Ridden to Distraction
[image via Amsterdamized]
I have noticed that I feel a greater need to concentrate on the road when riding for transportation than other cyclists I know. This is not a criticism of others, but an admission of my own cognitive deficit: While in many ways I am a multi-tasker, this trait has bypassed anything that involves sensorimotor coordination, and sadly I am one of those people who has a difficult time chewing gum and walking at the same time. I am also a scary-horrible driver, never quite sure when it's safe to merge or at what angle to approach a parking spot.
When it comes to cycling for transportation, I am actually remarkably calm and collected - provided that I pay attention to the task at hand. For that reason I am uncomfortable chatting while navigating traffic, and no doubt appear rude to those who innocently attempt to socialise with me during their commutes. Sometimes another cyclist will pull up and start talking to me when I am on my way somewhere, and all I can think is "Oh my God, you're blocking me in and I need to make a left turn!" - not feeling very friendly at all. Needless to say, talking on the phone or texting is out of the question for me, and I am always stunned to see cyclists who are proficient at this - texting away as they execute complex traffic maneuvers in the most relaxed manner imaginable. Listening to music is something I can do on quiet country roads, but not in busy urban traffic. Drinking coffee on the bike? Forget it. I can sometimes rummage in my front basket for my sunglasses and put them on without stopping, but that is probably the height of my achievements.
Though I believe it is "dangerous" to perform sensory demanding tasks while riding a bike, I am aware that my views on this are influenced by my own inability to do these things safely. So, out of curiosity, what is your distraction threshold when you're cycling in traffic? And if you're also a driver, does it differ from being behind the wheel of a car?