While riding, one’s vision can deceive him in many ways. One common deception, or at least what we bikers must familiarize ourselves with is known as ‘target fixation’!
I recall the time when I was gliding and cruising blissfully on the road along a breath-taking mountainous terrain. The greens on both sides of the road were lush and plentiful; the air was clean and nature-filled, and the road was just perfect. I maneuvered each corner gracefully. I was flattered by the sun shining warmly upon me, the rolling hills cheering my ride and the sky beaming with gladness.
Just as I was sighing in relief and amazement….there stood a lonely deer, gracing nature’s gift to her. I was stunned and she looked worried. I hit my brakes…my feet and fingers tightening themselves on the brake and around the handles. The rear of my cursing bike lifting-up into the air. And, ‘Bangggg!” …I hit the deer, and she fell to her side in pain and anguish. She with her tiny cries and I, in my most disoriented and perplexed manner, not in pain but utterly confused...staring at each other.
How did I hit her? I was riding on the right side. She was gracing on the edges of the left. I had all the space and room to avoid her. What pulled me towards her? What steered me towards her?
I was glad to see her pick herself up slowly, fumbling a few times. Then slowly, limping and still groaning in pain she disappeared into the woods. I was there, looking at myself and my bike…and glad that all three of us were mildly bruised, but fine.
I took my bike for a fix and was narrating the entire experience to my good old repair buddy, Frank. He heard me out quietly, but surely. Then he turned around and said, “that’s called target fixation”. I could not quite catch him and looked at him puzzled. He went into his office and brought out an old oil stained and ruffled magazine. He flipped to a certain page and passed it to me.
I took it from him and slumped myself onto the torn and tattered couch. And then, took it all in.
Target fixation is the danger of locking our vision in threatening situations. It occurs when one is in panic, and we lock our vision onto a hazard or situation, hence steering unconsciously towards it, and hitting the very thing we had hoped to avoid in the beginning (Source: article by Nick Ienatsch). It simply means ‘where you look, that’s where you go’.
It was all my mistake. When the deer caught me by surprise, I had a tunnel vision of only her. I didn’t look around to see how I could have avoided her. Hence, unconsciously, I was dragged towards her direction.
It’s human nature and instinct to ‘keep an eye’ on danger or on any situation. The poor deer projected herself to be of danger to me; call it unexpected, unanticipated. My vision only narrowed down onto her, not seeing anything else, not thinking of anything else.
What did I learn from this? To look away from the ‘target’ and into the surrounding area to escape or avoid a mishap. Whether it’s an animal, a tree, a manhole, an oncoming car, a sudden corner…avoid making eye contact with the object and view the open space. Remember, ‘where you look, that’s where you go’. This applies to drivers too, not just bikers.
Also, keep a wide-view. Consciously practice this. Resist the temptation of tunneling down your vision. Force yourself to see wide. Observe your surroundings, scan the details, use your sense of sight to the fullest.
The best view is seeing it all. Avoid target fixation and extend your view.