I could have driven further, since I was shaking from the adrenaline jolt and fear.
Thinking about this later on, I realized that all of those thoughts flashed through my brain in literally about a second. And that’s including extraneous details that were not necessary to dealing with the situation, like picturing her flying off the bike or noticing that she was a young, blond-haired girl and that her bike was white with a front rack. And including all of the physical operations that my brain was directing at the same time: messages to my hands and feet about driving the car, the adrenaline rush, and so on.
How does that happen? Aren’t our brains amazing things?