peripheral vision

Focus, but don’t crop the periphery.  We see clearly that which our eyeballs are pointed at.  In fact, from everything our vision takes in, our scope of focus is a relatively narrow band.  Outside that center vision is out of focus, but not out of sight.

All of us have varying degrees of periphery we can detect.  For most it’s about 180 deg.  We all have experiences knowing when someone is staring at us by peripheral detection.  To be certain though, we’ve actually got to point our eyes.

Many of us exercise our peripheral vision as we use our mobile devices while walking or driving.  But our eyes can only focus on one thing at a time.  The periphery may be in awareness, but not in focus.

Since living in China, working the peripheral vision has become a necessary exercise.  Whether in a car, on a bicycle, or walking, most people stare in the direction they are heading, regardless of merging or turning into traffic.  No one seems too concerned about being hit, but rather of not hitting someone else.  No doubt, that is where a certain derogatory ethnic driving term came from (in the USA).

For example, in many countries right turns are allowed at intersections where traffic signals are red.  It should not mean that drivers are free from obligation to look or check the periphery before taking that right turn.  Not here.  As long as nothing is in your path at the moment, you go, or keep going.

taking this photo while riding my bike I was almost finishing the intersection when a car blasted its horn,  trumping my ROW.  actually, my peripheral vision saw her coming

taking this photo while riding my bike I was almost through the last section of a long intersection when a car coming from the right blasted its horn, trumping my ROW and forcing me to stop. actually, my peripheral vision saw her coming.

At just about each intersection in the city where I live, there are three types of traffic signals; one for cars, bicycles, and pedestrians.  If you are a cyclist or pedestrian patiently waiting for the signal to change from red to green, you go, but only if there are no cars.  In other words, motorized vehicles trump the right-of-way of peds and cyclists who have the green light.  It’s actually the same in many countries where we’ve built roads for the rights of cars, at the expense of pedestrians and cyclists.  In these countries where rights-of-ways are active non-rights, it pays to exercise peripheral vision if you care about not being hit.

I’ve written a couple of posts about rights-of-way.  It’s not that I’m not hung up on the topic.  It’s just curious when citizens decide on adopting a ROW concept, then indiscriminately or unknowingly take it away.  It says something about a basic courtesy they are willing to extend.

It’s not only motorized vehicles.  Bicycles and pedestrians seem to ride or walk as they drive, crossing paths or streets without actively looking to make sure someone else won’t need to screech to a halt to avoid a collision.  It’s a confounding way to move among fellow citizens.  This don’t-worry-about-being-hit-just-don’t-do-the-hitting ends up being the rule of the road.  So far, I can’t tell if people have excellent peripheral vision or a complete lack of it.  Surprising, there seem to be relatively few accidents.  With cars, bicycles, and pedestrians crisscrossing the same roads at the same time, it’s more like a ‘meld-of-way.’ It’s no wonder why vehicles have extra loud horns and their drivers use them liberally.

There is a certain correlation as we motor through life.  There are no guaranteed rights-of-way.  While we may need to focus on job, family, and health, it pays to exercise our peripheral vision.  Life can throw curves out of the blue.  If we don’t have blinders on, our peripheral sense helps us field those curves.  And while meld-of-way may work as a less stressful way of managing the unexpected, it still helps to use the periphery and rely less on blasting our horns.

I’m slowly getting accustomed to this ‘mobility with blinders’ mode, which is concerning because I’m sure I’ll be the recipient of active horn honking when I get to places where looking before crossing or merging is the norm.  Having spent so much of my life on two wheels, it’s natural to ride with a sense of defense.  For now, even though I’m in the express minority, I practice to look before merging, at least with a focus on peripheral vision.