I’ve been using the velomobile in low-light and dark conditions lately and it is worlds away from riding a bicycle under these circumstances. The YellowMobile is equipped with running lights, brake lights, turn signals, and two headlights. Those, along with its bright color, ensure that it is seen at night and treated just like another automobile on the road. In fact, I use my running lights day and night so that folks can see me coming from quite a distance and recognize me as a vehicle.
The turn signals have been a truly great feature. There are four super-bright LED lights on each side of the body so that when I signal a turn, that whole side of the velomobile is blinking. You can’t miss it!
I remember how it was on my old bike – a second-hand citizen, skulking by the gutter, jerking my head ’round to get a glance at traffic approaching from behind, jerking it back to ensure the bike was still tracking straight, repeating this until there was a break in traffic, making my signal with one hand while steering shakily with the other to take the lane. Yuck!
Now, I have two rear-view mirrors which, because of the narrow width of the velomobile, are much easier to check than in a car. As I approach the intersection I can easily time my arrival with a break in the traffic passing me from behind. When there is a break, I put on my turn signal and take the lane just like a car. And the other drivers give me the same respect as if I were driving a car!
Having a large, bright body around the bike certainly gives the velomobile more of a road presence. There are no more drivers passing within a few inches, as though the bicyclist only needs the road-space taken up by the width of their tires. They give me plenty of room. Riding the bike path has the same effect unfortunately. Although I take up about the same amount of space as a bike, (my shoulders are snugly touching both sides of the body), the velomobile just looks more impressively massive. I’ve had a woman actually scream as she looked up and saw me coming! Now I know how visiting aliens must feel! And I don’t drive crazy when I approach pedestrians! My rule is to slow down to walking speed for kids and senior citizens, and jogging speed for everyone else. When people aren’t around, Yahoo!
There are also many folks who, because they can’t see the legs going round, assume that there must be a motor in there. Some of them give quite a nasty glare and may even hog the path to force a slow down or make me take to the grass. It’s times like these that I wistfully remember what my dear old Granny would say in situations like this…
“Some people… are just dick heads.”
Not really. But I could tell she was thinking it from time to time!