Author Topic: Recumbent safety woes...  (Read 3361 times)

Recumbent safety woes...
« on: April 19, 2011, 09:49:30 pm »
I'm pleased to report that two years after I started riding daily in central Edinburgh rush hour on a lowracer, I am still very much alive and kicking despite an absence of flag, hi-viz and foam cap. In fact, I stopped bothering to use my headcam (which previously used to capture one or two TV-worthy episodes every week).... I rode over 600 miles in March and can't think of anything noteworthy about it, from a safety point of view!

As you might expect (or not?) I've had no troubles relating to drivers failing to see me where they'd otherwise have seen me on one of my other bikes; and I have been placed in the strange position of having trouble because drivers are not aggressive enough (!) - sometimes they will just hang on for a hundreds yards when it's quite safe to pass, and in fact on the Pearson with identical road positioning they'd all be whizzing past like billy-o. I sometimes have to pull over to let the queue past, and that's a bit silly really.

I have had a few issues, as you might expect. Twice in central Edinburgh I've had somebody overtake me beautifully, right over in the oncoming traffic lane - but around a blind right hand bend! I'm not quite sure what thought process leads to deciding to leave a safe amount of space, and also to going round on the wrong side like this, but I don't like it...

It's the same on the open road. I've done 13 recumbent brevets at distances up to 600km (and in Scotland audax mainly means riding on main roads, because that's all there is). I never ride on the left of the gutter line, rather always on the left tyre track because I don't want to fall victim to "second vehicle" syndrome - yet I can't remember one single overtake that I was uncomfortable with on any audax ride. Nobody has ever overtaken me closely enough that I could touch their mirror with an outstretched arm - generally much more than that - isn't that remarkable?

The only real problem I have, and it *is* something which reduces my enjoyment of being out on the bike, is not with any problem with the way people drive, but with people's opinions of the way they think other people drive. For instance, on the recent Mull-it-over, we joined the main road from Mallaig to Fort Bill and I enjoyed a series of textbook perfect overtakes from the limited traffic - without exception, every one of ~20 vehicles was over on the far side of the road well before they got anywhere near me. With a giant mirror to watch everything in and traffic as well-behaved as it is, it's hard to articulate just how relaxed I am about riding on the open road.

Yet for better or worse, one local driver actually stopped at the upcoming control in hysterics about how I was certain to die in the next few moments. (I wasn't able to work out which of the cars that came past completely in the opposite lane was driven by said driver, but as they all did, it must have been one of them). Naturally this caused a panic in the control staff who asked me whether I had a flag or luminous suit to prevent my imminent demise - notwithstanding that it was midafternoon on a glorious day and I was enjoying possibly the best traffic experience of the year to date.

I'd just about got over the indignity and confusion of having to explain that I'd survived thus far without any of the above, but of course had to be reminded of it several times by riders who'd passed through the control subsequently, which rather spoiled the taste of the whole ride for me.

I mean, I put my money where my mouth is and ride in the left tyre track, such that the first vehicle which fails to see me will certainly kill me (none of this riding in the gutter with your fingers crossed). I'm also quite happy to take my chances of being hit by a drunk / txt / sleeping driver as happens to fully-lit and hi-vizzed upright riders from time to time. It's my choice and, far from being uncertain about it I could hardly have imagined that it would be possible to cycle on a trunk road like the A72, A68, A7, (insert here) and actually find it relaxing compared with riding around the block on my ordinary bikes (which now feel bizarrely risky).

Today on the way back from work I was cruising on the Roseburn path (an ex-railway) when I met a pram at the same time as a trio of cyclists coming the other way. The lead rider had seen me all along and moved back to the left sharply, but Luminous Lance behind him thought this was a great opportunity to attack and open up that critical 16mph gap, and I actually had to ride between them, because he didn't bother to look around the wheel he was following before going for his manly break. (To be fair, actually I hadn't seen that there were three riders, I thought there were two)

To add insult to injury, the couple with the pram (who with their kid had been watching me approach with interest for the last 200m) said "I expect that happens to you all the time, riding that". WTF? Actually the only time I've ever had a head-on on the bike path I was riding my mighty Pearson, and would have been much better off leading with a steel chainring than with my throat...

