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You're never safe: Cyclist struck by lightning(24 posts)

You're never safe: Cyclist struck by lightningSteeeve
Aug 16, 2001 5:26 AM
Forget about attacking dogs or nasty car drivers, Look up for the real danger.

A local cyclist was hit by lightning while out riding a couple days ago.

Here's the story:
73 die from lightning each year in this countryishmael
Aug 16, 2001 5:48 AM
and alot more a permanent injured...more people die from lightning than flooding and tornados combined..the expression "bolt out of the blue" came into being because people have been hit when the sky is blue above them and the storm is only a grumble in the distance...what can you do? ground the bike by running an electric rod up from the read derailer and connecting an exposed wire from the rod to the ground..
73 die from lightning each year in this countryChris Zeller
Aug 16, 2001 7:07 AM
True, lightning is much more dangerous than most people realize. Here in colorado, where more people are stuck than in any other state except Florida, weare especially sensitive to this. But why would you want to create a path of conduction between you and the ground? This seems like the opposite of what you would want. In climbing and hiking (also lightning prone) popular wisdom says to curl up into a ball and sit on your toes, preferably on a foam matt or your pack to REDUCE your connection with the ground. I would expect that the same would be true for cycling.

Further, it isn't the car's rubber tires or the electrical system that protects you from lightning in a car, it is the metal structure around you that forms a Faraday Cage. In this case, all of the charge from the lightning bolt floods to the outside of the car's structure and does not enter the inside of the conductive shell. The NPR advice to not touch the car's structure is good advice as you would then be conducting to the charged structure. I have seen demonstrations of this on the Discovery channel using artificial lightning generated by a huge static generator. The people inside were ok.

My only question is what would happen in the real world if a vehicle was struck while in motion? What would happen to the car's electrical system? What would happen to the driver as a result of the shock of the bolt? Would this cause an accident? I would think so but this is never mentioned in these discussions.
73 die from lightning each year in this countryishmael
Aug 16, 2001 7:49 AM
i dont really recommend the lightning rod on the would seem to me to work though as long as the connection to the bike was wholly by rubber
Wow...we were just having this same discussion...Greg Taylor
Aug 16, 2001 6:05 AM
...whether a rider would be protected from lightning, like you are in a car. Consensus was "no way". This discussion occured shortly after I rode across the 14th Street Bridge in a thunderstorm...
not necessarily protected in the carishmael
Aug 16, 2001 6:14 AM
avoid getting too close to or touching the car structure if you want to be safe..thats what i heard on npr
That makes sense! (nm)Greg Taylor
Aug 16, 2001 6:20 AM
Wow...we were just having this same discussion...Greg Taylor
Aug 16, 2001 6:21 AM
It's not the rubber tires that protects youCRM
Aug 16, 2001 6:33 AM
This conversation just came up on one of my rides last week, too. A friend of mine (who concerns himself with these types of things) said that when you're in a car, it's not the rubber tires that protects you from lightning strikes, it's the car's electrical system. Therefore, just because your bike has rubber tires, you're not protected and, in fact, since you're on a metal bike, you're even more suscepticle. He also said that if you can even hear the thunder, you're at risk to get struck by lightning.

I have no idea if he knew what he's talking about, but we turned around and went home anyway!
Aug 16, 2001 6:52 AM
The reason you are reasonably safe from lightning in a car is because the steel frame acts as a "Faraday Cage." Basically, the electrical charge will spread all over the outside surface of the frame without actually coming inside. It has nothing to do with the electrical system of the car, or even the rubber tires.

