|My Own Dear Departed Mirror|
|The Safety Pyramid - You Want to Move DOWN IT!|
The first event was a long, drawn out discussion amongst Bike League cycling instructors about mirrors. One point that stuck with me was the inquiry by Khal of Los Alamos Bikes, namely:
"Question to those who strongly advocate mirrors. How often do you check mirrors in traffic, and does this give you adequate warning of a suddenly developing situation?"
It seemed to me that most of the ensuing discussion focused on feelings and faith rather than "what do we need to do."
The second event was the rare "drama behind me." In it, seeing a motorist proceeding in the middle lane of three choices, and me planning to cross those three lanes prior to making a left, I initiated a right turn into the right lane (right turn on red). Normally, the motorist would have swept by and then I'd be up to speed and move over to make the left. I COULD have simply waited, but it seemed to be pretty simple. This time, however, the motorist swerved from the middle lane into the right lane - MY lane. What? Suddenly I was in a lane at about 10mph with a motorist directly behind, doing 50 and closing fast. I considered my options, not knowing exactly WHY this lady had swerved from a "clean and simpl pass" position into a "hit from behind" position; things didn't seem clear. As a result, I fell back on experience and hung a left turn signal while keeping close watch. If the lady was going to make a right, she'd see it and we'd be good. If she was wondering about my intent, she'd see it. Either way, I was definitely going to watch this motorist's wheels to see what would happen next. While my stress level edged up. At this point, anything other than "stay the course andO signal my intent" seemed to be a poor bet.
Well, as it turned out, the motorist then swerved left, back into her original lane, passed me with plenty of clearance (remember, I was signaling an intent to go INTO that lane she swung back into), and proceeded apace. After she passed, I exhaled, completed my leftward shifts and made my left turn; thinking about the safety pyramid and pondering how any mirror might have helped. Lest you think I'm simply being "dramatic," one of my engineers saw the event and said he was wondering if he needed to be calling 911. Lest you think I narrowly escaped death, the lady's closest approach was probably ten feet as she swept by in her original lane. I have no idea what the lady had in mind, other than she imagined I'd cross all the way across the street in front of her instead of following traffic protocol, and decided her best chance to miss the "idiot" was to swerve right. Assuming she was paying attention (she was NOT chatting on any mobile device), despite my concern, I was in absolutely no danger whatsoever UNLESS I'd done some ill-advised evasive maneuver at the last moment - mirror help or hurt? I guess my "proper" behavior simply fooled her. Who really knows. Regardless, as PM Summer once said: "no harm no foul."
|Second Event - View from Google Maps - Arrows from Yours Truly|
Let us consider the actual USE of mirrors. Any mirror has three uses; the first is to see what is directly behind, the second is to see what might be developing in the lane to one's left when you might be considering such a shift, and the third is a similar function for a rightward shift. We'll consider them in order.
If you are looking to see what is going on behind you in a mirror, you are motivated by concerns about the general situation or you think you may want to send some message to following traffic. In the case of the "second event," what message would a mirror enable me to send? In reality, in such a situation, clear consistent operation seems to be the best principle when encountering another road user that seems to be doing illogical things. Even a wave or a "slow down" signal might confuse things for a distracted driver. What's more, for looking behind, we on bikes have no need for the "behind" mirror to keep from backing over people or stuff in the driveway. As you might see from the photo below. The rearview mirror is imperfect in that regard even in the MIGHTY LAND ROVER.
|Mirror to Look Directly Behind. Mostly Useful for Backing Up|
SIDE (left or right)
|LH Mirror - Aim it at the Lane to Your Vehicle's Left According to SAE|
|RH Side Mirror. Look HERE to Check Before a RH Lane Change. Objects are Closer Than They Appear!|
If you are in a car, the side view mirror is much closer to the lane divider than it would typically be if you are on a bike - UNLESS you are riding a bit left of the LH tire track. This is simply due to the much wider width of a car. In my own experience, I get reduced passing clearance if I ride "close" to the LH lane edge. Things are much more congenial if I ride somewhere within the range of tire tracks. Personally, I like the "left center line of sweetness," but as with a lot in life, "it depends."
Very little of the mirror discussions I've seen address how mirrors are used for different purposes, nor exactly HOW you can reliably use a mirror for any safety purpose when considering traffic approaching from behind. For a movement you plan to the side - yes. From behind, not so much unless you are planning to jump on the brakes without warning.
MY VIEW (no pun intended)
A mirror can help in overall situation awareness. I'm going to get another mirror partly for this reason. What's more, it'll be a bar end mirror and NOT the one I already have that mounts on my helmet. A mirror makes a useful part of the "eyes moving" sequence of seeing what is all around (if that is any different than overall situation awareness) as long as it doesn't become an "end" in itself. A mirror can also help you prejudge a lane move. In this case, however, I'd never make a lane move without the "trust but verify" Ronald Reagan full head check. My kids were taught the same principle when motoring. NEVER change lanes without actually SEEING things are clear. In that regard, mirrors mainly help you know what to expect when the REAL look occurs.
|"Trust, But Verify" Applies to Nuclear Weapons - AND Traffic (photo from Wikipedia)|
ONE OTHER THING
All the above presumes you have normal vision or are farsighted. For those that are NEARSIGHTED, the mirror also helps them see what is happening back there and off to the side in conjunction with their eyeglasses. Otherwise, they are looking beyond the edges of their glasses.
If you were wondering, NO, I have NO side mirror on my 1967 Jaguar. I have no plans to add one either - unless I find some of those that'll clip onto one's window but can be removed when one drives on to the show field. Just sayin'
|No Side Mirror on THIS Vehicle!|