I don't expect anyone to have a solution for this. Just need to vent.   :demon:

nicknack

  • Hornblower
Re: Recumbent safety woes...
« Reply #1 on: April 19, 2011, 10:18:06 pm »
Yet for better or worse, one local driver actually stopped at the upcoming control in hysterics about how I was certain to die in the next few moments.

Sure it wasn't Zoidburg?
There's no vibrations, but wait.

BBJ

Re: Recumbent safety woes...
« Reply #2 on: April 19, 2011, 10:48:06 pm »
Commiserations.

 Human beings come in a range of conditioned packages. Some seem to have focussed thier attention on a fixed idea of righteousness. I aim to spot the misery that follows such a habit, and see if I can let the aggression pass me by; too challenging sometimes, but work in progress!

Hope the venting worked.

Good luck with the next meeting with the potentially painful form of our race.

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: Recumbent safety woes...
« Reply #3 on: April 19, 2011, 11:42:24 pm »
I don't expect anyone to have a solution for this. Just need to vent.   :demon:

The solution is obvious.  Get more people riding recumbents.   :demon:
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...

Re: Recumbent safety woes...
« Reply #4 on: April 20, 2011, 02:33:32 am »
Gods, I don't get why the hysteria either.

Many moons ago when my kids were aged 1 and 4 I owned a very heavy bike trailer which I hooked up to my BSO (a bargain at £50 new via an ad in the Express, be gentle, I knew no better at the time). The trailer and human contents were actually a fair bit heavier than me and so I had a huge problem propelling us at more than about 6mph, and definitely couldn't go uphill. I also couldn't get through the gate at the entrance to the Sustrans path to Cheddar so used to ride the 3 miles along the road. My trailer had a flag, but I was shouted at by a multitude of people every single time I ventured out. One elderly woman shouted that I should be locked up for abusing my children and risking their lives like that and she had a good mind to call social services  :facepalm:

I suppose the wtf factor was maybe a bit higher in the 90's, and things like bike trailers were more uncommon. But jeez!

Re: Recumbent safety woes...
« Reply #5 on: April 20, 2011, 10:29:51 am »
I've found that the most dangerous aspects of bentening (apart from my own initial inability to balance  ::-)) is not from vehicle drivers but from peds, or more specifically youths/young men in groups who appear so affronted by my machine that they feel it necessary to hurl things at it or stand in the road in front of it.

But, EF, I wonder how much of this lack of incident is down to the machine and how much is down to your assertive, confident and quick riding style?  Do you ride it in exactly the same way and speed as your upright bike, and if there a noticeable difference between the care that others show when negotiating you?

Re: Recumbent safety woes...
« Reply #6 on: April 20, 2011, 10:36:02 am »
shouted at by a multitude of people every single time I ventured out. One elderly woman shouted that I should be locked up for abusing my children and risking their lives like that and she had a good mind to call social services  :facepalm:

I used to get that in York, back when there were two people in the city with kiddie trailers. Had one chap threaten to set his Doberman on me.
<i>Marmite slave</i>

Re: Recumbent safety woes...
« Reply #7 on: April 20, 2011, 11:50:04 am »
First time we tried a bakfiets (prolly 2008 ish, so less common here than they are now), a guy stopped and said to my wife "great idea, makes sure your kids die before you".

clarion

  • Tyke
Re: Recumbent safety woes...
« Reply #8 on: April 20, 2011, 11:53:39 am »
"Only if you choose to kill them, sir"
Getting there...

Re: Recumbent safety woes...
« Reply #9 on: April 20, 2011, 12:08:11 pm »
LOL @ clarion - awesome response.

