Thursday, April 11, 2013

Aliens vs Humans: A Theory On How We Look In Helmets

Hey- You're Not From Around Here, Are Ya?
I was thinking again the other day. One of these years I'll quit doing that, 'cause it always gets me in trouble. (HA!) Anyway....here's the main purpose of my post today: As cyclists, we do not look "human" or even recognizable in cycling gear. This may be an issue for cyclists."

Now let me give you an example to help illustrate my theory here.

Back when I was in college, I worked part time in a jewelry store. I lived in the dormitories then and had to walk a considerable distance to get to my car. This generally took me across a few campus streets and a couple of large parking lots.

If I was, say- heading out to see a live band- I would be cut off by cars, not given any quarter by delivery trucks, or by campus vehicles. If; however, I was in a suit and tie, going to work, I was given full right of way by folks in cars and trucks. Often times cars would actually stop mid-block and wave me across the street. These were the same folks that would sooner run me over than let me cross if I were dressed in a t-shirt and jeans.

Perception..........

My "theory" is that folks that are not cyclists don't see the helmet wearing, Lycra-clad cyclists as "human" either. In my experience, I am often given plenty of room if I ride my townie in my jeans and t-shirt with a ball cap on. But the minute I don a "brain bucket" and a pair of sunglasses, it seems I am seen differently. Am I the only one that sees this? Helmets just seem to make us look like aliens and dorks to non-cyclists, apparently not worthy of consideration as humans.

Maybe I'm all wrong here. Let me know....

10 comments:

Singlespeed Steve said...

It's not just you seeing it,my friend...

SS

Irishtsunami said...

I agree completely. Especially when you consider motorcyclists typically don't wear helmets around here. I had this discussion with a co-worker who made fun of my lycra leg warmers which I had on under some baggies. I said "how is this different than football? A big man....really big man....wearing tights. It is what it is and they look ridiculous on the field!" Perception.

Brent

jkeiffer said...

This is already a proven theory. Didn't you ever hear about the study done by someone I think in the UK in which wearing a blond wig gave him the widest cushion of space around him?

bicycletorch said...

I completely agree. I have found a combination of regular looking clothing and black helmet keep me comfortable, relatively safe, and a fair amount of respect from drivers. The flannel shirt is my key weapon against driver prejudice.

Peter Tubbs said...

I have to disagree- I am routinely surprised at how wide a swing drivers give me on rural rides, both pavement and gravel. They treat me as if I'm just another piece of slow-moving farm equipment.

Full disclosure- I also use obnoxious jersey colors and flashing rear lights, day or night. That may or may not be related.

Bruce Brown said...

Commuting in Vienna, and now here in Indianola I have noticed similar things Mark. If I am wearing a suit and no helmet - cars pretty much give me the entire street and actually put themselves at risk by moving way over to the other side. If I'm in my cycling kit on a training ride on the same streets - many will just barely give me 3' and some almost buzz me. I also noticed that a flashing red light on the rear for commutes does the same as wearing a suit - the cars give you more room than they really need to do. I haven't tried mixing a suit and a helmet to collect that data? ;-)

Garrett Olsen said...

I think your on to something. The helmet and flashy led thing on two wheels is just another deer on the damn road to most non-cyclists.

Nick Templeton said...

You're definitely not the only one to have this thought. Here's a post on Lovely Bicycle with a similar conclusion and I've read it elsewhere. I haven't noticed it myself, but drivers in my neck of the woods are pretty bicycle-aware.

Ben Bolin said...

I know that dogs think we are aliens until we talk to them. Inconsistent results with motorists. Seems to just depend on the day.

doc said...

Yup. The Mary Poppins Effect. I see someone beat me to it.