archival and resource material for human powered recumbent tricycles

Q. What are the most dangerous times on a trike? The safest?

A. There are situations that clearly demand strict attention while triking, and there are others where our minds can wander and enjoy the scenery without concern. What generally constitutes danger? The major issue above all others is an inattentive motorist powering a two or three ton hunk of steel down the road at very fast speeds, or a driver emerging from a side street or parking space! The vast majority of drivers have no idea how deadly their actions can be, and for many, driving becomes so mundane day in and day out that they often engage in self-distracting activities while behind the wheel.

When triking through open country, where the road allows unobstructed views, motorists can readily observe the trike long before getting close to it, even if they’re talking on their cell phone or text messaging. In this situation, the driver has plenty of time to assess what is being seen, and nearly always provides a wide margin of room when overtaking. Being seen in advance is the key to remaining safe.

In the United States (driving on right side of road), one of the most vulnerable times for a trike pilot is when negotiating a blind right curve in tight mountains. This is a narrow sharp curve that bends to the right, where little to no shoulder exists, and unless a following motorist sees you enter the blind right, he could come speeding around it and there you are. Much of the time, drivers will see you ride into the curve, and know in advance to slow down. If you are already engaged with traffic, this is a plus, as they know you’re in there. If a blind right is imminent, and traffic is way back, you may be advised to wait until they all pass, or if the amount of traffic is heavy, just make sure the lead car sees you enter the curve. Most drivers cut curves on the inside, further making blind rights in mountains a notorious issue. Left-hand curves are different. You can usually be seen, and drivers who cut the inside are doing so away from you.

Other problem areas are on city streets, where parked cars obstruct everyone’s view. If you’re riding along a long line of parked cars, you may be well advised to “take your lane” as you are entitled to do in most jurisdictions, keeping away from opening doors and quickly emerging cars. If things are really bad, I have been known to use the sidewalk! I will vigorously defend my usage to any police officer who might confront me, and I would rather be alive to explain my actions of riding on a sidewalk than dead or injured just to follow the letter of the law!

One final thought here: Don’t argue with an errant motorist who thinks you have no right on “his” road – remain focused on the fun of the trike and all the other drivers who are always respectful. The problem lies with him, not you. Your pride is not worth endangering your well being. Let it go. Move on. Enjoy the ride! You will feel better for it.

sun city 59

These trike pilots are practicing safe driving skills (Greenspeed and HP Velotechnik). Notice how well the yellow colors appear from behind. Yellow is the most visible color. The lead Greenspeed trike has a bright yellow mesh seat, and on the HP Velotechnik, the rider has yellow Arkel panniers, a yellow safety triangle, and then tops it off with a yellow helmet.


4 responses

  1. Very well written article, Steve. One might even think you have been around the block two or three times. ;)

    January 30, 2017 at 9:16 am

  2. Gary W. Bunting

    I totally agree with Steve Newbauer – Great write Trike Hobo.
    I ride a 15-miler workout on MANGO MADNESS about every other day and in fact use a sidewalk exclusively to avoid a one half-mile long dangerous section of road. I actually had a sheriff’s officer stop and ask me why I wasn’t using the bike path. I indicated that most of the cars traveling that section cut close and to the far right around a gentle curve, really ‘sqeezing’ the bike/trike path. His comment: “Good call, rider. Stay safe.”. And with that he departed, waving. Thank goodness I’m not the only one aware of the danger. Perhaps that section will be widened someday to alleviate danger to cyclists.
    Thanks again for the great safety note.

    January 30, 2017 at 10:31 am

  3. Great advice. On a coast-to-coast ride a few years ago with my daughter in tow, the only truly sketchy situation occurred on a winding, hilly, narrow road with zero shoulder in eastern Kentucky. It’s very common for folks to speed way past their ability to see what’s in front of them, which is what happened on a blind curve that day. We narrowly avoided contact and the next day decided to skip about a 200-mile stretch of eastern Kentucky / western Virginia. For what it’s worth this isn’t a trike thing– we would have been just as vulnerable on a bike. Here’s the account if anyone is interested:

    Steve, I also completely agree with your final thought, even if I’m not always able to pull it off.

    January 30, 2017 at 11:57 am

  4. trike hobo

    Thanks for your comments folks! Yes Steve, I’ve been around a few blocks by now, and since I’m still alive and in one piece to talk about it, fears have dissolved completely. The only way to get good at overland triking is to do it, as you realize, and through that experience, a trike pilot better understands the reality of the road, and the complete respect most motorists afford. Of course, if a driver is distracted or speeding beyond what he can see, an otherwise respectful driver could still make contact or a close call. It is reassuring to know that the sheriff’s officer understood your concern Gary. Most cops are reasonable, and even if I was questioned by one who wasn’t, it still beats the alternative of being flattened. My life comes before the letter of traffic laws. I call it reasonable prudence – sure, I probably could have ridden the busy lane, but if traffic is insanely heavy, then why even chance it? Times I have ridden an ultra busy lane, such as when I pedaled through Reno, Nevada on Friday afternoon during rush hour, and the sidewalk had so many casino customers on it I couldn’t have used it even if I wanted to, I took a lane and did just fine. The congested traffic was doing only about 25 MPH between stop lights, and not one car during the chaos came anywhere close to my midget tricycle. I have read in rider stories Kurt that portions of the southern and eastern US can be quite unnerving in many places. You probably made a wise choice bailing out of that 200 mile stretch. Thanks for the great link to your story! I’m going to read it. Regarding the final thought, what keeps me focused on that, among other things, is that if I unleash my fury on a driver, then the next time that driver sees another triker out on the road, he will remember my behavior, and not cut the next guy any slack. I do it for the next one of us as much as I do it for me. Besides, in years past, when I was younger, and a lot more volatile, returning negative behavior only felt good to me for a short time – later, I was ashamed of myself for having engaged. Of course, this stuff usually comes with human aging, where we realize that petty altercations with others serve no useful or positive experience. Thanks everyone for sharing! See ya’ …

    January 30, 2017 at 2:04 pm