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 9:35 PM
Tekwardo's avatar

Obese doesn't need redefined. You can be obese and still fit perfectly fine. Or you can be obese and not fit at all. A 6'4" person at 300lb is different than a 4' 300lb person. But then you may have a 6'4" person who can fit as the weight is spread out or the same height/weight and not fit if all the eight is in the belly.

Last edited by Tekwardo, Tuesday, July 23, 2013 9:38 PM

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013 10:13 PM
Rihard's avatar

Even if a one-size-fits-all seat existed, how many "obese" people would even have the desire or care to ride a high-thrill roller coaster? I don't think the demand is ever going to be significant enough for this sort of thing.


- R.A

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013 10:37 PM

I found it quite ironic reading this that there was a tips for a flat tummy advert on the page.


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Tuesday, July 23, 2013 11:36 PM

Also relevant to this issue (in addition to the number of people doiing the walk of shame) is the number of people who don't even get in line because they know they won't be able to ride or don't think they will. Tougher number to quantify.

Based on current trends though, I expect both groups to increase in number. Whether they get to be a significant number is not yet known.

Though it is becoming much more common today to see various businesses making some type of accommodation for larger customers.

Whether any business makes a change depends on costs involved and number of customers/potential customers affected.

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013 1:17 AM

If there was really lost business then some park would've already stepped up to the plate and ordered these changes on some rides. Jeff is dead on with his comments. It's very few who don't fit or who are excluded from participation. And for the few who are excluded, in most cases, it's something they can ultimately control, so I don't see why the parks need to adapt to accommodate them.

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013 1:42 AM

I wonder to what degree the problem is caused by the industry's attempts to NOT be one-size-fits-all. It seems that there were fewer problems when lap bars only had one locking position, for instance, and certainly fewer judgement calls: either it locks or it doesn't, none of this two-clicks three-clicks, is the green light lit garbage we have to deal with now...

--Dave Althoff, Jr.


    /X\        _      *** Respect rides. They do not respect you. ***
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Wednesday, July 24, 2013 8:45 AM
ApolloAndy's avatar

egieszl said:

it's something they can ultimately control, so I don't see why the parks need to adapt to accommodate them.

How does the second follow from the first? As you pointed out, all the park cares about is whether it's detering paying customers. They don't care about why.


Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013 1:50 PM

I'm talking about the individual who can change their lifestyle and habits so they aren't excluded from participation. In most cases the person by their own choices have entered them in the category where they can't ride.

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013 2:30 PM

But what does any of that have to do with a park's determination that it can increase its profits by making an accommodation which would not exclude people who would otherwise be excluded?

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013 2:36 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

Yeah, I see it as two different things...

1. What people can (and arguably should) do.

and

2. What people actually are doing.

I would say it's not in the park's best interest to make a moral stand, but rather accomodate their guests.

And all of it is hypothetical at this point because I doubt there's a lot of revenue being lost right now because of oversized riders. We're simply discussing 'what if' scenarios.


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Wednesday, July 24, 2013 2:59 PM
Bakeman31092's avatar

There could be something more subtle going on that we're not talking about, and that is that design practices could be changing incrementally to adjust to the gradual increase in the size of people. Is there any doubt that new stadiums have been built with wider seats than ones built 10, 20, or 30 years ago? They weren't built with smaller seats and then retrofitted when the organization realized that it's customers were complaining about how small the seats were; they were built according to the demographics of the time.

The 2006 ASTM standard required that for fatigue considerations, the designer was to assume a passenger weight of 170 lbs in each seat. Is that number higher in the 2011 version? How much had it gone up from previous versions? Even if the requirement was 150 lbs per rider at one point, for a 32 passenger train that pulls up to 4 Gs, that's an extra 2560 lbs of load. More robust design, wider seats, more material, greater cost.

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013 3:09 PM
LostKause's avatar

A large friend of mine recently told me that while he loves roller coasters, he rarely visits parks because he can't ride coasters. I bet there are not many people like him, but I just found it ironic that he told me this just before this conversation took place.

About the comment alluding to being fat is a choice, it is not entirely true. The food industry is very powerful, and have people working for them that know how to make people eat more. "Diet" soda will not make you lose weight, it will make you hungry much sooner than if you just drank some water.

And then there is the high fructose corn syrup. It makes you fat, and it is in practically everything. It makes the food cheaper to produce, and it makes your customers fatter so they will buy more food.

McDonald's and other restaurants use colors that are proven to make people feel hungry. Just a theory, but I think Cedar Fair has even figured out the color thing, because many of their newer coasters are red and yellow.

