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This is a look back in the (rear-view helmet-mounted Third Eye bicycling) mirror, to when I was tricycling to work at McDonnell Douglas Astronautics Co. every workday year-round, starting during a sizzling hot summer in 1980 through mid-1991, when I took early retirement to start a home-based business.

Pion on trike 1987

Martin Pion on his trike outside his home, September 1987
Wayne Crosslin, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

I don’t recall how it came about but St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter, Leo Fitzmaurice, ended up doing a story about me which included the photo above of me on my trike outside my home in Ferguson. The story is pasted directly below. I’ve corrected some errors it contained in comments following it.

Please either click the link Cyclist Peddling Safety P-D Mon Sept 7, 1987 to read the story pasted below, or press Cd+ when using a Mac to enlarge this page. Use the back button, top right to return to page.
Cyclist Peddling Safety P-D Mon 1987-09-09 rev-1
Cyclist Peddling Safety P-D Mon 1987-09-09 rev-2
Cyclist Peddling Safety P-D Mon Sept 7, 1987-3 rev

Post-Dispatch Story Corrections & Additions:

  • “Pion … has been a cyclist since childhood.”
    Growing up, I did sometimes bicycle  with friends to such places as parks that were too far away to walk. But I left my bike behind after moving to London when I was 15, and I didn’t resume cycling again until I was around 34 for environmental reasons, when I committed to bicycling to work daily.
  • “In recent years, he has preferred a tricycle because of its greater stability and better traction on pockmarked roads.”
    A three-tracked tricycle is actually inferior to a single-track bicycle on pockmarked roads since it’s harder to dodge potholes, etc.
  • “His blue tricycle, about the weight of a 10-speed bicycle.”
    Having an additional rear wheel and a rear axle does make it heavier than a bicycle. However, since the frame is made from Reynolds thin-walled bicycle tubing, that helps to keep the total weight down to 35 lbs. (That’s before adding the bike tools plus the change of clothes I used to take to work each day in the case on the back.)
  • “The Pions were living in Harlow, England, … when Martin Pion designed the tandem tricycle.”
    It wasn’t my design but one offered by Ken Rogers who built tricycles.
  • “the advantage of brakes on each of the rear wheels – more effective, he says, than brakes on a bicycle’s single wheels.”
    On the tricycle in the photograph, which was originally bought for my wife, the dual braking is all on the front wheel, and is very effective. On a bicycle this arrangement would be dangerous, however, because of the risk of being thrown over the handlebars during heavy braking. That’s never happened on the trike because of the extra weight on the rear wheels.
  • “She (his wife) thought she had silenced me, but I found how to manage it,” Martin Pion said jokingly.”
    That was a reference to a much earlier conversation with my wife, whom I was trying to persuade to start cycling in England. She said if I could find a tricycle for her, she would consider it, and to her surprise I found one advertised in the Exchange & Mart, which is what subsequently led me to choose a tricycle to ride to work too.
  • “A bicycle’s one advantage is turning at a high rate of speed, Pion says.”
    I was referring to the tendency for a tricycle to tip when turning, due to centrifugal force, which has to be countered by physically leaning in the opposite direction. Thus, when turning right one has to also lean right. Clearly bicycles have other advantages as well, one being lower weight, noted above, and narrower overall width, which on my trike is 24″ at the rear.
  • “Pion has had no accidents involving motor vehicles when cycling. One of his three mishaps on a tricycle occurred when he rode down a hill too fast, a second when a dog crossed his path, and a third when he rode on ice-covered Airport Road and overturned.”    
    The first was actually when I was riding down Airport Rd. on my way home from work, shortly  and a motorist was breathing down my neck as I approached a traffic light just beyond the I-170 underpass and started to turn left. Instead, I continued in a straight line as my inside wheel skidded from under me. On a bike I’d have skinned my left leg and arm but the rear axle held me off the ground. Oncoming traffic already stopped at the stop light continued to wait patiently even after the light changed, giving me time to right my trike, collect the front lamp that had flown off, and then cross the road in front of them. From that experience I learned a lesson: try not to allow a motorist to intimidate you or dictate how you behave.
  • “when a dog crossed his path” mentioned above as the second occurrence was actually a Doberman Pinscher which dashed out from a residential front yard and leapt on me as I tricycled past, knocking me over onto one arm, causing bursitis which took months to heal.
  • “when he rode on ice-covered Airport Road and overturned.” wasn’t quite accurate either. After a heavy snowfall I decided to turn right out of McDonnell Douglas instead of left as usual, and that took me over train tracks which, of course, I didn’t detect until finding myself falling over. However, I wasn’t moving very fast and was able to just put a leg on the ground to steady myself and continue once upright again. That particular evening traffic was backed up in both directions and essentially stop and go. I was able to move into the opposite lane on two-lane Frost Ave. in Berkeley when the road was clear, pass platoons of cars, and then merge back in again. Instead of a 30 minute journey it ended up taking well over an hour but I was still much quicker than a colleague who had left earlier than me by car.
  • The last page is titled “Cyclist Lists The Rules For Safety In Riding.”
    Back in 1987, I was still practicing John Forester’s recommendations for lane positioning at intersections: “The rule of thirds,” Forester called it.  Over time, I concluded that it was safer to exercise lane control whenever possible, certainly at intersections and on multi-lane roads.
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