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I've been commuting by bike for many years on different types of strapless platform pedal and have always been nervous about clip-in pedals. Excluding any accidents caused by getting used to a new pedal, what type is safest for all-weather commuting in the city with traffic?

There are lots of different types of pedal:

  • Platform, no toe clip.
  • Platform with half toe clip, no straps.
  • Platform with toe clip and straps.
  • Clip in, of which there are many types.

It's not obvious to me which ones minimize the risk of causing an accident, or are the safest in the event of an accident.

Is it safer being clipped in to minimize risk of your foot slipping and causing a fall? Or is it safer to be unclipped so that if you do fall you detach from your bike easily?

Is there much difference between the types of clip-in pedal? There are road, SPD, and SPD "Click'R" (designed for easier release).

I can't find much online aside from anecdotes, so I'd really like to know if there has been a study done on this.

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    toe clip and straps are quite overkill isn't it ? I think that this question dont make much sense. Safety depend on how you(and others) drive not what you drive. Take any pedal you feel comfortable with and drive safe. – kifli May 23 '16 at 13:11
  • @kifli toe clips plus (not very tight) straps may be less common now, in favour of clipless systems, but they're equivalent in many ways. – Chris H May 23 '16 at 19:08
  • @kifli: Toe clips and straps are in no way overkill: They provide a good amount of "power benefit" over platforms without the huge financial investment of clipless and also let you wear normal shoes, which is quite helpful in the city (as the OP wanted into for). Additionally, they teach you good pedaling manners (position, cadence, not putting weight on the upstroke, etc.) which translate even to platforms. Zach Gallardo explains the tradeoffs in the city quite well, IMHO (despite specifically addressing fixies). – errantlinguist May 23 '16 at 20:16
  • I use flats when I'm going somewhere I don't want to be carrying spare shoes around. I make my clipless pedals into flats by inserting a pair of old worn clears in, and then ride in normal shoes. But for commuting I use my cleats and keep spare shoes at work. Safety depends on comfort and familiarity, so try them all properly, then try them all again in turn and see what you like. – Criggie May 24 '16 at 4:28
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There is a lot of discussion about this topic (i.e. a lot of anecdotes) because pedals are a very personal matter (cf. LondonCyclist or Zach Gallardo). However, I think that you're over-thinking this in some way: The "safest" pedal is the pedal you're most used to and comfortable with.

Consider, for example, a hypothetical case where clipless pedals have been "empirically proven" to be The Safest Pedal: You then buy some fancy clipless pedals and have no idea how to clip in and out and then you fall at a stop light and some car behind you runs over your leg.

Of course, this answer wouldn't be complete without me giving my own two cents (i.e. anecdote):

  • Since biking in the city (esp. "all-weather" cycling) involves dealing with a lot of unexpected obstacles/dangers/stops/etc., you should be able to quickly and confidently dismount your bike and re-mount with little hassle. Perhaps if you've got really good reflexes and you're very used to your own clipless setup then doing this with clipless pedals is no issue at all. However, there still may be some unexpected event which happens just a bit too quickly for you to properly unclip, and that split second which makes the difference between properly unclipping and falling may lead to problems like those described in the preceding paragraph.
  • Likewise, you should have good contact with the pedals. If you wear leather-soled shoes, then please make sure you have rubberized pedals: Slipping on your pedals can be very painful and this will happen if you're wearing leather soles and your pedals get wet.
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    The last time I fell by not unclipping was 35 years ago with toe clips and cleats. Haven't fallen since switching to Looks, and later SPDs. And nor has my daughter. When you have learned to use them, there is no such thing as unexpected event which happens just a bit too quickly for you to properly unclip. – andy256 May 23 '16 at 12:48
  • @andy256: Exactly, hence my hypothetical situation: "You then buy some fancy clipless pedals and have no idea how to clip in and out and then you fall at a stop light and some car behind you runs over your leg." – errantlinguist May 23 '16 at 13:32
  • As someone who came from BMX, I wouldn't want to clip in on ANYTHING where I would routinely be unclipping (such as city cycling). Last time I clipped in was in racing or dirt jumping, but when I ride street, park or city, it's plastic unclipped pedals for sure. I use the Merritt PC Pedals on my bike. – knocked loose May 23 '16 at 15:14
  • The time to unclip is part of the controlled braking time. If you can't stop when someone pulls in front of you, being clipped in will only add insult to injury - a static clipped fall isn't that bad. (+1) – Chris H May 23 '16 at 16:45
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    Hold to a fence or a signpost and learn to clip and un-clip until you can do it without looking and thinking and until it becomes a second nature. If you have to think of un-clipping it's not rooted deeply enough and you'll get into trouble. – Carel May 23 '16 at 20:10
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I commute on clipless for the suburban/commuter belt section of my commute. When I get off the train and ride in city traffic I'm on platforms, so I have a foot almost literally in both camps. Where I don't ride clipless, it's less than 2km on the bike, with 6 sets of traffic lights.

But platform pedals are not created equally and your shoes matter too. The platforms I ride on daily are moulded plastic from wellgo. Some trainers grip them OK, but nothing grips them well. On family holidays I swap my clipless pedals for some cheap bent steel platforms. They're great. Wet trainers, hiking boots etc just don't slide on them. (Evans own brand).

I've come off a few times commuting, and only once was not being clipped much use (a car pulled in and sideswiped me, somehow I landed on my feet on the pavement). Other times, even if I got my foot down first, it didn't do much if any good.

If I was optimising a bike for inner city commuting now, I'd probably go for carefully chosen platforms, and pick shoes to go nicely with them (though I'd give half clips a go).

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