Sunday, March 13, 2011

Are you still driving a 40 year old bike?

In light of the disasters befalling those sixties-vintage boiling-water reactors at Fukushima, one has to worry about anyone still using ancient technology when new designs sit shelved for lack of vision. So I dug out that video of the IIHS crash test between a '59 Bel-Air and a 2009 Chevy.

Its not about whether something is intrinsically safe (life is not intrinsically safe, as anyone caught before that 23 foot tsunami learned), but whether we have made our modern technological devices reasonably safe as we have learned things. Obviously, technology changes in 40 years.

If we are going to use cars, bicycles, or nuclear power, we need to move to modern standards rather than wait for old examples to fail. I for one wouldn't want to go back to the flimsy centerpull brakes on my 1979 Motobecane Mirage, or its slippery-when-wet steel rims. Not to mention those huge five step jumps in its five speed cogset.


Steve A said...

Yes, I drive a 40 year-old bike. Complete with center pull brakes. I do draw the line at not using steel rims, however. Occasionally, it rains.

No, my most commonly used cars don't have air bags, either...

John Romeo Alpha said...

Are there formal, written standards for bicycles that we could compare over the years? That would make interesting reading.

Khal said...

I couldn't find much. I think the technology has evolved on its own in a very competitive market, i.e., cantilevers or better quality sidepulls replacing the older centerpulls such as the ones on my old Mirage. V-brakes are replacing cantilevers for many applications, disks replacing V-brakes. We see better quality reinforced tires with the application of materials like kevlar to bicycling, etc.

Some aspects of cycling have gone retro in safety in my opinion. The lawyer tabs on dropouts require people to constantly have to unscrew quick release hubs, which basically confounds the whole design. I wonder how many quick release crashes have resulted from a clueless person re-installing a quick release improperly.

Steve A said...

Doesn't everyone grind those tabs off?

Keri said...

I'm struck by the last line in the video: "... and the roads today are safer for it."

Really? ISTM, only the people encased in the new technology are safer for it. And what is the effect of their risk-compensation on the rest of us?

Khal said...

The problem with traffic is that society only worries about one E--engineering. Not much about enforcement, oversight, driver education, or equality between modes.

Not to mention that the political process often listens to motorists and is tone-deaf to others.

So sure, the cars are definitely safer to drive by virtue of better unibody design, better balance, better brakes, antilock and traction control systems, better tires, etc., etc. Does that mean traffic is safer? Actually, it may well be on a per capita basis. But making cars that handle better or that are more crashproof certainly doesn't do much for a cyclist or ped. Not to mention, there is too much inattention out there leading to way too many "tests" of that unibody design.

When I went over the front of that VW a long time ago, I was on a bike with a factory-spec high speed shimmy, slow steering, lousy brakes, and suicide brake levers. Being new to cycling, I had not even though about "what if I have to brake and maneuver during an emergency with my hands on the bar tops?". Splat.