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There are all kinds of quirky bikes on the market now. Some are tiny and fold into a bag. Some are strange and look like a cross between a lounge chair and a tricycle. The latter are called recumbent bicycles and this odd mode of transportation is growing more popular.
Recumbent bikes have certain advantages -- not far to fall, for one! But there are also dangers for recumbent bike riders that other cyclists do not share. The use of recumbents on the road is relatively new and there is no data on injuries and accidents related to these bikes specifically. But we do know why people start using them ... and some reasons to give them up.
Advantages of Recumbent Cycling
Some serious cyclists turn to recumbents because they are more comfortable. Many of the discomforts of cycling have to do with being perched on a small, saddle seat. The recumbent changes that, allowing riders to lean back and relax. Users say they find these a lot more comfortable than the typical bike.
The bike seat on the recumbent minimizes strain on the body. Some riders say the alternative positioning of recumbent seats is also good for people with knee problems.
As noted earlier, falls from recumbents are generally not as bad as from a regular bike. Riders do not go over their handlebars. At worst, they fall from a fairly low seat. Still, being so low to the ground is dangerous in its own way.
Dangers of Recumbent Bikes
You may be less visible to drivers as a recumbent rider. Concerns about your visibility on a recumbent are legitimate.
In the words of John Anderson of the blog Bicycling Life, "The car immediately behind you will see you just fine. The one behind that one may not see you as well if your bike is low compared to an upright bike. This has some ramifications when you are riding beside a steady stream of higher speed overtaking traffic."
Because it may take a little while to learn to ride a recumbent bicycle, do be very careful out there. Make sure you are visible, practice turns and stops in a park or somewhere else where it is legal and you can be safe. Do not just hit the road for a serious ride the first time you get on this kind of bike.
Not Much Known Now
With their increased popularity, it seems likely that recumbent bike injuries -- and the inevitable lawsuits that follow -- will occur, if they are not already. But for now, little has been written on that aspect of these cycles.
Finally, if you do get hurt, speak to an attorney. Just because the recumbent is relatively new, does not mean that you cannot sue. Consult with counsel about a potential case.