A tadpole trike is a very safe vehicle to ride … far more so than an “upwrong” (upright) bike. Motorists tend to show much more respect and courtesy to tadpole trikes than they do a regular bicycle. However, motorists must “see” them first in order for the rest to follow. Since a tadpole trike is low to the ground and relatively small motorists need help seeing the trike. It is imperative that we do what we can to help be seen.
Safety flags are essential on a tadpole trike in my opinion. And when it comes to safety flags I am fully convinced that they should be flags that do the job. Otherwise why bother? All too many I see are next to worthless as they can’t be seen for one reason or another. Thru the years I have had several different flags on my trikes. Some were better than others but I always made sure what I was using were highly visible. I finally ended up making my own flags (actually I had them made by a friend who sews). I really like what I have now as they are highly visible and very effective. Here is a video showing them.
As I state in the video safety flags should be about safety … our safety … and not about advertising for the trike manufacturer. I don’t know of a single safety flag provided by a trike manufacturer that is worth having. They are usually too small to be seen, not bright enough to be seen, wrong ineffective dimensions to move about attracting attention, too stiff to move about to attract attention, and so on.
Some flags I have tried were very effective as far as being seen but they didn’t hold up to daily use. There are factory made flags one can purchase which are far superior to to the flags which come with trikes from the manufacturer. I have had some of them. Again, safety flags are supposed to be about our safety so I want something that will do the job. These flags I fly are large enough to be seen, bright enough to catch one’s attention, and soft enough to flap around quite well and get noticed. Also the black border around my safety orange flag really helps it stand out and be seen. The safety yellow/green flag has a reflective border around it that shines brilliantly when light hits it.
The human eye sees the color green the best followed by yellow and then orange. Red and blue are not good colors as far as what we see. Obviously the popular fluorescent colors, otherwise known as safety green yellow and orange, show up the best. I personally like a combination of these colors as I think they show up better than just one of these colors by itself. As you can see in the image below blues and purples are bad but dark red is the worst.
SoundWinds makes some pretty good flags. Here are some examples of some I like:
I like spinner flags, at least some of them anyway, but one needs to be aware that they can be problematic if you are riding with others and ride close together the person behind you will be eating it from time to time. I mean … talk about “in your face”! 🙂 Also they can catch on things as you ride along. I have had them ripped off when they caught on something. I also lost one when it got pulled out of the holder and I didn’t notice it for awhile. I back tracked to find it but someone apparently beat me to it and got a free spinner flag out of the deal. My spinner flag had streamers on it which really help it be seen. However, those streamers make it bad as far as catching on things. Here is a picture of my spinner flag. It had highly glistening foil in addition to the colored material. It spun around like crazy. The ribbons were constantly getting tangled and tied into knots as well as fraying. Fortunately they were cheap … $1 apiece at a nearby Dollar General store.
Speaking of streamers … last year a cycling friend of mine bought a very colorful streamer made of glistening foil like material. I wish I could find a photo of one like it but I have searched online and found nothing. Anyway while riding out in bright sunlight it really catches your eye. Here is a photo of similar material and form but his has multi colors in it.
Wearing clothing of the safety green, yellow or orange color is very helpful as well. When I see cyclists out there wearing this sort of clothing they can readily be seen way off in the distance. Those safety colors just catch the eye.
In addition to using good safety flags I think having good flashing headlight(s) and taillight(s) are essential. I am talking about daytime riding here so please don’t write comments about using a flashing light and blinding motorists. When riding in the daytime I have my headlight pointed up slightly so that the light is aimed about eye level for motorists and pedestrians. This helps immensely in their seeing the lights.
I have frequently asked people what caught their eye first … my flags or my lights. Most say the lights, especially the flashing headlight. Of course, it depends upon whether they are ahead of me coming toward me or to my side. Obviously if they are off to my side the lights are not going to do the job. So the flags are important as they see them. Even if they are in front of me or behind me and they see the lights first they also tell me that they saw the flags right afterwards. Both are very important!
Riding tadpole trikes is a lot of fun, but be safe out there!