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1985: Safety concerns over electronic trike
An electric tricycle, capable of a top speed of 15 mph, has driven into a safety row on its first day on the road.

The Sinclair C5 - launched by the computer millionaire, Sir Clive Sinclair - is designed for short journeys around town and can be driven by anyone over the age of 14.

But the 399 vehicle, driven by a battery-powered motor, only 2 ft 6 in high and six feet long, has raised safety concerns.

It's a sort of milk float you're putting into the traffic stream
Dr Murray MacKay, Birmingham University
The British Safety Council says the vehicle is too close to the ground and the driver has poor visibility in traffic.

He sits with his legs outstretched and the controls are beneath his thighs.

With a top speed of only 15 mph, safety experts say the C5 could be vulnerable to knocks from other cars.

The vehicle is open-topped and the driver is not obliged to wear a crash helmet or even have a driving licence.

Dr Murray MacKay head of the Accident Research Unit at Birmingham University said: "It's a sort of milk float you're putting into the traffic stream and that sort of dislocation is going to cause conflicts, particularly turning right."

Sir Clive claims his new vehicle will be a perfect runabout: "It's ideal for shopping, going to the office, going to school, any trip around town."

BBC News asked British motor racing legend, Stirling Moss, to take the C5 for a spin around town. His verdict: "I think it's safe if you drive it realising it isn't a car... ride it just like a bicycle and I think you should be alright."

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Watch/Listen
C5 pictured with driver in an empty car park
Safety fears over height and visibility of plastic trike

Stirling Moss test-drives the Sinclair C5


In Context
The Sinclair C5 was a commercial disaster. Only about 12,000 were ever produced.

However, it has since achieved cult status and in 2002, a vehicle in mint condition could fetch up to 900 - compared with an orginal retail price of 399.

Prior to the C5, Sir Clive Sinclair had chalked up significant successes - the first pocket calculator, the first pocket television and the best-selling British computer of all time.

He was awarded a knighthood by Margaret Thatcher.

Now in his sixties, Sir Clive still controls Sinclair Research.

His recent inventions include a device which propels bicycles without the need for pedalling and a radio the size of a 10p coin, designed to fit in the ear.

Stories From 10 Jan


 
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