One-size amusement ride seats may be a problem for guests of various sizes

Posted Tuesday, July 23, 2013 9:38 AM | Contributed by Jeff

The death of a roller coaster rider in Texas has focused attention on the vexing problem theme park operators face trying to accommodate passengers of various shapes in one-size-fits-all seats. News reports about a woman who fell to her death from a Texas roller coaster suggest her girth may have played a role. The accident follows one in 2011 in which an Army veteran who had lost both legs fighting in Iraq plummeted to his death from a New York roller coaster.

Read more from The LA Times.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013 10:38 AM

The idea of "One-Size" seats is kind of misleading. The seats are designed to hold people that have average (if that's the best word to use) body proportions.

The American figure has changed over the last 40 years, but I feel that the need for any company to kowtow to this to make someone feel "good" or "included" is absolutely absurd....where does one draw the line?

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013 10:42 AM
ApolloAndy's avatar

Really? The engineers are designing these things to make people feel good? They're not designing them to accommodate paying customers? The size of the seat is not a political or moral commentary, it's a business decision.


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Tuesday, July 23, 2013 11:17 AM
Bakeman31092's avatar

The incident with the Iraq veteran isn't even related to the issue of guest size. He didn't even have the requisite body parts to be properly restrained, and there is nothing that can be done about that.

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013 11:19 AM

The parks have a great financial incentive to be as inclusive as reasonably possible in terms of rider accommodations.

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013 11:22 AM
Bakeman31092's avatar

From the article:

"In times like these, a paradox occurs," said John Gerard, a longtime member of American Coaster Enthusiasts, a club of coaster fans. "More people want to ride it just because of the fact that it has that added aspect of danger."

Does anyone think that's true?

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013 11:25 AM
sirloindude's avatar

"Reasonably possible" is the key phrase there, GoBucks. You can't make the seats too much bigger or then thinner people can't fit. You can't have too much in the way of adjustable seat sizes for capacity reasons, and so on and so forth.

It's like what Gonch said in the other thread. Everything isn't for everyone, and if you want to participate in certain activities, you need to be in the proper shape to do so. I'm not going to demand marathon events include 5ks because I'm not capable of running 26 miles.

Last edited by sirloindude, Tuesday, July 23, 2013 11:26 AM
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Tuesday, July 23, 2013 11:33 AM

But organizers of the marathon may add a 5k, 10k, etc. to increase the number of people who participate. Maybe they want to grow the event, get more sponsors, etc.

Amusement park operators have a financial incentive to appeal to as many people as possible. Does that mean they will or must accommodate everyone? Not at all. But they do what they reasonably can. Its a balance that is struck in terms of costs of accommodation and number of people who are benefited by the accommodation.

Seems to me that amusement parks are well aware of the weight trends in the US (particularly with young people). They will need to take steps to account for those trends.

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013 12:15 PM
sirloindude's avatar

But by the same token, why can't people take steps to reverse those trends? Why is it the responsibility of the amusement industry?

People need to start taking personal responsibility for their choices and stop expecting everyone else to cater to them. Bad decisions have consequences, and I don't think the parks owe it to anyone to make rides more accommodating. Look at the sheer number of people who are still able to ride. Is it really fair to demand the parks make the additional investment to accommodate that portion of the population, still vastly smaller than the portion who can fit, who can't fit in some of the current rides?


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Tuesday, July 23, 2013 12:19 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

While I agree with sirloindude in principal, what GoBucks is saying is more realistic.

It's not the parks' call to make judgement on it's customers...just sell to as many of them as possible.


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Tuesday, July 23, 2013 12:23 PM
sirloindude's avatar

I agree, but as I said in the last paragraph, the portion of the population that can't fit seems to be pretty darn small in comparison to those who can. If rides like Millennium Force can still pack in hour-long lines on light days, is it really worth the investment to modify some of the seating? It seems like it would be a lot of added hassle for minimal gain.


