Have I been taken out by a bus ? [Yes]
Has a car overtaken me only to turn left and run me off the road? [Yes]
Have I been abused by drivers on the road? As in, “You don’t pay road tax, get off or lost…” [Yes]
“You ride to work?”
“Are you mad?”
“I would never ride here, it’s too dangerous”
These are some of the comments I often get when people find out that I ride to work.
Sharing survival stories is often empowering but the truth is in this context it is no fun as you know how close you have come to being either seriously hurt or killed. It’s equally frustrating trying to understand why the level of consideration is so low or recklessness so high.
I’ve been commuting by bike for the last 6 years as part of my contribution to Mother Earth and in promoting a sustainable lifestyle. Aside from sharing war stories I am often asked after how I stay safe.
So these are my rules or thoughts on safer riding:
- If possible stay off the road, use the park connectors, footpaths or secondary routes. This is a safety issue not a legal issue.
- Don’t ride near the curb or inside the yellow lines (as the LTA or some people suggest or state you must). If you do drivers (especially Taxis) will take this opportunity pass you and push you into the drain or the small shoulder of the road, and you will have an accident. The 1.5m rule or notions of safe passing do not exist for 98% of drivers here. In general ride about a meter or so from the curb. This provides some safety for you, raises awareness but allows enough space for cars to pass you but more slowly. In some instances it is a bike riders truism that taking the whole road is required to ensure that you are safe.
- Stay in front of traffic. This means at traffic lights you move to the front and you are first to go at the green light.
- Stay alert and be aware. I often see cyclists trying to be ‘small’, feeling or thinking that this is safe. They ride near the curb, looking straight down, and never looking around. It’s as if they think being ‘smaller’ on the road will make them safer. On the contrary. It simply makes you a bigger target.
- Make eye contact whenever you can. Just looking around is a good start but making eye contact is totally different. Many times I have noticed a car coming up next to me and I am certain they are planning to do the ‘classic’ pass and turn and drive me into the drain but having seen me look around, that I know they are there and having made eye contact the driver immediately reconsiders and does the right thing.
- In the CBD ride in the bus lane. At traffic lights make eye contact, wave and smile at the bus driver. Building rapport on the road is important.
- Follow road rules. Don’t ride against traffic. Stop at red lights. Signal your intention.
- Ride a Mountain or Hybrid bike. Unless you’re a good or experienced rider a road bike is just too fragile and isn’t as manoeuvrable as a Mountain bike. Of course you should also:
- Wear a helmet
- Wear bright clothing and/or use reflectors
- Use lights at night (or all the time)
Living out East my preferred route is to ride down the East Coast Park and then through Tanjong Rhu, then through the new Gardens by the Bay East (newly opened), across the Marina Barrage and then through Marina South to the CBD. This route minimises your time on the road and takes you through some of the greener parts of Singapore. This route also minimises your exposure to vehicle emissions and pollution. If you are forced to ride on busy roads a pollution mask is probably a good idea but make sure you get a mask that is designed for the job. That its particulate rating is high enough to filter out the nasty stuff.
Wishing you happy, healthy and safe riding.