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  1. #1
    Dominatrikes sbhikes's Avatar
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    Debunking the old tractor theory

    I don't know how it is in farm country, but out here in Suburban So Cal, all the tractors I see ride on the shoulder or bike lane, or over to the side as far as possible by default. They do not ride out in the center by default and pull over to let people pass as has been described by certain VC folks here.

    So if using the bike lane/shoulder/far right is good enough for a tractor it's good enough for me on my bike.
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  2. #2
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sbhikes View Post
    I don't know how it is in farm country, but out here in Suburban So Cal, all the tractors I see ride on the shoulder or bike lane, or over to the side as far as possible by default. They do not ride out in the center by default and pull over to let people pass as has been described by certain VC folks here.

    So if using the bike lane/shoulder/far right is good enough for a tractor it's good enough for me on my bike.
    What does a tractor have to run over to get a flat tire?

  3. #3
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sbhikes View Post
    I don't know how it is in farm country, but out here in Suburban So Cal, all the tractors I see ride on the shoulder or bike lane, or over to the side as far as possible by default. They do not ride out in the center by default and pull over to let people pass as has been described by certain VC folks here.

    So if using the bike lane/shoulder/far right is good enough for a tractor it's good enough for me on my bike.
    What if a tractor is more visible than a bicycle? Does that change your analysis?

  4. #4
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by invisiblehand View Post
    What if a tractor is more visible than a bicycle? Does that change your analysis?
    Just to play devils' advocate... How do you suddenly become more visible with such a narrow profile by moving further to the left?

    Motorists seem to rear end each other more than any other accident type... I don't think we can ever be as visible as a large sedan on 4 wheels.

  5. #5
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by genec View Post
    Just to play devils' advocate... How do you suddenly become more visible with such a narrow profile by moving further to the left?
    It is within the direct field of view for a motorist. The side of the road is less so and more likely to be obstructed going around corners.

    EDIT: Forgot to mention that you are in a better position to be noticed by cars entering the roadway.

  6. #6
    Conservative Hippie
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    In addition to the excellent points raised by Invisiblehand, it's also unlikely that a tractor driver is going to need more room in the lane on the right to shift too, because some pinhead decided to buzz him.

  7. #7
    hill hater nova's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by invisiblehand View Post
    What does a tractor have to run over to get a flat tire?
    You would be surprised at just how small something can be and still flatten a tractor tire. I helped change a tire once that got a flat from a 2 inch dry wall screw. If the farm tractors tires are air only and not all calcium or air calcium mix it takes little to puncture them. Maybe a 2 to 3 inch nail a bottom from a broken bottle etc. The tire is about 1.5 to 2 inches thick between the tread at most.

  8. #8
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nova View Post
    You would be surprised at just how small something can be and still flatten a tractor tire. I helped change a tire once that got a flat from a 2 inch dry wall screw. If the farm tractors tires are air only and not all calcium or air calcium mix it takes little to puncture them. Maybe a 2 to 3 inch nail a bottom from a broken bottle etc. The tire is about 1.5 to 2 inches thick between the tread at most.
    If a tractor gets a flat tire, what are the chances of a serious crash compared to a bicycle?

  9. #9
    Conservative Hippie
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    Quote Originally Posted by invisiblehand View Post
    If a tractor gets a flat tire, what are the chances of a serious crash compared to a bicycle?
    If it's a front tire and catches the operator by surprise at road speed, the chance of the tractor rolling on it's side is actually pretty good, depending on if there are any implements attached and what the implement is. For the operator this can be very, very bad.

    Changing a flat on a tractor can be a huge PITA. May not be done that day, unless it happened first thing in the morning.

    Consider that there's not likely to be a spare handy unless you know somebody with a tractor that runs tires the same size, and they don't happen to be using it. Which means going out to buy a new tire or taking the flat one to be repaired. And I don't even want to get into handling the weight of water filled tires. (UGH)

  10. #10
    Cycle Year Round CB HI's Avatar
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    If farmers don’t need tractor lanes, then why do cyclist like Diane need bike lanes?

  11. #11
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    Diane, you're saying tractors don't do the powerweave in front of faster traffic. fair enough.

    "slower traffic keep right" is the general rule, eh?
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  12. #12
    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by invisiblehand View Post
    What does a tractor have to run over to get a flat tire?
    Just a thought. Why in the world would you let fear of a flat tire dictate your lane position if you are cycling in traffic? If the traffic is heavy, aren't there more important things to worry about? Isn't this why most commuters ride dedicated commuting bikes with more durable tires on them? Why, on the commuting forum, I was challenged by a person who claimed it was a fools game to ride anything less than 700Cx28's, and many want something around 32. I, of course, replied that that advice was rediculous, but on the other hand, he probably has to change far fewer flats than me.