But, EF, I wonder how much of this lack of incident is down to the machine and how much is down to your assertive, confident and quick riding style?  Do you ride it in exactly the same way and speed as your upright bike, and if there a noticeable difference between the care that others show when negotiating you?

Good questions. On the open road, I think other than being a recumbent it's not distinguishable from any of our normal bikes (in the sense that a couple of mph is neither here nor there to a driver doing 70mph). I ride in the same position, I wear the same clothes. From watching the same cars overtake me and then overtake others on brevets, I'd say the recumbent is good for an extra metre of passing space, as a rule of thumb.

In town I definitely ride differently. For example, you can't get away with sloppy shit like brushing past a row of parked cars at 30mph and expect anyone at a side-street to see you. When queueing I tolerate nothing beside me unless it's in a different lane (cycle lanes don't count) and I arrange things so that I'm never surfing the side panels of a vehicle - either overtaking or being overtaken, never in between.

These are all commonsense things that every cyclist should be thinking about. Perhaps it's true to say that a recumbent rider needs to *really* think about whether high-speed doorzone surfing is a good idea...

In fact, I'm comfortable with the statement that you *can* be in grave danger on a recumbent rather than an upright if you ride like a fool - for example, I had a moment of insanity once where I filtered underneath the trailer of an HGV that was waiting to turn right, instead of having to stop and wait behind him.

(Actually I didn't. But I was entertained by the fact that I could have, and it's a nice illustration that you can certainly put yourself in danger if you want.)

Re: Recumbent safety woes...
« Reply #10 on: April 20, 2011, 12:15:46 pm »
It is probably the opposite to the safety in numbers effect. If you are doing something unusual then people take notice & treat you with extra respect.. Try riding an upright around Edinburgh dressed as a chicken & see if it has the same effect. Let us know how you get on.

Karla

  • car(e) free
    • Lost Byway - around the world by bike
Re: Recumbent safety woes...
« Reply #11 on: April 20, 2011, 12:21:49 pm »
One aspect of recumbent safety that's occurred to me is what happens to you in a crash.  Both times (yes, both :( ) that I've hit (been hit by) a car on an upright, I've bounced over the bonnet and onto the road, with the bike taking the initial impact into the side of the car and me taking glancing blows on the windscreen and then the tarmac.  On a recumbent, wouldn't my body plough directly into the side of the car?  I can imagine me picking up a lot more damage that way. 

Tim

Re: Recumbent safety woes...
« Reply #12 on: April 20, 2011, 01:23:06 pm »
One aspect of recumbent safety that's occurred to me is what happens to you in a crash.  Both times (yes, both :( ) that I've hit (been hit by) a car on an upright, I've bounced over the bonnet and onto the road, with the bike taking the initial impact into the side of the car and me taking glancing blows on the windscreen and then the tarmac.  On a recumbent, wouldn't my body plough directly into the side of the car?  I can imagine me picking up a lot more damage that way.  
I would imagine that you are likely to pick up far less permanent damage on a 'bent as you are approaching an impact feet first rather than head first - I would guess that the chances of head/neck injuries are likely to be reduced.

Re: Recumbent safety woes...
« Reply #13 on: April 20, 2011, 01:33:28 pm »
I think Mr B is talking about being T-boned and I agree with him. On a low-rider you'll get clobbered by the bumper rather than rolling up on the bonnet.
<i>Marmite slave</i>

Tim

Re: Recumbent safety woes...
« Reply #14 on: April 20, 2011, 01:43:06 pm »
Agreed being taken out directly from the side would not be good and there would be a greater chance of being swept under the vehicle.

My experience of 'benting in traffic chimes with the origninal assertion - everyone sees you and allows you more room than an upright as well as telling you that there is no way you would normally be seen and you're lucky they didn't run you over.

