When I come to an intersection, in my mind’s eye, I draw a bird’s eye view of my path and the potential paths of all the vehicles in my range of vision. In other words, I visualize a mental map of potential collision points in a plan view, like a GPS display, but showing not just where to go, but also where the potential threats are coming from. All of this happens semi-subconsciously in the blink of an eye. I’ve done it for many years, and I admit this sounds a little weird, and I don’t know how it got started, but I think it helps keep me safer on the road.
I’m only guessing, but I suspect this habit of visualizing a “collision map”, if you will, may be a result of the fact that I’m a graphic designer that works (and consequently thinks) in two dimensions all day. Among other things, I create a fair amount of technical graphics and maps. The mapping in particular seems closely related to this unusual habit. (My wife is always confounded with my keen sense of direction and ability to read maps, while I’m continually confounded by her ability to remember precisely what someone said in a conversation three weeks ago… LOL. I think this demonstrates something about the left brain versus right brain paradox.) But I’ve terribly digressed, so back to the point…
I believe one of the most important things we can do to stay safe on the road is to anticipate the actions of our fellow road users. That’s why I use a rear view mirror; if I see a car drifting onto the shoulder or into the bike lane I have an extra split-second to take evasive measures (this has saved my life at least once, maybe twice). The same holds true for left and right hooks (
the deadliest of all one of the more common accident types); anticipating that a car might hook you by visualizing its potential path buys a split-second that may be just enough to avoid getting hit.
I’m not suggesting anyone make a conscious effort to draw a virtual map in their mind every time they come to an intersection (that’s far too distracting unless it’s something that comes naturally), but I am suggesting it behooves all cyclists to get in the habit of anticipating where other road users are headed. Doing so is arguably the best defense against a collision.