Having finally had a good day yesterday, I installed the puncture sealant in my powerchair tyres and, today, I ventured out for the first time, in a break between showers, to post a letter.
It’s the first time I’ve ridden a powerchair on the pavement for about 15 years – and the last. There weren’t 2 consecutive paving slabs that were level. Apart from massive discomfort, they’d shake my batteries to bits in no time.
Came back home on the road – vast improvement, even though we have some of the most rutted and potholed roads in the county, if not the damn country – which illustrates even more just how bad the pavement s are.
I prefer to ride on the road anyway, as far too many people treat the pavement as an extension of their home, and leave their bloody bins out permanently, not to mention cars parked on the pavement, overhanging trees and bushes and, where there are driveways, the risk of being T-boned by some arsehole backing out. Reverse in you useless buggers! Then again, even if they did, the bonnet of many cars would take you out before the driver saw you, especially early in the morning when the buggers are half asleep! It really is much safer on the road.
And always claim your space on the road, riding well out from the gutter, unless you’re fond of punctures, or getting your castors snagged in grids. And, of course, if you’re in the gutter you have nowhere to go if you’re squeezed – 2 or 3 feet out, and you have safety zone, just in case
So if I go out, it’ll be on the road, which means I need indicators. I’ve already fitted a pair of Topeak HeadLux cyclists’ helmet lights to the sides of the armests – the widest part of the chair, and completely unobstructed.
These are about to assume the dual role of lights and indicators.
For steady lights at the rear (far more important than front lights), I’ve fitted a pair of these Smart lights.
These are attached to the headrest supports, which puts them in the eye-line of any drivers approaching from the rear, and are on day or night, usually flashing during the day. Always assume every other road user is a complete, and unpredictable, moron, and be as conspicuous as possible. Not only will you live longer, you’ll very often be right.
To use the HeadLux lights as indicators is quite simple, as they’re operated by push button. If the lights are on (that is, steady, front and rear), 3 quick button presses cycles through to dual flashing (front and rear simultaneously). Once you’ve made the turn, one press reverts to steady.
In daylight, with the lights off, 2 presses activate dual flashing mode, 2 more turn off again.
You might have to pull over and stop to operate the right-hand one, as if you let go of the joystick, you’ll stop in the middle of the road, though if you can reach across with your left had, that’ll be fine – just be sure you stay in control. If in doubt, pull over.
Personally, on a busy road, I think it’s safer to pull over anyway, signal right, wait for a gap in the traffic, then make your turn.
If you don’t fancy that, then Amazon has these cycle indicators, which look as if, with a little ingenuity and a couple of cable ties, they could be attached to the headrest supports (the controller will attach to the armrest with a cable ties too), but reviews suggest they’re pretty flimsy. Something to think about, though.
Other cycle indicators – and they’re pretty thin on the ground – are entirely the wrong shape for adapting to powerchair use, or are just as cheap and nasty.
If you use a Class 2 powerchair or scooter on the road, even if you add lights and indicators, you’re still not legal, and a police officer can tell you to use the pavement. It’s a moot point whether they’d bother busting you – it’s hardly worth the paperwork, especially as you’re the one at risk. You could try pointing out all the obstructions (if you happen to be in a particularly cluttered area), otherwise be a good citizen and get back on the pavement – as long as there’s actually somewhere you can do that safely – at least until s/he’s buggered off!
The thing is, though, where I live very many pavements are just too narrow to use safely, there’s a dearth of dropped kerbs, as well as all the problems I’ve already mentioned (plus dogshit). Using the pavement really isn’t always feasible, and the law needs to be changed to recognise that fact.
Don’t hold your breath…