Normally on a web-site selling Bicycles there will be absolutely no mention of how safe a bicycle will be in a crash, as there is no question in the buyer’s mind that of course it isn’t very safe in a crash, because it’s a bicycle. With a bicycle there is no structure or bodywork between the rider and any vehicle that may hit them, or anything between the rider and the road should the rider fall off.
There's no legal requirement to crash test bicycles/pedal cycles either, but since safety is the number one reason why people don’t cycle more we designed our DryCycles with crash testing in mind and we've conducted 4 Crash Tests on two separate occasions at Millbrook Proving Grounds in Bedfordshire. We've used these crash tests to refine our designs.
You can see the full video of the first two crash tests below, these were conducted on 23/08/2019:
The DryCycles performed very well at these likely impact speeds (15.5mph is the top speed of the motor assistance, and 20mph is a likely maximum side impact speed in a city as people tend to brake before impact), but we wanted to go further, to really show how DryCycles keep their riders safe even at higher speeds.
So we increased the thickness of the tubing in the framework and made a couple of other minor tweaks to the design and went back to Millbrook again in November 2020, to test our DryCycles at 31mph in both Side and Front Impacts, this time conducted using the same specification of Impact Sled (this is the vehicle used to hit into the side of the Drycycle) and the same deformable barriers (the blue honeycomb barriers) as those used in the Heavy Quadricycle tests which have been carried out by EuroNCAP.
Our dummies are not fully instrumented, so we don't have the same report data, only the Head Injury Criteria, but visually you can compare the crash tests directly with the Heavy Quadricycle Crash tests, as the speed, barriers and impactors are all the same.
Whilst a 31mph side impact is a possibility if a car hits into the side of a Drycycle without braking in a suburban environment, a 31mph Front impact in a DryCycle is very unlikely due to the top speed of the motor being 15.5mph. You won't get to 31mph in a DryCycle unless you're going down a long hill without braking, so they're extreme examples of what a crash could be.
The closest we could find to our crash tests for bicycles was the two German videos shown above, though these are slower than our 31mph (50kph) tests, at just 25mph (40kph) for the side impact test and 28mph (45kph) for the front impact.
A critical part of crash testing is evaluating the risk of Head Injury. Our Crash Test Dummies had instruments in their heads to take readings for this.
Head Injury Criteria (HIC) is a calculation used by all major crash testing organisations.
A HIC₁₅ number of 700 is the pass/fail threshold in car crash tests conducted by EuroNCAP, NHTSA, and IIHS for the parts of those tests which relate to Head Injuries.
Numbers below 700 pass the element of the crash test concerned with Head Injuries, numbers above 700 fail.
A score of 700, is estimated to represent a 5% risk of a severe injury, which is an injury of 4+ on the Abbreviated Injury Scale (Mertz et al., 1997) (Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine, 1990)
Our crash tests showed the following:
The HIC₁₅ number for the DryCycle in the Frontal Full Width impact at 15.5mph was only 29.59
The HIC₁₅ number for the DryCycle in the Side Impact at 20mph was only 124.86
The HIC₁₅ number for the DryCycle in the Frontal Full Width impact at 31mph was only 72.00
The HIC₁₅ number for the DryCycle in the Side Impact at 31mph was only 56.45 - yes it was lower at 31mph than at 20mph, the Polycarbonate side windows are great at gradually increasing head acceleration over time.
It's clear that all of these results for DryCycle fall far below the 700 threshold, so the risk of severe head injury in the accident scenarios we tested is extremely low.
Of course the majority of cars pass the Head Injury Criteria as well, and do so at 40mph in an offset front crash scenario, though the side impact is very similar at 31mph, but the numbers those cars score out of 700 are not reported, so it is hard to offer a comparison to individual cars on this criteria.^
We can however compare this to bicycles:
The HIC number for a crash test dummy wearing a Cycling Helmet on a Bicycle in a Front Impact at 12mph was 707 *ꭞ
The HIC₁₅ number for a crash test dummy on a Bicycle in a Side Impact at 25mph was 753 *
*The speeds of these impacts are different to ours, as no standards for crash testing bicycles exists, at just 12mph and 25mph the bicycle impact speeds are significantly below the speeds we tested at, yet the HIC numbers are far higher, so the increase in protection that a Drycycle offers over a bicycle is quite obvious.
