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Safety Tips from a Pro Driver Turned Cyclist

Special guest contributor: Rob Knipe, member of USA Cycling, race car driver and driving instructor

PHOENIX — I’m Rob Knipe, aka Smiley. I am a Detroit native currently living in Phoenix and my biggest driver pet peeve is tailgating.

Although yes, I am indeed a very easygoing person, I am also a determined competitor who has been racing since the age of 10. I’ve competed in karts, sedans and formula cars. I am also an avid downhill mountain bike racer and a member of USA Cycling.

Rob Knipe off-road cycling down hill

Believe it or not, we use the same set of skills to ride a bike that we use to drive a car. Focus and vision are the most important elements of riding and driving. When riding, you always have to scan far in front to "see" obstacles such as cracks, rocks, roots, etc., so you have enough time to maneuver to a clear or smooth path. When driving, if you elevate your vision, or aim high in steering, you’ll have more time to see and avoid the traffic that unexpectedly stopped ahead of you, or the ladder that fell off the construction truck.

We use our eyes to see as much information as possible; to "see" the hazard and to "look" where we want the vehicle or bike to go.

As I was racing cars I took up mountain biking as a way to have fun and stay in shape for the physical edge in car racing. I figured out pretty quickly that riding and racing mountain bikes are great ways to train the brain to look where I need to go. The problem comes down to human nature. We have the survival instinct to look at danger. This is our "fight or flight instinct". When things happen unexpectedly like a crash in front of us it’s this human instinct that makes us look at the crash. We need to train our brains to "see" the crash but still be able to "look" where we want the bike or car to go. We need to give our bodies the proper information to steer in the "right" direction. Then it just comes down to hand-eye coordination which we have been developing since we were babies, like eating a bowl of cereal or walking to open a door.

I hope you all have a wonderful summer full of safe riding and driving. Don't forget to share the road, look where you want to go and stay focused!

For additional tips that can make everyone a more considerate road user, visit the Share the Road campaign at https://media.ford.com.