    Myself, I don't consider risks of flats and debris (as long as it isn't of the type to cause me to loose control of my bike) when I consider lane positioning. If keeping my line in a tight situation results in me riding over some gravel, so be it. That's why I ride durable tires. Of course, if there is latitude as far as traffic is concerned, I avoid what should be avoided, but risk of flats never trumps proper lane positioning for the situation at hand.
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  13. #13
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Fagerlin View Post
    If a bicycle gets a flat tire, what are the chances of a serious crash?
    Good question ... but my bet is that four wheels are more stable than two.

  14. #14
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff View Post
    Just a thought. Why in the world would you let fear of a flat tire dictate your lane position if you are cycling in traffic? If the traffic is heavy, aren't there more important things to worry about? Isn't this why most commuters ride dedicated commuting bikes with more durable tires on them? Why, on the commuting forum, I was challenged by a person who claimed it was a fools game to ride anything less than 700Cx28's, and many want something around 32. I, of course, replied that that advice was rediculous, but on the other hand, he probably has to change far fewer flats than me.

    Myself, I don't consider risks of flats and debris (as long as it isn't of the type to cause me to loose control of my bike) when I consider lane positioning. If keeping my line in a tight situation results in me riding over some gravel, so be it. That's why I ride durable tires. Of course, if there is latitude as far as traffic is concerned, I avoid what should be avoided, but risk of flats never trumps proper lane positioning for the situation at hand.
    Flats, debris, and the potential of losing control of the bike should be an issue with or without traffic. Who says we are talking about commuters?

    Moreover, getting a flat in a pain in the butt. Some people might make some minimal tradeoff in safety to avoid a flat.

  15. #15
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CommuterRun View Post
    If it's a front tire and catches the operator by surprise at road speed, the chance of the tractor rolling on it's side is actually pretty good, depending on if there are any implements attached and what the implement is. For the operator this can be very, very bad.

    Changing a flat on a tractor can be a huge PITA. May not be done that day, unless it happened first thing in the morning.

    Consider that there's not likely to be a spare handy unless you know somebody with a tractor that runs tires the same size, and they don't happen to be using it. Which means going out to buy a new tire or taking the flat one to be repaired. And I don't even want to get into handling the weight of water filled tires. (UGH)
    Interesting.

    You wrote, that small things can pierce a tractor tire. But how often does that happen relative to a bicycle or auto tire? I find it hard to believe that this happens frequently. But I make no claims on being a tractor expert.

    But tractors are certainly are quite different from bicycles, face different risks, and different penalties for failure. I find it hard to believe that the comparison is a good one without more details.

    Otherwise, why not make the comparison, "Cars travel in the middle of the lane with no problem. If it is good enough for a car then it is good enough for a bicycle."

    Oh ... the tractors that I have seen in Virginia, NY, MD, and Pennsylvania do ride in the middle of the lane. They don't pull over too often; but that is the strategy they seem to implement.

  16. #16
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Where is Diane anyway? She was online when I first posted the questions.

    Do drivers of tractors face the same penalties from auto collisions as cyclists? How does your answer effect your conclusion?

  17. #17
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    I just realized that flats were the only specific aspect of debris originally mentioned. But another simple question is, "Are tractors affected by debris in a similar fashion as are bicycles?"

  18. #18
    Conservative Hippie
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    Quote Originally Posted by invisiblehand View Post
    Interesting.

    You wrote, that small things can pierce a tractor tire. But how often does that happen relative to a bicycle or auto tire? I find it hard to believe that this happens frequently. But I make no claims on being a tractor expert.

    But tractors are certainly are quite different from bicycles, face different risks, and different penalties for failure. I find it hard to believe that the comparison is a good one without more details.

    Otherwise, why not make the comparison, "Cars travel in the middle of the lane with no problem. If it is good enough for a car then it is good enough for a bicycle."

    Oh ... the tractors that I have seen in Virginia, NY, MD, and Pennsylvania do ride in the middle of the lane. They don't pull over too often; but that is the strategy they seem to implement.
    I think may have confused what Nova posted with what I posted. None the less, Nova is correct in that the same things that will pierce a car or light truck tire can pierce a tractor tire. Maybe even easier depending on the circumstances.

    A flat on any vehicle that runs pneumatic tires may cause a crash. True four wheels are more stable than two, but a bicycle isn't likely to squash the operator if it falls on them. The danger of getting crushed is a hazard to be observed just changing some tractor tires.