Here is a quick link to check out:
I'll be happy to tell my friend he's wrong! nmCRM
Aug 16, 2001 7:07 AM
The next story is worse...ebh123
Aug 16, 2001 6:28 AM
While riding a bike....shot, run over, and than buried in someones backyard. Forget lightening......!
Ditto: shot and run over is worse! -nmTig
Aug 16, 2001 8:36 AM
no message
re: You're never safe: Cyclist struck by lightningJL
Aug 16, 2001 6:33 AM
Tried to find shelter myself this weekend from lightning. Hard to find in an open field and SAG wagons aren't exactly flying by. Had to press on to get to the car, but I sure didn't feel to safe.
Lightning Info...Kristin
Aug 16, 2001 7:38 AM
Of course, I have to chime in! This is one of my favorite subjects. I was addicted to storms long before I eyeballed my first bike. Heres the deal. Cars function as a Faraday Cage in some cases. Just like an airplane. However, its not fool proof. There's less insulation and space separating you from the outside surface of your car than a plane and its passengers. Some things that can impact your safety from electricution in a car are: Softops, clothe tops or convertables, size of the car, whether windows are up or down, where the car is hit. I'm not at all sure about the safety non-metalic cars. It would be fun to see some studies done on cars vs. lightening. I'd be glad to do to the research myself, but someone needs to send me 2 convertables, a hard top luxury sedan, a VW Bug and a Corvette (to test a theory about out running lightening). With regard to protecting yourself when outside in a storm. There are two ways to be electricuted by lightening. * Direct strike The current travels from the strike point out thru your body into the ground. Electricity is efficient. It will take the fastest path thru your body to the ground. To best protect against this get as low as possible, lay flat on the ground and spread your body out. *Nearby Stike You can also be electricuted by a nearby strike, if the current travels past you thru the ground. This will only hurt if one part of you body touches the current, while the other doesn't. For instance, if you're standing w/your legs apart and the current travels under your right foot, it will continue thru your body and exit thru the left foot. If your feet are together and the current passes under both feet, it will bypass you. Remember, its efficient. To protect yourself from this, touch the ground with as little of yourself as possible. (Stand on one leg on the ball of your foot :) What gets damaged when struck, depends on where the energy travels and how strong it is. Its a game of roulette at best. If caught with no shelter in a storm, the best bet is a compromise. Find a low spot in the field, away from trees and water. Crouch down on the balls of your feet and keep your head low (protect brains). Wow! This is fun. I could go on and on....but I'll spare you.
what should we really doishmael
Aug 16, 2001 7:59 AM
ive never seen anyone is this position (crouching on balls of feet in a storm) and the most common practice seems to be running with hands shielding the head from rain...the crouching may be the best thing to do if in the middle of nebraska but wouldnt it be better to risk it for a few minutes and run to the safety of shelter if possible, probably...but just how safe is a home anyway if it attracts strikes because of its height..if the house is hit will it necessarily travel in the walls or could its path of least resistance be through the middle of my brass bed
Depends on how you define "stuck" reallyKristin
Aug 16, 2001 8:39 AM
If you are 50 feet from a house and you opt to crouch in a field, then you deserve to be struck really. And you probably don't have much brain matter to protect anyway. Obviously, it is very rare to actaully do this, because people think it looks stupid and they'd rather take their chances running/riding away.

Houses are protected by their indoor plumbing. It forms a nice web of conductive materials thru the house. Though it is possible for a bolt to penetrate a window and it can def. blow a hole thru a roof and even start fires (electrical and non). You are more safe in a house than in a car, and more safe in a car than outside. On a bike is considered outside.
Like you, I too love lightning storms....Steeeve
Aug 16, 2001 8:15 AM
Here in Florida the lightning is fantastic! I had never seen anything like this lightning before until I moved to Florida.

This time of year we get thunderstorms virtually every afternoon. They last an hour or two and then it clears. The storms at night are the best. I have on several occasions driven my car to areas where there were better views. Some lightning has been unbelevable, seems like it covers the sky from horizon to horizon!
Question for KristinMB1
Aug 16, 2001 8:37 AM
We were riding next to some very tall powerlines as Saturdays storm approached. I kind of had the idea that they might take a hit being so tall and give us some protection. Your thoughts...?

Nice to be an expert on this board for a change, eh?
Aug 17, 2001 7:16 AM
I'm pretty sure that this does not make you safer, but I've never studied the behavior of lightening around high voltage lines. I could find no published information on this either. I usually don't shoot near power lines as they make for ugly pictures.

Off the top of my head, I'd say that because lightning usually consists of multiple leaders (arms/tentrils) that you are perhaps slightly more at risk. Your riding where lightning is more likely to strike and you could be hit by an off-shoot of the main bolt. The Natn. Lightning Safety Assoc.'s guidelines advise to stay away from power lines and poles.

Hope that helps.
Thanks for the info, I'll be more careful. nmMB1
Aug 17, 2001 7:47 AM
Lightning characteristicsTig
Aug 16, 2001 8:51 AM
I remember the news story several years back when a kids baseball game was going on here and they were struck by lightning. The storm was still not there and the strike was a total suprise. It hit the backstop fence, but the kids as far away as the bases were hit. Most people had moderate injuries, a few severe, but luckily no one died. They discribed the strike as if it hit the fence and then smaller, shorter bolts spread from the main bolt just above the top of the fence. Indirect hits are possible too, huh?

I agree with the beauty of lightening. Living on the water made for an unobstructed view of passing thunderstorms over the bay. Gotta love it!
So Powerful & BeautifulKristin
Aug 16, 2001 8:04 AM
If the pic doesn't load, its here:
sure you can be safe...just carry a 1 iron...dustin73
Aug 16, 2001 10:22 AM
'cause even God can't hit a 1 iron...hahahahaha...sorry, golf joke.