I think the best turnaround I've managed on someone (pedestrian) who on seeing me on a 'cheetah decided to tell me that there was no way I would be able to see what was going on. After they had sat upon it they did consider that the view from a 'bent was a significant improvement on standard bikes.

Re: Recumbent safety woes...
« Reply #15 on: April 20, 2011, 02:00:49 pm »
Yeah, if you imagine someone sticking their bonnet out of a side street, instead of the bike stopping and you going into the top of it (or right over), you'll compress into the side of it.

Having said that, it's not clear to me which is worse. Suppose you manage to get your closing speed down to 20mph and bearing in mind you're landing on your feet - well, that's the same as jumping off something 4m high. Sure, I wouldn't jump 12 feet for shits and giggles and I sure as *hell* wouldn't choose to do it with a bike attached to my feet - but it's within the realms of something I'd expect to survive.

On the other hand, going off a 4m high wall head-first (which is what happens if you hit something high-sided on a normal bike) is not promising. Even if you get lucky and hit a Ferrari and fly right over the top of it, you're still heading towards street furniture leading with your head. Even leading with your head into the windscreen would not be something I'd volunteer for...

It's not clear how to balance up the different crash types, overall. For instance, on my bike I'm free to have as many single vehicle crashes as I please and the worst that can realistically come out of it is road rash (I have demonstrated to myself more than once!  :facepalm:). On the other hand, I have no doubt that if I had to be hit by an oncoming right-turning Ferrari, I'd definitely take my chances on the Pearson!

Of course, in town the main danger is from left-turning HGVs (what is it in London now? 80% of deaths?) and the recumbent offers just the same chance of survival, AKA zero, if you take 44 tons to a vital organ. Probably the significant difference however is that I have *no* trouble with tippers or artics trying to overtake me in town. Since I don't bother to filter up the inside of 'em, that covers those bases.

Re: Recumbent safety woes...
« Reply #16 on: April 20, 2011, 02:08:37 pm »
The most commons cycling crash is one we manage all by ourselves, and in which case I'm significantly happier falling from a foot than from the dizzy heights of an upright.

P.s. What happened to your invisibility fail vid, EF?
Your Royal Charles are belong to us.

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: Recumbent safety woes...
« Reply #17 on: April 20, 2011, 02:16:34 pm »
My personal anecdata experiences of traffic and riding bicycles suggests that outside of the getting-splatted-by-another-vehicle scenarios where there's very little you can do to influence the outcome, accidents tend to involve some sort of loss of control of the bike: emergency braking/swerving, potholes, gravel, diesel, ice and so on.

It seems to me that in a loss of control of the bike incident, a recumbent is somewhat preferable.  Hitting things feet-first is a (literal) no-brainer.  You've typically less far to fall when you go down sideways, so much lower risk of serious hand/arm/shoulder damage.  Indeed, having come off a couple of times, I find that my instinct when going down with an USS 'bent is to let go of the bars and pull my hand in to protect the fingers, where on an upright, I grip the bars harder or put a hand out to cushion the fall.

All things being equal, I'd rather land on my hip/knee/elbow/shoulder than my hand/knee/elbow/face.

Also, you can decelerate harder on a recumbent.  That's likely to make a real difference in the car-pulling-out-in-front-of-you scenario.

Of course there are recumbent-specific hazards.  Flesh-eating chainrings, for example.
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...

Nonsteeler

  • If nothing goes wrong, I go wrong.
    • Elsewhere
Re: Recumbent safety woes...
« Reply #18 on: April 20, 2011, 02:21:08 pm »
Gods, I don't get why the hysteria either.
Many moons ago when my kids were aged 1 and 4 I owned a very heavy bike trailer which I hooked up to my BSO (a bargain at £50 new via an ad in the Express, be gentle, I knew no better at the time)... My trailer had a flag, but I was shouted at by a multitude of people every single time I ventured out. One elderly woman shouted that I should be locked up for abusing my children and risking their lives like that and she had a good mind to call social services  :facepalm:
I suppose the wtf factor was maybe a bit higher in the 90's, and things like bike trailers were more uncommon. But jeez!

