Early this morning while meeting up with some friends to ride together when I first arrived at the trailhead parking lot my one friend said to me that he saw me riding across the bridge which is about 3/8 of a mile away. He saw my florescent yellow and florescent orange safety flags. I have stressed over and over thru the years about the importance of good safety flags and bright flashing lights front and rear. We need to be seen! All too many trikers ride around with flags that just don’t do the job. Some of them are difficult to see when up close much less some distance away. I put some images together to give you an idea of how far away I was from my friend when he saw me. The first picture is of the bridge I was crossing at the time. The second picture if a satellite image of the area showing where he was (red X) and where I was (red arrow). The third picture was taken from the parking lot where he was looking to the bridge where I was.
I think that is pretty incredible for him to see me from that distance. Of course, all he saw was my flags. He could not actually see me.
I have had a few people locally make the exact same flags that I have. They have done so because they have seen for themselves how effective they are. A few years ago I was riding on a local trail which is “rural” away from the city. It follows a river so it meanders around a bit. There is lots of vegetation on both sides of the trail (trees, bushes, weeds, etc.) so most of the time one can’t see very far ahead. As I was riding along I saw something up ahead of me which caught my eye. I only saw it for a second or two. It was a very long ways ahead of me. I would guess it was about 3/4ths of a mile the first time I noticed it. I assumed it was a flashing yellow light on some sort of maintenance vehicle. I kept riding closing the distance and every once in awhile caught another glimpse of this “flash” of bright light thru very small gaps in the vegetative covering. I kept going getting closer and closer until finally I was able to see the source ahead of me. I was quite surprised and even more impressed when I discovered what I was seeing was two tadpole trikes being ridden by a man and wife couple whom I knew. They were flying flags just like mine … some of the ones who liked my flags so much that they copied them. Amazing! I saw at least one of them some 3/4 of a mile away in heavy vegetative cover.
I encourage every trike rider to take this matter seriously. Your very life may very well depend on it.
You can read more about my safety flags HERE with instructions on how to make them.
Be safe out there , KEEP ON TRIKIN’ and ENJOY THE RIDE!
A FREE GIFT awaits you!
As I sit here typing this it is snowing again outside. Being stuck indoors thru another nasty winter unable to go riding outdoors I am envious of those who can ride at this time of year. So sometimes I watch others ride on videos posted online. Here is one I came across which I think looks very inviting.
One of things I noticed as I watched this is safety flags. This is a subject I approach with passion. I have WRITTEN ABOUT IT before and even made up a VIDEO of my own about it. I know not everybody agrees with me on this as it is obvious by the flags they choose to fly and by the position they have them at. Safety flags can be quite effective and eye catching or they can be quite ineffective. In this video embedded below I captured a screenshot of two trikes in the front of the camera. Both are flying safety flags. One is barely flapping while the other is flapping vigorously. One is farther away than the other. The one which is most visible and eye catching is not the one which is flapping the most or closest. It is the one flapping the least and furthest away. How can this be? Color! The yellow flag stands out far better than the multi-color (blue, white, red and yellow) one. Look for this fairly early on in the video. Normally the flags that flap around a lot are more eye catching, but if the colors are not all that noticeable than the flapping doesn’t accomplish all that much good. You can see this in the video.
Nope, I just don’t get it. Why bother? Why spend the money to fly a flag that doesn’t show up? I mean the whole idea of a safety flag is to help others see you. If is for your safety … hence, it is called a safety flag. Flags might be pretty to look at, but if they are not eye catching … well, what can I say? It’s your funeral as they say. I know there will be many who spurn what I am saying. They might even get upset with me. I know many will go on ignoring what I am saying. But if just a few trike riders wake up to this and do something to help others see them it will be worthwhile getting others upset with me.
The size and shape of the flag makes a big difference as to whether or not it attracts attention and accomplishes its mission … making you visible and helping protect you. There are flags which are very popular but the shape of them makes them worthless as safety flags. They barely move and because of this and their physical size they can’t hardly be seen from behind. They actually blend right in with the flag pole so what is seen is something about 5/16 of an inch in width. That is ridiculous! I am talking about flags that look like these pictured below:
I have followed behind several flags like these (shapewise) and unless they have the additional ribbons like the one if the bottom picture they are practically worthless. The ribbon is the only thing which can be seen as it flaps around and moves enough to catch the eye while the much larger flag surface just can’t be seen from behind.
While I am at it I see some trikers fly their flags down real low. I assume they do so trying to keep wind resistance down. I guess they have it in their minds that this is going to slow them down a half a mile an hour and they can’t have that. Again, I don’t get it. Why bother at all? If your flag isn’t going be placed where it is noticed then you might as well not even have one.
Then there are those who fly their flag(s) quite high. In doing so their flags are above the straight forward line of sight of most motorists with the exception of semi-tractors. In my opinion safety flags should be about 5 feet off of the ground to their top. Also the flag pole should be fairly upright … not angled way back. That not only helps them flap better but it will help keeping someone from getting their eye poked out if they walk or ride into your flag sticking way out behind your trike where it is quite vulnerable.
Well, anyway the video of this trail ride is neat and it makes me all the more desirous to ride. Come on Spring! I want to …
KEEP ON TRIKIN’
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!