ꭞThis is a HIC number and not a HIC₁₅ number, as it is from an older test. At the time HIC numbers were used the pass/fail threshold was set at 1000, rather than 700, as HIC numbers are typically higher than HIC₁₅ numbers.
The HIC₁₅ and HIC numbers for the bicycle crash tests are from the following two reports:
^ There are other differences between car crash tests and our own. We’ll use EuroNCAP to illustrate this as we are UK based. EuroNCAP crash tests differ from ours most notably due to:
EuroNCAP do two types of Frontal Impact, the first is at 40mph and is an offset impact into a deformable barrier (only half of the front of the car hits the barrier).
The other Frontal Impact in EuroNCAP is Full width at 30mph into a solid concrete block rather than a deformable barrier.
They also do other crash tests, such as the pole crash test and pedestrian ones, we haven't done anything like these due to cost.
Of course, the top speed of cars is far higher than DryCycles, and cars are used on more than just city roads, which is the intended use of DryCycles.
On the subject of safety, everyone knows it’s good to be seen by other drivers when you’re out on the road, so our DryCycle has 20 lights! As well as reflectors on the rear and sides of the vehicle, this will certainly get you noticed, in a good way, as it makes it much less likely anyone will crash into you!
With its striking design and unusual size, a DryCycle was never going to be for shy people, so we designed it to stand out and make sure it’s never easily confused for being a car ‘at a distance’. The front and rear position lights are set to flash (which is normal for a pedal cycle but not an option for a car) attracting attention as you ride down the road, whilst the low beam and high beam lights give out a steady stream of light to light the way ahead. We consider others as well of course, and use J W Speaker ECE rated motorcycle headlights with asymmetrical beams to ensure you don't dazzle other road users when on low beam, whilst also casting a very good spread of light in front of the vehicle.
Also, unlike any other enclosed pedal cycle, that we know about (and we have searched extensively), our DryCycle has pedal reflectors which can be seen from the front and rear of the vehicle. This is a legal requirement from the Road Vehicle Lighting Regulations and is peculiar to the UK, which is perhaps why no other manufacturer of enclosed cycles (commonly known as velomobiles) seems to do this, but it is the law to have these be visible to the front and rear of the vehicle in England and Wales, between the hours of sunset and sunrise (essentially night time) and having these pedal domes also means that police won’t need to stop you to find out if your vehicle is pedal powered or motorised. Without visible pedal reflectors the police could fine you up to £1000, so we think it’s important to include these to make sure you can legally use your DryCycle after the sun sets.
Controversial we know, but in terms of stability at low to medium speeds 4 wheels will always beat two.
Four wheels gives stability when starting off from a traffic light, or when negotiating a tight bend at low speed.
If you receive a knock whilst riding on two wheels, perhaps from an inattentive cyclist, a car door opened to one side of your path, a van mirror hitting you due to a close overtake, or a bumpy road surface, then you may well fall off a two-wheeled bicycle. Likewise, if the ground is slippery either from rain on painted lines on the road (which can become very slippery when wet), wet manhole covers/drains, or from ice or oil, then you may also fall from your bicycle as you only have two points of contact with the road.
Putting a foot down, or steering into, the direction of the fall, is the way to prevent overturning if a bicycle rider is unstable at low speeds, but there are times when this is insufficient, not possible or dangerous, for example if there is a car passing by in the direction the rider would need to steer in order to avert falling, or if the riders speed is too high to put a foot down and regain their balance.
A large number of bicycle accidents recorded in official figures are “one vehicle” accidents. Accidents where the cyclist wasn’t knocked off by another vehicle, but rather fell off due to instability, slippery surfaces or 'washing out' their front wheel, when they hit an unexpected slippery patch or misjudge the lean angle required in a corner.
Watch our Video below, to see how stable a DryCycle actually is - turn up the volume if you want to hear our commentary on the handling characteristics:
Sidesticks are cool everyone knows that, and they’re actually really fun to use as well, but the main reason we went for side sticks was safety. We could have easily given the DryCycle a steering column with either a wheel or handlebars at the top of it, but we didn’t want to put what is essentially a long metal pole sticking straight towards your chest/head. Some modern cars retract the steering columns away from drivers in the event of an accident and have airbags to cushion the blow. We couldn’t do that within the weight/cost limits of our vehicle so we avoided the issue by putting the steering to the sides, which actually results in a little extra side protection. Plus, they match the automatic opening cockpit canopy 😎
Pedestrian Safety is equally important to us as rider safety.
