Lighting, Visibility, Hacks and Riding Safety (Live long and pedal...)

I started riding my Terra Trike Rambler GT in mid-Aug 2015 here in far NW Arkansas.  I was a complete novice and had to learn a lot through experience. I also learned a lot from reading these forum postings.  Combine this with Google and YouTube and you can find a tremendous amount of information.

I'm starting this discussion to pass along some of my own experiences in hopes it will help you and/or give you ideas.  You'll find other regular contributors on the forums who will help you as well.  As an adult educator one of things I learned is that when you bring a group of adults together to solve problems and share information you will quickly realize the depth and width of knowledge available to a topic/subject. It's staggering. Use it. Uh, be advised that you may, on occasion, encounter curmudgeons: grouchy, cranky, negative people who will contradict, argue and disparage what you say or ask.  Learn from them also as I did.  Such is life.

Since mid-August I've ridden 764 miles.  I have to ride six miles of city streets and cross major intersections to get onto the Razorback Greenway Trail System and I'm still alive!  Only once have I had a hair raising experience (actually very little hair).  This @##hole pulled out in front of me with a big pickup truck and a flatbed trailer...intentionally.  I was in a dedicated (well signed) path, on a downgrade doing 15 mph when the truck zipped up to the road, jammed on the throttle and pulled out in front of me.  I locked up the wheels and turned 30 degrees sideways to avoid messing up his paint job (Actually the truck was a piece of ####). :D 

Some of the things I will post you've probably heard a thousand times.  If so, let it bring the thoughts back to awareness.  Other things will be relevant to my trike and ways that have helped me improve my riding experience.  Enjoy and don't be afraid to ask questions, share experiences or give advice.  That's what the forum system is here for and thanks to Terra Trike for providing it.  We are a family of trike riders.  Trikes rule! :-h


  • edited December 2015
    Thoughts about riding in city traffic (Initial thoughts.  "Your mileage may vary.")
    • Distractions are dangerous.  Refrain from doing calculus or composing poetry in your head while riding.
    • Don't assume that drivers see you.  They may not actually see you and are probably listening to music or talking on a cell phone (the latter is more common).
    • If appropriate, signal when you're going to make a turn. Uh, hope that they remember what a hand signal means.  If you don't remember, Google it. :)  BTW, avoid making gestures with your hand that are not appropriate.  It will help extend your lifespan, if you know what I mean. :D
    • If possible, plan a route that utilizes side streets.  When using a more well traveled street choose one that is wide and/or has a designated bike lane.
    • Obey traffic laws like motor vehicles. For instance at a four-way stop, come to a complete stop and wait your turn.  MAKE EYE CONTACT with other drivers.  Smile, nod your head, wave and mouth "thank you" to get their attention and make them aware of you.  When others wave me on I always wave and say thank you.
    • There is a busy intersection I cross near a hospital.  I cross with the light (remember I'm still alive) and I have several vehicles behind me I quickly turn right into a parking lot to let those vehicles pass.  I can then conveniently get back on the street, make my turn at the next intersection and get on to a side street.  I have carefully chosen the "safest route" to get to the local trail entrance.
    • Being courteous, nodding positively, waving, saying thank you will generally make your riding more pleasant.  As a precaution, make sure your life/medical insurance premiums are paid up.  Get my drift? :D
    • Visibility is extremely important and I'll write more on that in another post.
    Okay, someone else describe their safe riding habits.  You know who you are... :-??
  • edited December 2015
    I just found an excellent website with riding safety info...
  • The city streets where I live are almost all narrow. I've learned to take side streets and to try and ride when traffic isn't going to be bad. 8:00am vs 10:00am for example. The two main highways running through town are the safest places to ride with wide lanes and wide shoulders. I haven't had any conflicts with drivers so far, and I think when you ride all the time people recognize you and begin to learn how you're going to act. If I'm impeding traffic I'll get over. I'm courteous. I ride predictably. Honestly I can say that trikes have a far better reputation regarding motorists than other cyclists.
  • I ride mainly on paved or compacted pea gravel paths. My biggest lesson learned is crossing roads from the paths. Most of the roads we cross are rural county two lane with 45-55 mph speed limits. So you really need to judge the traffic carefully. a few months ago I came very close to being hit by an oncoming car and it was all my fault.

    The bike path had a slight rise at the highway crossing and I was hold the trike in place using the pedals to prevent rollong back as I waited for traffic to clear. There also is a slight rise in the hightway so approaching cars need to be seen prior to the rise. I thought it was clear and began to pedal forward and immediatly realized I had not downshifted and was going way to slow for crossing the road and along comes a car and lucky for me the drive sees me and swerves into the other lane to pass behind me vs hitting me.

    My wife was with me on her conventional bike and after seeing me almost pasted to the cars front end she chewed my ass out loudly as she was crying and I understood I really messed up and also was very lucky.

    So now at those type intersections I first make sure I'm downshifted correctly as I approach and also at times dismount to see better down the roar and just walk the trike across if neccessary. I know dismounting may be difficult for many of us but it also could be a wise move at times. There just are many scenarios where all the lights, flags banners, day glo clothing, education etc. will not help you one bit and although we need to look at the motorized operator with caution it can be our error not theirs.

  • I found I would rather ride the safe path along the golf course (4.5 miles) more times a week than go on a long ride only once a week.  I have been able to do it consecutive days which is pretty amazing consider my knees.  Taking a longer ride would require either crossing a 6-lane divided highway or putting the bike in my car (it no longer fits due to the larger tires and wheels).