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Tuesday, July 23, 2013 12:24 PM
birdhombre's avatar

Bakeman31092 said:

From the article:

More people want to ride it just because of the fact that it has that added aspect of danger."

Does anyone think that's true?

This touches on something I asked about a few months ago. For me, a feeling of "danger" wouldn't make me more or less likely to ride Texas Giant, partly because I don't find it dangerous in the first place. (Unless the investigation reveals it was indeed a mechanical problem, but I presume they'd address that before it's open to the public again.)*

An opposite example would be those free-fall net towers. Even before the Teagan Marti incident, I'm not sure I'd have done that. Do those attractions still exist? Have they been outfitted with better systems for preventing a fall before the net is in place?

*I'm curious how Texas Giant's restraints are different from other coaster cars that don't have seat belts, e.g. B&M hypers and Timberliners. Could the same thing have happened to this woman on those rides?

Last edited by birdhombre, Tuesday, July 23, 2013 12:26 PM
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Tuesday, July 23, 2013 12:32 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

sirloindude said:

I agree, but as I said in the last paragraph, the portion of the population that can't fit seems to be pretty darn small in comparison to those who can. If rides like Millennium Force can still pack in hour-long lines on light days...

For now...

The trend (like GoBucks said) is moving in the other direction.


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Tuesday, July 23, 2013 12:48 PM
Jeff's avatar

I know we like to talk about "fat America," but really, as a percentage, how many people are too big to ride? Is there a real business risk to not being able to accommodate them? My guess is no.


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Tuesday, July 23, 2013 1:44 PM

To be clear, I am not suggesting the parks be forced to accommodate larger guests. I think that is up to the parks to decide.

And I agree that people who cannot ride various rides because of weight issues would be better off losing the weight. Not only with respect to the park visit but their life overall.

But if I am running a business, I would rather run it towards what my customers will (or are likely) to do rather than what they should do.

And I agree that right now, the numbers of people (at least based on my limited observations) getting turned away from rides is not very significant. But as noted, the trends show increasing numbers of obese people. At some point, the numbers of people being turned away from rides becomes a profit issue for parks. Unless you make accommodations.

And on the list of problems/issues with being overweight, not being able to ride certain rides is (or at least should be) pretty far down the list. Yet with all the more serious issues/problems, obesity rates continue to climb.

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013 4:14 PM
bjames's avatar

Jeff said:

I know we like to talk about "fat America," but really, as a percentage, how many people are too big to ride? Is there a real business risk to not being able to accommodate them? My guess is no.

From the CDC: More than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7%) are obese, meaning a BMI over 30. That's pretty fat.

Last edited by bjames, Tuesday, July 23, 2013 4:16 PM
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Tuesday, July 23, 2013 4:28 PM

For some perspective: As a government agency I am forced to provide accessibility to all my facilities, for everyone. Well, I have to take "reasonable measures" though it is pretty poorly defined what reasonable really is. So, even though I might see one child in a wheelchair per month at my playgrounds the playgrounds need to be designed to be accessible specifically for that one child.Not that I'm saying that is wrong. I'm all about inclusiveness. But, the creativity of the playgrounds is somewhat limited by the ability of a very small percentage of the population to use it.

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013 7:41 PM
Tekwardo's avatar

Bjames, obese doesn't mean too big to ride, which is the segment Jeff is talking about. My BMI is 34, but I fit fine and didnt die on Giant.

And I'm in no way 'pretty fat' I'm 6' 1" 254 as of yesterday. At some point it's about dimension and not weight or BMI

Last edited by Tekwardo, Tuesday, July 23, 2013 7:47 PM

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013 9:22 PM
bjames's avatar

"Obese" needs to be redefined then.

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013 9:26 PM
Jeff's avatar

BMI is a pretty terrible measurement, especially in the case of describing people who conform to ride restraints. You don't have to be a statistician to see that the percentage of people who can't fit on rides is not 35%. I would be surprised if more than one person per hour did the walk of shame on something like GateKeeper. Even if it was 10 people per hour, you're talking about 0.6%.


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