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.
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.
In a way, the integrated use of Right-Of-Way is indicative of how evolved a society is. Coined as a phrase to allow people and businesses access to crossover land owned by others, we understand the current meaning mostly for its traffic control significance. But the ROW concept has a broader essence.
In most states in the USA, if pedestrians are inside a well-marked crosswalk at a controlled intersection and they have the green “walk” signal, they are given the right-of-way. Cars must yield. In some states like California, pedestrians who step into uncontrolled crosswalks (no signals) are given the right-of-way. It’s become a way of life — a sort of evolved etiquette.
Many public places have banned smoking for good reason. We’ve advanced. We’ve decided that smokers must yield right-of-way to non smokers. The smoker who utters the “smokers rights” phrase is either a comedian or has a defective frontal cortex.
Right-of-way is a mentality. We either yield it or take it. We’ve agreed that we don’t have the right to scare pedestrians out of our way with a two-ton vehicle and we don’t have the right to pollute the air others breathe. In the US, we’ve determined they are legal forms of “being nice.”
In the most populated country on earth (and many other countries) yielding right-of-way is in a different state of evolution. Modernized intersections with beautifully painted crosswalks complete with signals giving pedestrians a green “ok go” signal and motor vehicles still dominate the right-of-way. In the country where I’m living, not unlike the last C country where I had an apartment, if you are in a crosswalk with the green walk signal in your favor, you had better watch out for turning cars, because yielding right-of-way to peds is not a concept given much thought. The heavier and more powerful the vehicle determines degree of “right.” The more vulnerable you are means you better get the hell out of the way, even if you have the supposed right of way.
Last night I went to one of the restaurants I frequent for take out. As I waited, one of the employees walks back and forth from the kitchen to the restaurant floor carrying food with a lit cigarette hanging out of his mouth. It appears normal. There are ash trays at every table, in every restaurant. No one yields the right-of-way for those who don’t smoke.
Obviously traffic and smoking right-of-ways are two different issues. One needs to be a give and take and the other (should be) a give only. But in metropolitan areas over the globe, they are both major challenges affecting all of us, directly and indirectly. They both boil down to a form of ‘being nice.’ It’s not that most folk are not nice. It’s a cranial issue where the sensitivity node next to the logical node is not receiving the proper synapse to develop a connection. For both, yielding the right-of-way goes a lot further toward making that connection than does taking (that right).
We’ll get there. The world is becoming more and more homogenous. It only took a few decades for us to convince the world’s airlines that yielding to a minority’s smoking desires in confined spaces was not very bright. In time, we might earn even more global leeway in the breathing and crosswalk right-of-way realms.