There is a common misconception that the low profile of recumbent trikes makes them dangerous to ride on the street. The truth is that trikes are safer on the road than are standard bicycles. This is an important benefit. It is human nature to block out or ignore common sights while driving. Not good, but natural. Standard bicycles are “a dime a dozen” on the road, whereas recumbent trikes are generally few and far between. It is also human nature to see and take an interest in things that are not normally seen on the road. Trikes are not normal to most drivers. So even though a few drivers might yell at you to “get that thing off the road”, at least you know they see you. And using a comment from Bentrideronline in a past article, drivers see the extra wheel (and the reclining seat back) and automatically assume you’re in a wheelchair. Bryan Ball of BROL said “Nobody wants to see their name in tomorrow’s newspaper as the guy who ran over a wheelchair”. So drivers give you a wide berth. I’ve found this to be very accurate. When I ride my trike on the road, drivers will even go into oncoming traffic to keep from hitting my “wheelchair”. Of course, when the driver is drunk or texting while driving, nobody is safe.
And finally, trikes occupy virtually the same space on the road as do bicycles. Consider how wide your shoulders and the handlebars on a bicycle are compared to the footprint of the tires. The total space occupied by the bicyclist and bike is much wider than the footprint of the bike itself. This is even more profound when a bicyclist rocks side to side while climbing or otherwise applying extra pedal load. Then consider road trash that may damage a bike and/or cause a flat. Due to frequent passes by motor vehicles, debris tends to move off the car lane and into the bike lane. For apparently economic reasons, bike lanes are seldom swept or cleaned. Most road trash is small enough to get around on a bicycle by swerving to the left (more common than to the right) into the path of traffic. But if a rider swerves the trike to the left or right, one of the three wheels will likely run over the debris to potentially be punctured. So the trike rider “straddles” most road trash between the middle wheel (front or rear) and one of the two outer wheels (rear or front). Motorists are not surprised or antimidated as they are when a bicyclist swerves into the lane, because the trike follows a virtually straight line as seen by the motorist.
So whether on a recumbent trike or a diamond-frame bike…or in a tractor-trailer rig, be prepared for the unsafe driver at all times. People texting and talking on the phone generally are often too distracted to drive safely in any situation. Ride defensively, not offensively. When it comes to car, truck, motorcycle or other larger vehicle versus a bike or trike, the motor vehicle wins. So be prepared. AND BY ALL MEANS, AVOID DOING ANYTHING TO INTIMIDATE A MOTORIST!