Ever wonder why a certain kind of ride in say, California has certain restraints but a very similar ride in say, Pennsylvania is allowed to operate with a totally other type of restraint? Even one that worked on the CA ride for 20 years?
Why does Germany get all the fun rides? Is it just because of regulations or the clientele? Well, read on and find out. - Gregg
Written by RD Sussman
What's the difference between a 2 year old screaming toddler, and the American General Public? When it comes to rides, the two year old stops crying & screaming.
Let's face it, folks. The American general public are whiny, crying babies when it comes to rides. Anything a little too rough or a little too forceful results in good rides getting neutered: Trim braked to death, restraints to ensure you're not going anywhere, and reprofiled to within an INCH of the ride's life. Excellent coasters, once run as the builder intended get slaughtered due to the complaints - and lawyers - of a few people who do stupid things, or worse.
Let's start out with the shining star of this crowd: Revolution at Six Flags Magic Mountain. A ride that when it opened in 1976 had a single lap bar - no back rests, no trim brakes, no excessive blocking, no back Over-The-Shoulder restraints (OTSR). It operated with efficiency & grace, glass smooth performance, and a thrilling ride for what is by modern standards a very basic coaster. And then - for reasons that only SFMM's management knows, a series of changes wormed their way in, most notably with OTSRs, followed by heavy-duty trim brakes along the track (due to the added weight of the trains).
The result is a ride that is nothing of her former self; a mere shadow of what the ride once was. Anton Schwarzkopf is turning in his grave over the changes that have taken what is one of His crown jewels into a steaming pile of doggy doo. And mind you, I love Revolution - it is one of my favorite rides in the world, and one that I cherish. SFMM's line is this: "The ride is too forceful for the comfort of our guests."
Wait a second. This is a ride that for 20 years operated perfectly without restraints, trim brakes & such without injuries or accidents - but NOW all the sudden it needs excess restraints & trim brakes because it suddenly became forceful? Sorry, folks - that is one of the worst excuses in the world. Let's be honest here: Somebody threatened a lawsuit, and we now suffer with the consequences. All due to somebody not reading a warning sign saying "THIS IS A HIGH-IMPACT RIDE. DO NOT RIDE IF YOU HAVE HEART, BACK or NECK AILMENTS." Thank you, American Idiot(s) for ruining something.
Now let's look at Big Foot Rapids, a ride that has a BIG SIGN that says "YOU WILL GET WET! YOU MAY GET DRENCHED!." And gee, it's a river-rapids ride, designed to DO that. It isn't like they're hiding the fact you're going to get dripping wet on it. Isn't that why they build said rides? And yet, the American Idiot(s), who willing went ON Big Foot Rapids would - gasp - panic as the ride headed into waterfalls, and STAND UP... so they don't get wet. But no, the waterfalls are too much for a get-wet rapids ride, and we need to turn them off so people don't stand up and injure themselves.
When Thriller - a Schwarzkopf large portable coaster came to the USA, it was opened as Taz' Texas Tornado - an insane, forceful & GLASS SMOOTH ride that featured a unique & thrilling layout with crazy inversions. This ride operated perfectly well on the European fairground circuit for nearly a decade before coming to the USA, without a single injury or fatality due to Thriller's operations or design. Schwarzkopf knew how to design & build superior rides, the best of the best on earth.
But for some reason, when it came to the USA, it was TOO MUCH for the American General Public - too intense! Too forceful! Too Scary! And what happened? When Six Flags rotated the ride to Six Flags Marine World, it was deemed 'too intense' - and prior to the ride re-opening in 2003 was neutered. The first & second inversions were altered to reduce the forces on this ride, and braking was kept to an absolute maximum. What was once a fantastic & out of control attraction operating safely was now at best a bland experience, tamed down so much that it was a shadow of its former self.
That isn't to say that rides don't NEED re-profiling & modifications - they do, often to the point of excess work being done to the ride itself. Texas Cyclone, a Bill Cobb masterpiece is a perfect example of this. In 1976, when it opened to the public, people came from hundreds of miles away to ride what was an insane near replica of the original Coney Island Cyclone. "Ten Feet Taller - and PLENTY meaner!" was the call sign of this wooden coaster, cloned many times over by the Six Flags corporation in the 80s & 90s.