We don't want people being hurt by DryCycles whilst walking or jogging along shared cycle paths, so, as well as giving the DryCycle the best brakes and steering we could buy/develop, we naturally designed the front of the DryCycle to be very forgiving to any pedestrian who is ever unlucky enough to be hit by one.
We did look to get this tested by a crash test facility, in the same manner as they test pedestrian safety for cars, which involves firing leg and head shaped facsimiles at the front end of a vehicle and then mapping any hard points, but when they saw how we had designed the DryCycle with rubber covering all the metal structure towards the front, and the flexibility of the plastic body panels themselves, they said that testing it in this manner would be pointless as it would likely show as green across the scale (of red to green) that they usually test cars within.
At some point in the future we may look to revisit this, as it will be more convincing to have a video of this, rather than just a paragraph explaining it, but we do think it's quite obvious to anyone, with technical knowledge of the different types of vehicle, who examines the structure around the front of a DryCycle that it is likely to be more forgiving than either a car or a bicycle in the event of a pedestrian impact. The below photo shows the areas covered by our black 25mm thick Elastometric Closed Cell Nitrile Rubber between the plastic bodywork and the metal structure underneath, and the plastic bodywork where it is unsupported in the middle can deflect by 100mm or more, and all external surfaces are rounded and edges blunted.
With the windows of the DryCycle being made from shatter-resistant Polycarbonate smashing your way out of (or into) a DryCycle is harder than you might think. Great for security when you leave the vehicle parked up and locked, and for safety from any would-be attacker whilst cycling perhaps, but not so good if you become trapped inside the vehicle after an accident.
So, as well as the two manual lock release buttons, the only way in which the canopy is held in place is by 4 Quarter Turn quick release Dzus fasteners, and a wiring harness clip. This quick release system ensures you'll be able to escape in all but the worst of accidents, we thought an ejector seat option might be taking it a bit too far though!
Two large safety improvements that have been made to cars fairly recently have been pre-tensioners for seatbelts and airbags for steering wheels.
Pre-tensioners work by taking the slack out of the spool on a normal inertia reel seatbelt to prevent the driver from moving forward too much and so reducing the likelihood of them hitting the steering wheel in a frontal collision. A properly adjusted 4 point harness will have little or no slack in it, so doesn’t need a seat belt pre-tensioner. Having a 4 point harness also helps us when designing the structure of the DryCycle as it spreads the forces loaded onto the seat belt fixings evenly down each side of the vehicle, which reduces the amount of structure required saving vehicle weight.
Airbags in cars significantly lessen the blow of a drivers face coming into contact with the steering wheel during a crash, but airbags are complicated and costly and to be truly effective would still require a collapsible steering column that has been properly tested/calibrated and ideally proven in crashes/normal use, which we simply can't buy for our vehicle. Modern cars have this technology which collapses the steering wheel column so that it doesn’t push the steering wheel up to meet the face of the driver in the event of a frontal collision, unlike the heavy quadricycles that were tested with regular steering colomns in this video. The reason why the DryCycle has side sticks instead of a steering wheel is specifically to avoid the problem of having a steering colomn push a steering wheel into the riders face in the event of a frontal collision, and by using a 4 point harness we restrain forward movement in a crash as well.
All DryCycles feature an alarm/remote locking system as standard that we buy from the UK's leading car alarm manufacturer, Scorpion.
This allows the user to arm/disarm the system remotely using a fob. When the alarm is armed internal sensors will sound the alarm if movement is detected. But by far the coolest thing about the alarm system is that when you unlock it remotely using the fob, the canopy automatically raises up to allow entry to your DryCycle in style!
An optional next generation GPS vehicle tracker is also available. With the Scorpion S5-VTS tracker you can download an app on your phone and see where your DryCycle is whenever you might need to. This Thatcham Approved tracker is specifically designed for use in luxury cars, so is suitably robust. We wire it into the DryCycle's wiring harness so that it charges from the main battery, whilst also having its own internal battery source in case the main battery ever runs out or is disconnected. Cutting the wires that connect it to the main battery, and movement events, when activated, will trigger an alert to the GPS tracking centre who would then phone you to make sure your vehicle is secure, or contact the police if not. We also include the first 12 months subscription to this service when you buy the optional tracker.