No need to panic! You can experience the same behaviour almost 20 years later. And even if you pull a costly Chariot Cougar 2 with a stately drop-bar tourer you can be still harassed by pedestrians while your twins are in the back and your waiting for the green light on a Saturday afternoon in charming Exeter...

On the other hand, positive comments are far more conmon these days, esp. if you transform the trailer to a pushchair within seconds...

PS: The upcoming n+1 (when ever that is) must be a 'bent...
Sadly, melancholy doesn't pay my rent.

Re: Recumbent safety woes...
« Reply #19 on: April 20, 2011, 03:14:36 pm »
The most commons cycling crash is one we manage all by ourselves, and in which case I'm significantly happier falling from a foot than from the dizzy heights of an upright.

P.s. What happened to your invisibility fail vid, EF?

Yes, I wondered this too! I cleared up my channel ages ago and I think I must have removed it by accident. There was a lot of stuff that was basically junk and I wanted it to be more about the quality articles (that was a good one though).

No need to panic! You can experience the same behaviour almost 20 years later. And even if you pull a costly Chariot Cougar 2 with a stately drop-bar tourer you can be still harassed by pedestrians while your twins are in the back and your waiting for the green light on a Saturday afternoon in charming Exeter...

On the other hand, positive comments are far more conmen these days, esp. if you transform the trailer to a pushchair within seconds...

PS: The upcoming n+1 (when ever that is) must be a 'bent...

Since you can fit a rack to the Raptobike it must be possible to fit a childseat, eh? Then my child would be looking right over me with a decent view of the lie of the land ahead. It would make people's heads explode...

Charlotte

  • Dissolute libertine
  • Here's to ol' D.H. Lawrence...
    • charlottebarnes.co.uk
Re: Recumbent safety woes...
« Reply #20 on: April 20, 2011, 03:39:50 pm »
Clearly we need to do SCIENCE in order to find out whether a DF crashes better than a 'bent when you get T-boned.

Things we're going to need:

  • a car
  • several sacrificial recumbent and upright bicycles
  • durable crash test dummy
  • high speed camera rig
  • accelerometers (as many as possible)
  • a large tarmac covered test area
  • some computers
  • a trade account at Farnell, RS and several reputable suppliers of cycle parts
  • a Kim
  • supply of Kim's preferred food and beverages, suitable for all-night molishing sessions

:D
Commercial, Editorial and PR Photographer - www.charlottebarnes.co.uk

clarion

  • Tyke
Re: Recumbent safety woes...
« Reply #21 on: April 20, 2011, 03:49:49 pm »
A crash test dummy might not work as an accurate simulation of this type of event.  Can we not nominate some actual persons as pilots for the test rig? :demon:

Oh please oh please!
Getting there...

Re: Recumbent safety woes...
« Reply #22 on: April 20, 2011, 04:13:48 pm »
CLARKSON.

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: Recumbent safety woes...
« Reply #23 on: April 20, 2011, 06:38:54 pm »
A crash test dummy might not work as an accurate simulation of this type of event.  Can we not nominate some actual persons as pilots for the test rig? :demon:

I'm slightly concerned that Charlotte just did!   :o
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...

Re: Recumbent safety woes...
« Reply #24 on: April 20, 2011, 06:59:42 pm »
I/we have had such respect and space off other road users since we began riding our trikes, there are always the idiot(s) who say "you can't be seen" - answer so your talking to no one then (smart arse smirk).
      Our tandem with child trailer bike evoked a similar response but normally was always seen, though not as well as our "invisible" recumbents, I agree with the late great Sheldon Brown that "most drivers are on auto pilot and coming upon a recumbent triggers the WTFIT response making them give far more room than is necessary" long may we reign.
                                                    ;D
The problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so sure of themselves, and wiser men so full of doubt.