Driver attitudes to 'bents

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Driver attitudes to 'bents

Postby Kalgrm » Mon Aug 11, 2008 12:25 pm

I've just been reading an interesting thread on BROL about close shaves whilst riding.

One contributor posted this in response:
bentchick100 wrote:I created and implemented a subjective survey a few years ago to better quantify the motorist interactions with me on different styles of "bikes".

Each style of human powered vehicle was tested six different days for a six hour errand day in my city of about 400,000. That would be about 36 riding hours per HPV.
My behaviour remained relatively consistent of being legal, safe, and predictable.

I evaluated motor vehicle driver's behaviour based on my city's by-laws, Ontario Highway Traffic Act, Ministry of Transportation guidelines and recommended behaviour by cycling organizations.

It mainly consisted of counting their negative behaviours of being ABUSIVE (ie. " Get the f*ck off the road" giving rude hand gestures, etc), UNSAFE (ie. passing within a metre, passing on a blind curve with oncoming traffic, etc) or ILLEGAL ( ie. sounding car horn in non-emergency situation, striking myself or the bike, etc).

I also tried to keep a rough track of passing distance and motorists' positive behaviours or comments (ie positive hand gestures, out loud positive comments, applause, etc) while I was riding on the road surface, but there was so many positive comments in some cases that in order to stay focused on proper and responsible riding technique, I could only accurately count negative behaviours.


On a regular diamond frame bike the amount of negative motorist behaviour averaged out to about 10 per six hours of riding. There was virtually no positive interaction and average passing distance was within 12 inches.

On a two wheel recumbent bike ( SWB with OSS) the amount of negative motorist behaviour averaged out to about 1 per six hours of riding. There was about 20 positive interactions per hour and average passing distance was within 36 inches.

On a tadpole recumbent trike, the amount of negative motorist behaviour averaged out to about 1 per sixty hours of riding. There was almost constant positive interaction at about 20-30 per hour and average passing distance was more than 36 inches.

On a full shell head -in velomobile, the amount of negative motorist behaviour averaged out to about 10 per six hours of riding. There was about 2-3 positive interactions per hour and average passing distance was within 12 inches.

She did confirm that in sixty hours of riding the trike, she had only one case of aggressive attitude expressed.

So her survey shows that it's not bikes per se that annoy drivers, just certain types of bikes. It also shows that in general, you're safer on a 'bent and more likely to have positive interactions with the people around you.

My own experience on the roads of Perth supports the results of her survey.

Get 'bent: stay safe and happy! :)

Think outside the double triangle.
Imagine a world with no hypothetical scenarios.
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by BNA » Mon Aug 11, 2008 1:28 pm


Postby Uba Tracker » Mon Aug 11, 2008 1:28 pm

Interesting read, I would have to agree with Graeme, those statistics mirror my own experiences of riding in and around Toowoomba in Qld. It seems to work to our advantage that the novelty value of recumbents is still very high, drivers see us/them and go Say What is that and unconsciously create a safe zone for us whilst feeding their curiosity. Needless to say that there will always be other road users who fail to exercise courtesy or respect since we simply do not pose a threat to their safety, it's arrogance and it's out there. The best we can do is never become blase` and never assume that we have been seen.

be safe

A bad day's riding beats a good day's work everytime
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Postby Hotdog » Mon Aug 11, 2008 2:40 pm

It's certainly consistent with my experiences in Sydney too. On my recumbents drivers give me noticeably more room when overtaking and do seem more patient around me.

I'm sure it's the novelty of a recumbent that's the explanation. Because they look different they don't get subconciously classified as 'just another bicycle' by motorists, and so they don't automatically fall into their ingrained habitual behaviour around bicycles (which for too many drivers means attempt to overtake immediately, regardless of safety). For objects which don't fit into their existing categories drivers are forced to think about how to deal with it, and when confronted with something unusual like a recumbent many seem to fall into a sort of default behaviour of 'treat it like a legitimate vehicle', which is of course exactly what they should be doing :)

I'm not trying to imply drivers are unthinking zombies here, for all sorts of activities (such as driving or riding a bicycle) everyone naturally develops classifications of familiar objects and situations and learned patterns of behaviour that they follow subconciously in response to these familiar things. There's nothing wrong with that in principle, in fact it enables experienced people to respond more rapidly to dangerous situations than if they had to think everything through from first principles all the time, but you have to keep thinking enough so you don't do dangerous things out of habit... :roll:

There are other possible explanations for more polite driver behaviour around recumbents too of course. Drivers taking their time to overtake may just want a good look at the strange bike in front of them because they're interested in it. And I'm sure I've come across a few people who were only being patient and respectful because they though it was some sort of bicycle for the disabled in front of them... :oops:
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Postby recumbenteer » Mon Aug 11, 2008 9:26 pm

Again totally in agreeance..... :D
my experiences in Sydney have just been correctly stated.... :!:

in fact it is for this reason ONLY that I continue to ride my tadpole trike......

I feel SOOOO much SAFER on it than riding my much so, that it now sits in the shed quietly rusting itself to sleep every night. :oops:

(It does see the road occasionally, but due to its total lack of comfort and the DANGER of riding it I hope it understands.) :wink:
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Postby recumbenteer » Mon Aug 11, 2008 9:29 pm

Actualluyit's not the only reason I ride a trike................I'm too damn lazy to uncleat every time I have to stop...... :lol:
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Postby william » Mon Aug 18, 2008 12:01 pm

Very interesting subject.
From a fairly new riders point of view I'm always cautious along roads. Recently I've been training along Beach Road, Melbourne which is the club racers favourite ride. Here I see groups riding along the inside of a three lane road and when approaching a parked car they just move out, two abreast, into the second lane in front of other passing vehicles which have to take action to avoid collision. Lawful? I don't know.
Right or wrong I can see the vehicle drivers point of view with regards to frustration. Riding single file through these obstructions would develop better relationships.
To a lot of drivers in an urban or commuting situation they see a bicycle as a nuisance. Sad but true.
A recumbent though seems to be a different kettle of fish. From behind, to a driver it becomes a "What the hell is that" thought and drive past cautiously with great curiosity. I think a trike even more so and how many vehicles do you see go past when there's a rear window full of kids faces.
From my short experience drivers of large trucks give most room (generally speaking) and trade oriented vans and utes give the least. In the city the taxi drivers are the worst by number.

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