However, the original trains were quite large (PTC's 4 bench trains) and rode very hard & heavy on the track, resulting in a much-needed change in profile & structure. In this case, TClone wasn't riding right, and was tearing the track up, requiring heavy repair & maintenance to prevent damage to the ride itself- and injuries to the rider. This was necessary - and no question a must-do. However, the changes did not stop at basic levels, going MUCH further to adding over-sized 'coffin cars' from Morgan Manufacturing to the track - which reduced any real visibility to the ride itself down to nearly nothing. And even then, the ride was re-profiled again & again, each time reducing down the thrill factor, until in her final years the ride was a very basic & bland variation on what it once was.
Mercifully, TClone was pulled down in 2006, after Astroworld closed their doors forever.
So why is this a big deal?
Well, let's look at Germany for a second. In Germany, rides are operated as they are designed to do. Oktoberfest, Germany's annual drink & ride festival outside Munich is a perfect example. Rides are operated with maximum capacity, maximum speed & maximum force.
OlympiaLooping, the world's largest portable coaster, operates with six trains at once, no trim brakes, no excessive restraints beyond what Schwarzkopf designed it to have, and at balls-out speed. The same goes for the flat rides there, which are operated at full fairground configuration - usually 20-40% faster than what you would find in the USA. And these rides operate with a near 100% capacity for the duration of their stay - without injuries caused by the rides.
Why? That's pretty simple:
The first is an important thing - German law states that their own inspection authority has taken a VERY cautious look at each ride operated, and certified it as safe, operated properly & operated within the designated & designed limits of the ride's construction. At this point, the ride operators are no longer liabel for injuries due to rider behavior. They are still liable if the ride fails due to operator negligence - but the strict level of German inspection eliminates this. It puts the liability for injury where it belongs: ON THE RIDER.
The second part is related to the first: In Germany, if you get injured on a ride, IT IS YOUR FAULT. If you are riding properly, as the ride is intended to do, you won't get injured. If you do something stupid, such as get on a ride with back/heart/neck problems, and you get injured - your fault. Signs are posted saying that - in multiple languages.
And now you're thinking this: "But there are signs on rides here in the USA that say that!" - and you would be right. Here's the difference: In the USA, due to our fantastic legal system and thousands of lawyers, the operator (and in some cases the manufacturer of the ride) are held responsible for the bad behavior of the riders. In other words: The ride is safe, it is built properly, but the American Idiot(s) who do something stupid on a ride will then sue the park and/or the builder of the ride for millions of dollars due to the fact they were injured on the ride - though these idiots are themselves responsible for their injuries. And the parks end up paying out the wazoo for insurance against these mental defectives, and pay out again when they are sued due to these irresponsible actions.
I look at the recent New Texas Giant accident a few years back to what really happened on that day. Gerstlauer, the company who built the trains for NTG, clearly stated that larger guests who were unable to fit the restraint safely should not be allowed to ride. And Six Flags Over Texas, the ride's operator had that posted on a sign clearly out front of the ride, and again in the station. Yet, on that fateful day, a larger guest WAS allowed to ride, and the restraint system failed due to that guests girth & size. And a fatality occured. Why? The legal system failed again: The guest was TOO LARGE FOR THE RESTRAINT, and fearful of a guest complaint, the operators that day let her ride despite this. She should have been told "YOU ARE TOO BIG TO RIDE." I'm a fat man myself - 6 foot tall & 275 pounds, and I know that if I don't fit a restraint properly, I don't ride. That's common sense. However, that is something lacking among the American Idiot(s) who are a part of general public in parks.
Realistically, the only fix that would work to this problem is a massive change in liability laws in the United States. Remove the parks & the ride builders from being the sole point of blame in incidents. Ensure rides are operated properly & within the design limits of the builders. Put the blame on the people who cause the incidents themselves. And make sure that people know what rides do, and that if they choose to ride something, if they get injured, it is their fault. Our legal system is so badly overburdened by excessive lawsuits already; removing the ones caused by American Idiot(s) is a good start. Start holding people accountable for their actions, instead of figuring out ways to work the system over for money.
So here it is: We are paying for the stupidity of others now. Insurance rates go up every time there is even a minor incident on a ride that is caused by American Idiot(s). And that turns into higher ticket prices at the gate, more restraints on a ride, rides getting neutered to within an inch of their existence, and coasters which are operated so badly that the ride themselves is nothing of what it should be. All because of American Idiot(s), and the lawyers who make a living off of their client's stupidity. We're the ones paying the price.