    It's late December and we are expecting a week of weather in the 80s so I will be riding as often as possible!
  • I agree. Sometimes the shorter but safer bike paths and trails are a better choice. There happens to be one of those planned communities fairly close to me with close to a hundred miles worth of bike paths, but like Florida_bound getting there is the crux of the problem.
  • edited December 2015
    Robbie8800, TCEd and Florida_bound, thanks for your wisdom and experiences.

    Sometimes those close, short rides are definitely as good as longer ones.  Short rides are especially good if you're getting familiar with your trike.  Smoother comfortable shifting and braking comes only with experience.  When I changed cranksets I had to get familiar with shifting all over again. 

    Screaming down an incline and/or into a curve is not a good time to practice braking.  Just like a new car you need to get the feel of how your trike behaves under different conditions.  Do the left and right brakes respond evenly or do some adjustments need to be made.  What was the pucker factor?

    My Rambler sits higher off the ground than some trikes so I have to slow down or lean more when I go into a curve.  It was spooky the first time a wheel lifted off the ground.  I became a lot more mindful after that happened.

    I like robbie8800's suggestions for courtesy, predictability, consistency and picking times to ride when the traffic is not so heavy.  Motor vehicle drivers during rush hour can be seriously distracted.  Like TCEd said, we cannot assume anything about vehicles on the roadway. And, I've found myself getting ready to cross a road and I'm in too high a gear to move quickly.  Oh, @#$%!  I think about those times and I get the heeby-jeebies. Now I'm very, v-e-r-y careful to shift before I get into a situation.  I'm much wiser now, but wisdom only comes on the installment plan. @-)

    Florida_bound, and robbie8800, I'll take several short rides any time rather than one long, long ride.  I go crazy if I can't ride after two or three days.  Not too long ago it was threatening rain so I rode my immediate neighborhood until it began to sprinkle.  It gave me a chance to practice shifting and braking into turns.  It was time well spent.

    I forgot to mention TCEd's lesson in visibility.  If you can't see them, they can't see you and they're  moving a whole lot faster than you.  Adrenaline seems to compensate at times, but it's the reality of looking back at the situation that makes a lasting impression. I've been there and done that.

    I also believe that we trike riders have a better reputation than two wheel cyclists.  I see some crazy, crazy behavior with cyclists.  Going too fast for conditions is a biggy.  Some of them scare me.

    Hey you trikester types, lets keep those tips and tales coming.  
  • Speaking of cyclists (walkers and joggers included) there is the issue of ear buds.  I especially careful when I pass one of the latter two because they tend to be off somewhere in another world.  

    Now what freaks me is a cyclist with ear buds flying down the trail giving no warning, bent over the bars, pedaling fast.  It's one of the reasons I carry a goodly amount of first aid materials in my panniers.  One day, like happened with Elrique64, I may have to help scrape one of them off the pavement or out of a ditch.
  • I'm going out to buy a horn.  I ran into several people today with earbuds and couldn't get their attention.  I also had a woman in a car blocking the crosswalk and I could get her attention either.  Time for an air horn!

    Today I ran into someone riding a dirt bike on the sidewalk.  How illegal is that?  Even a horn wouldn't have helped get his attention. 
  • I saw a video of a guy with a tricked out Rover.  He had one of those small, marine air can emergency horns strapped to his handle bar with cable ties.  The horns are relatively cheap and plentiful so I'm going to get one.

    As for the dirt bike I'd suggest a ############, but they make such a mess. =))
  • I'll have to look for one.  I have a drink holder on one handlebar.  It has rubber straps that wrap around the pole.  I could always put a larger air horn in there but I will look for a smaller, thinner one.
  • The noise from an air horn may be enough to worsen the situation. A startled driver isnt someone I'd want to be around.
  • What do you suggest?  I yelled as loud as I could and waved my arms.  It didn't get her attention.

    I was going to knock on the window when I finally got past but thought that might be dangerous.

    I understand your concern.  You never know who's carrying a gun.  But, we need to get back to respeccting others.  Otherwise, riding this trike could be very dangerous!
  • Most drivers are courteous. If they fail to see me more than likely I placed myself in a position where they normally wouldn't expect something to be. I prefer to be in the middle of the lane where I know they'll see me and then move over as opposed to being in the far right part of the lane where they might see me. I always assume they don't see me so I have to help them see me.
  • edited December 2015
    I'm seriously thinking about mounting a small air horn, but I seriously doubt I will use it except in extreme cases.  They are very, very loud and humans jump at loud noises as it triggers the flight/fright response in our very nature.  And yes there are times when it can trigger unforeseen and even dangerous responses so I would think twice before using it. I don't even like those air horns. :|

    I also make it a practice to smile, wave and "mouth" a thank you when people stop for me.  Other than "Mr. I'm Going To Pull Out In Front Of You Because I Can" I've had no serious problems with traffic. I'm constantly reading and evaluating traffic conditions when I ride. I even practice thinking about what I could do in certain conditions should the situation manifest itself.

    There is one intersection where I cross THE busiest north/south street in town.  I purposely get to the innermost part of the lane at the light. I'll even time the cycle so that I'm the first vehicle waiting at the light (I'm clearly visible). When the light changes I'll "move it" across the intersection and if there are several cars following me I'll quickly turn into the parking lot across the intersection to let the following cars move on.  When traffic is clear I'll get back on the street and turn off onto my side street. I like being courteous and proactive.  I have to cross that insanely busy main street to get from home to the trail system. It's a survival tactic. :D
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