If you have ridden a bike for any period of time, you have probably had this experience. You come to an intersection with a car on the cross-street. You see the driver looking left and right, then for no apparent reason they pull out in front of you. Assuming there isn’t a collision, you deal with your anger and frustration by screaming, cursing or just putting it down to another idiot in a car. Recent research has shown that this may not just be a failing of drivers. In the Oct. 7th Quirks and Quarks CBC radio show, Dr. Peter Chapman from the University of Nottingham found that people in a driving simulator can observe a motorcyclist approaching and then forget about them and pull out into the intersection. This forgetting is not a failure of the driver, but of our short-term memory and how it deals with complex environments. The study did not include bicycle riders, but the results are still appropriate. To hear the interview with Dr. Chapman follow this link, https://www.cbc.ca/radio/quirks/lethal-memory-fail-why-drivers-see-and-then-forget-motorcyclists-1.5298381.
For cyclists, the important lesson is to remember to be vigilant at all intersections. Make direct eye contact with drivers but still be prepared in case they “forget” they have seen you.
To read Dr. Chapman’s paper, “The ‘Saw but Forgot’ error: A role for short-term memory failures in understanding junction crashes?”, go to, https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0222905.