And that's not even getting into the emotional eating and eating disorders, which are not necessarily a choice. Just look at the over-sized portions you get at restaurants. If the food is in front of you, chances are you will eat it. Fat people eat more, which means more money go to the food industry.
And those are just a few examples of why the odds are against people who want to stay healthy. There are so many "excuses" that it become hard not to make the right choices.

Edited to add - Bakeman was following the same line of thought, and I complied this without seeing his post. I see an even bigger thing going on here, with concern to making America fat, but my conspiracy theories are probably not welcome.

Last edited by LostKause, Wednesday, July 24, 2013 3:12 PM
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Wednesday, July 24, 2013 3:15 PM
Pete's avatar

There are many software apps and websites around now, like MyFitnessPal, that make losing weight simplistic. Even if diet soda makes you feel hungry sooner, the log you keep everyday gives you a clear picture of how many calories you can still have and allows you to make a good choice as to what to eat. It just takes a little dedication and willpower.


I'd rather be in my boat with a drink on the rocks, than in the drink with a boat on the rocks.

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013 3:25 PM

Two things come to mind via the article and the discussion that follows- what if coaster seats were not made "one size fits all" and adjusted to the rider. That, scares me. Think about a coaster seat that adjusts to body style- headrests go up/down, lumbar support, lapbar that can adjust to waist size, the sides of the seat could go in or out. Now think of how many plausible catastrophies have been added to the mix with all these additional moving parts, not to mention dispatch times.

Secondly, if they go the simpler route of making certain seats certain sizes- who decides which denomination gets the front/back rows? Would the line split before you get to the station... skinny people to the front, fat people to the back?

I believe the seating arrangements are fine for now- unless America keeps eating and more people get turned away.


Hello, Hello! (hola!) I rode a ride named Vertigo!-with apologies to U2

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013 3:39 PM
Tekwardo's avatar

Right. Apps make people lose weight. Okay.


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Wednesday, July 24, 2013 3:49 PM
Bakeman31092's avatar

Don't be so condescending. Apps don't make people lose weight, but they can provide a useful and convenient tool to help them lose weight.

My wife has lost nearly 50 lbs this year and she can vouch for the fact that being able to easily track your calories is one of the biggest reasons for it.

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013 4:29 PM

LostKause said:

About the comment alluding to being fat is a choice, it is not entirely true.

In some cases, that's true. Just not in any of the examples you provided.

The food industry is very powerful, and have people working for them that know how to make people eat more.

Do they have hired thugs that come to people's homes and literally force-feed them?

McDonald's and other restaurants use colors that...

Entice people to make the choice to eat more. Again, they are not forced at gunpoint.

...over-sized portions you get at restaurants.

I've never had anyone force me to eat my entire meal. Sure, I've chosen to on more than a few occasions, but that's on me.


Brandon | Facebook

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013 8:47 PM
ApolloAndy's avatar

Heard an interesting program on NPR the other day about how casinos have lists of people they know are addicted to gambling (well, basically people who respond to and accept their calls no matter the time or day) and routinely call them and invite them and comp. them. You certainly can't remove responsibility from the individual, but by all meaningful metrics, they don't have a choice when that phone rings.


Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013 9:04 PM
LostKause's avatar

I guess I could have just said that the food industry has the upper hand and left the examples out. Joe Schmo has no chance against the food industry and their spending boatloads of money on figuring out how to encourage people to eat more food.

About apps that help people lose weight, I could see that helping. Some people will take any help that they can get. I see something instructing you with information to be better than the use of drugs and fad diets. Isn't a person who is using a fad diet, book, app, or whatever taking the responsibility that we are talking about in the first place?


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Wednesday, July 24, 2013 9:20 PM
sirloindude's avatar

Well, I think a lot of this depends on whether you believe addiction is uncontrollable. I think that the casinos reaching out to people they know won't pass up their offers or the food industry making their products so appealing that it's extremely difficult to pass them up, but at the end of the day, people choose to give in to the temptation.

To use myself as an example, I'm surrounded by delicious, unhealthy food here at the airport. I eat plenty of delicious hamburgers and hot, tasty fries. I could easily switch and eat healthy salads and stuff, but I don't because I prefer the tasty, calorie-laden stuff. At the end of the day, though, I don't blame those restaurants for making their food too appealing. I blame myself for not taking the responsibility of passing that up for the healthy eats.

Last edited by sirloindude, Wednesday, July 24, 2013 9:23 PM

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