    Be that as it may, on all these conveyances, car, light truck, tractor or bicycle, in my experience, flats are infrequent enough to almost be called a rare occurrance. Some are just much harder, more dangerous, and more expensive to correct than others.

    Back on track with the OP:
    Yes, a tractor, being much larger than a bicycle, is much more likely to be seen and noticed regardless of road position. All the more reason for a cyclist to ride in a centerish lane position.

  19. #19
    Conservative Hippie
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    Quote Originally Posted by invisiblehand View Post
    Where is Diane anyway? She was online when I first posted the questions.

    Do drivers of tractors face the same penalties from auto collisions as cyclists? How does your answer effect your conclusion?
    A car/tractor wreck can easily turn a tractor on it's side, with, potentially, the above mentioned results to the operator.

    Something that often happens is that an on-coming driver will fixate on the tractor and drift toward it. This is a problem. It's a bigger problem when the tractor has a wide implement such as a 10' disk harrow on the back. The tractor driver can't turn away from the car without swinging the harrow into the on-coming lane.

    This happened here some time back. On-coming driver fixated on the tractor and started drifting toward it. Tractor driver, rather than risk rolling his tractor in a collision, had the presence of mind to slam his harrow into the pavement. Hard on the tractor, harrow and pavement, but probably saved his life. Totalled the Cadillac. The woman driving it was dead-on-scene and found to be at fault for driving in the on-coming lane.

    All pneumatic tires are affected similarly by road debris. If it's something that pierces the tire, the tire goes flat. Fixing a flat on a bicycle is child's play compared to fixing a flat on a tractor, especially if you have a CO2 inflator handy.
    Last edited by CommuterRun; 09-08-07 at 07:01 AM.

  20. #20
    Banned. Helmet Head's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by invisiblehand View Post
    If a tractor gets a flat tire, what are the chances of a serious crash compared to a bicycle?
    I heard there was a serious crash caused by a rear flat in our club ride last weekend. Downhill descent on a freeway offramp (after riding in the debris-riddled shoulder of the freeway for a 1/4 mile or so). Normal speeds for bikes there are 30+ mph. The guy I talked to was behind and says he saw the bike oscillating before it crashed.

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    Tractors in Kentucky (farm country?) very rarely ride on the shoulder (if there is one at all ... especially one big enough to hold a tractor) ... people treat them like cars. Slow cars that can be in your way for miles, but still cars with every bit as much (or more) right to the road. maybe it is because we are very used to them?

    I would imagine the OP may have seen one tractor doing this, and assumed that all do ... how many tractors does one see in Southern California? Anybody that's actually drives a tractor on a regular basis knows that the edge of the road is something to be avoided like the plague, especially with any attached mowers, trailers, beds, etc. that can change the weight distribution. I would take a guess that the driver was being really nice ... or he was tired of people honking (back to the "how many do you see in So. California" question.)

    in any case, why would anybody make this comparison? A tractor (depending on the size/model/etc.) is freaking huge. It's taller than nearly any car (with roll bars here), and wider than most vehicles ... they usually have big flashing lights, turn signals, enough room for a big yellow or orange triangle, and are kicking along at 25+ no problem.

    is this comparing apples to oranges?

  22. #22
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CommuterRun View Post
    A car/tractor wreck can easily turn a tractor on it's side, with, potentially, the above mentioned results to the operator.

    Something that often happens is that an on-coming driver will fixate on the tractor and drift toward it. This is a problem. It's a bigger problem when the tractor has a wide implement such as a 10' disk harrow on the back. The tractor driver can't turn away from the car without swinging the harrow into the on-coming lane.

    This happened here some time back. On-coming driver fixated on the tractor and started drifting toward it. Tractor driver, rather than risk rolling his tractor in a collision, had the presence of mind to slam his harrow into the pavement. Hard on the tractor, harrow and pavement, but probably saved his life. Totalled the Cadillac. The woman driving it was dead-on-scene and found to be at fault for driving in the on-coming lane.

    All pneumatic tires are affected similarly by road debris. If it's something that pierces the tire, the tire goes flat. Fixing a flat on a bicycle is child's play compared to fixing a flat on a tractor, especially if you have a CO2 inflator handy.
    But tires are made for different purposes. I imagine just like the bicycle commuter picks tires that are more durable than others that there is something analogous for larger vehicles. I guess I find it hard to believe that a big thick heavy tire on a truck or tractor is as vulnerable as a bicycle tire.

