Proactive versus Reactive Riding

I got hold of a copy of the BikeSafe 2000 video made by the Thames Valley police this morning, and took a look. It's only 20 minutes long, but covers some good ground. For a full review, see the tests page.

One thing in particular did strike me was the use of the terms reactive and proactive - something I cover in my courses but not mentioned in most of the riding guides I have seen.

What do they mean by reactive as opposed to proactive riding?

Picture two riders approaching a blind junction on the left at speed. Just as they get level with it, a car pulls several feet into the road to help the driver get a view. One rider swerves right and brakes hard in surprise, the other is already safely wide of the junction, travelling more slowly and merely sounds the horn which he already has a thumb over to warn the driver of his presence whilst covering the brakes.

Which rider has simply reacted to the hazard and which has behaved proactively? How have they differed in the way they dealt with the hazard?

The reactive rider might well have seen the junction, but as he is going straight on, he feels he needs to take no further action. He might even have realised the junction gives a poor view but simply hasn't thought about the steps he can take to minimise risk.

The proactive rider has looked ahead, seen the junction, considered that this is a place where vehicles come into conflict, checked for visible dangers ahead, to the sides and to the rear, and anticipated dangers he cannot see but can reasonably expect to encounter. He has seen that the view is poor, and guessed that a car driver might have to edge forward to see what's coming. He has decided the safest course of action is to slow down, take up a wide position on the right where he can see and be seen, cover the horn button and be prepared to stop (not forgetting to keep an eye on the vehicle behind).

It's pretty obvious that the proactive rider is not going to be taken by surprise when the car bonnet suddenly appears, unlike the reactive rider.

You might say that riding proactively is simply using anticipation, but there is a bit more to it than that. It's about putting your observation and anticipation skills to good use by combining them with a riding plan that allows you to negotiate a hazard safely. Anticipating a hazard is good - but it's much better to proactively take steps to reduce risk.