While researching this I discovered this is a first article on tricycles in the FBA News. Trikes are becoming more popular because the new ones are PFC. Check out http://www.Catrike.com, http://www.tridenttrikes.com/index.htm, http://www.evolvetrikes.com, http://www.TerraTrike.com (All American engineered and manufactured) http://www.ICEtrikes.com (British) http://www.hpvelotechnik.com (German) http://www.greenspeed.com.au (Australian). There are other reasons: my riding buddy who has a ceramic hip replacement (and can’t risk falling on the new hip), not having to get out of your of traps before you stop (and fall over), no pain constantly holding your neck up to see, your upper torso weight isn’t born on your wrists and hands, you don’t lose contact with “favorite body parts” from compression of the perineal nerve and local arteries by the typical hard little seat, etc.
There are, however, special consideration with these machines. For whatever reason you chose to ride, there’ are a host of legal/safety/human factors you must consider:
The newer recumbent models have substantially lower centers of gravity, so they don’t suffer from an upright trike’s instability.
Great visibility: The normal position on a trike is your head upright. You have the full 120 degrees of field of peripheral vision a human has when walking.
Center of Gravity
If you have the traditional upright seat trike, you have a higher center of gravity and are unstable. There’s an alarming article in the Journal of Trauma from 1986 (J Trauma. 1986 Jul;26(7):643-8) unflatteringly titled: The three wheeler (adult tricycle): an unstable dangerous machine.” Upright trikes drivers are aware of G-forces in extreme turns which can empty the rider into the roadway and a motorist’s path. The new recumbents solve this instability problem, but presents new ones.
Lower to the ground
In a recumbent trike, you’re lower. While I am preaching to the choir when I say “motorists don’t’ see us,” imagine sitting 4 inches off the road- you are below the hood of cars in busy traffic. And this magnifies the pre-existing problem with motorists: There’s no expectation you are there. Even with the best visibility we are still invisible. The common reaction I see in the cases after “What the hell were you doing on the road?” is “How was I supposed to know the trike was there.” To protect yourself, assume visibility is your job.
“Wide Load” designation?
Both types of trikes have a wider footprint. As you know, human powered vehicles are supposed to stay as close as practicable to the right side of the road (with exceptions). So for a two we’re about 28′-36″ wide. If car comes too close to a two wheeler, it will hit the hip or elbow or handlebar and knock you to the side. With a trike that car contact is likely to a left wheel. What happens after that is a guess based physics and engineering of your steering mechanism. Be visible at any cost….
You will do well to have red rear lights and I do mean lights. One, to use and one for the one that will fail you. Keep both running simultaneously even during the day. Spend some money on those lights folks, this is to your to save your life.
The next of course is the flag. I am sorry you feel you look like a dork. I do not care, because, you will be an alive dork. So, get creative – high viz orange and yellow that flap easily stripe the pole and put a flashing lit on that. Why not put some truck nuts on your backseat or axle?
With that trike, your head is almost directly in line with bumpers, so lots of kinetic energy with an impact. Beyond a good helmet, be aware your neck is supporting your head and that head weighs between 8-12 pounds. Make sure the trike’s head support is as close as possible to the back of your helmet and doesn’t allow much distance backwards. The If you get struck and your head snaps back, it’s can be the mechanism of a serious connective tissue injury. Keep it straight until you turn
Anticipating a turn is one of the oldest mistakes motorists makes. In defensive driving classes, they teach“Don’t turn your wheels until you being your turn.” That is, having your wheels turned in the direction of your next turn while waiting for the traffic to clear. In a trike this is a problem as well. If, indeed, you are hit from behind and the initial impact doesn’t damage your rear wheel(s) (say a 5 mph impact) and they still roll, if your front wheel(s) are turned it could propel you into a heavy traffic lane with higher speed . Keep your wheels straight at all times, unless you are making the turn.
…..And Tell the other vehicle you ARE…
Signaling may be harder. Many of the trikes have two stick control but you still need to signal your intentions stopping or turning (Florida Statutes 316.155(1)). Make sure your hand is visible and it’s very obvious what you are indicating. Do it Michael Jackson style, get a special high viz yellow glove for your left hand.
And of course, the nagging, nagging, nagging.
Finally, about those tickets. From personal experiences I hear, the police are more inclined to give trikes tickets. It seems the more wheels you have the more you are like a car. So, like I have always advised when I give talks to bicycle clubs, obey the law. “Let me know if there’s anything I can help you with” ©.