    When do you mean by easily? On one hand, there might be some anecdotal examples; but I imagine that tractors are big and heavy and would provide quite a bit more protection than when getting hit while riding a bicycle. On the other hand, it does look like the tractor has a relatively high center of gravity such that it would be turnover prone like many SUVs. ... searching quickly with google and only finding a few lawyer sites, it appears that relatively few accidents result in an auto turning over (~5% but that figure looks weird such that there might be issues with definitions and the universes of the numerator and denominator ... 6M accidents, 280K w/turnovers).

    The bicycle will not squash its rider. But a bicycle also provides less protection from cars or objects in the way. My point is not that a tractor makes its driver invulnerable, but that it probably protects more and is more of a threat to others in a crash relative to a bicycle and treated accordingly.

    More generally, my point is that the comparison to a tractor is tenuous at best. (At least with one pass at the concept) So why make such a conclusion?

    EDIT: BTW, assuming that most tractors are uncovered (true?), I would think that driving a tractor and having it flip over would be quite deadly. So the point is certainly a good one.

  23. #23
    Sumanitu taka owaci LittleBigMan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sbhikes View Post
    I don't know how it is in farm country, but out here in Suburban So Cal, all the tractors I see ride on the shoulder or bike lane, or over to the side as far as possible by default. They do not ride out in the center by default and pull over to let people pass as has been described by certain VC folks here.

    So if using the bike lane/shoulder/far right is good enough for a tractor it's good enough for me on my bike.
    I agree except for these points:

    The law often clearly states, "as far right as practicable," not, "as far right as possible." Diane, it's possible for me to ride on the grass or gravel, for heaven's sake.

    Also, a bicycle is not a motorized, slow-moving vehicle (as some have compared it to.) A bicycle-plus-rider is about two feet wide. A tractor is several times as wide.

    So the bottom line in the difference is that it's a "breeze" for motorists to pass a cyclist positioned "as far right as practical." "As far right as practical" acknowledges that cyclists deserve adequate pavement, just like other vehicles.

    I rode in the bike lane today, and except for having to scan the debris for glass and sharpies, I had tons of room. When the bike lane petered out, I maintained about the same distance from the fog line as I had in the bike lane, and motorists usually had plenty of room to pass me without even changing lanes.

    I call that "as far right as practicable."
    No worries

  24. #24
    I'm that guy that I am.
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    Here are some points from someone who deals with farm equipment every day:

    - A farm tractor can be quite small. Look at the old Farmall H and John Deere 3020s. They are about the same size as a SUV. Neither has a canopy or enclosed cab, though both were occasionally added. Smaller, modern compact utility tractors and sub-compacts are often the size of midsized and compact cars and generally don't have cabs.
    - Flats on large agricultural equipment are most often caused by large debris, not the small pieces that we avoid with our bicycles while riding down shoulders. Old discs left in fields, unused buried fence cables, stuff like that. If a tire comes in with a nail hanging out of it and it's not leaking, we leave it right where it is; those large tires are expensive.
    - Drivers of agricultural equipment drive on the shoulders because it's the polite thing to do. They go slower, so they try to stay out of the way. Speed isn't always the issue, as modern equipment can easily go above the posted speed limit.
    - Not all tractors have hundreds of flashing lights on them. Generally, the only thing required is a SMV (slow moving vehicle) sign at the rear, though most manufacturers place hazard lights on at least the roll bar or fenders. Those with cabs usually have more.
    - We've had local farmers blow tires and have accidents. Though they are usually moving around 30 MPH, there is a lot of momentum, and riding near the edge puts them near more roadside hazards.
    - Just because most tractors are pretty big, it doesn't keep motorists from running them over. A few years ago, one of our guys was traveling on the shoulder of a two lane road with wide shoulders. He had a SMV sign and was using his flashers. A car was going the same direction in his lane right at the middle of a two mile flat, straight, open stretch of road and while being distracted in the car (I believe it was a cell phone that was in use), drifted to the right and ran right into the back corner of the tractor, flipping it over and ejecting the operator who was pinned under the rollbar.

    What does this all random babble mean? Stop comparing bike riders to tractors as it'll get nowhere. The issue is with motorists and their driving habits, and they aren't getting any better.
    It's not how many miles you ride, but how hard you ride them. Time trials aren't races.

  25. #25
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    Dianes tongue-in-cheek, parodosical criticism of the ol' tractor theory (a comparison between bikes and tractors I have never read of except in Bike Forums) is echoed of several of the respondents here-

    it is idiotic to compare riding bicycles to operating tractors on the public roads. just becuase both vehicles are slow moving, the comparision needs to end there. the BF's esteemed safety nanny notwithstanding, I believe most of the rational bicyclists on this forum understand the mass/visibility/ traffic footprint differences between bikes and tractors.

    tractors get begrudged respect on the roads, bicycles, not so much. despite where or how in the road each position themselves.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

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