: I have been riding a bicycle to work for four years now. And the fact that I am still here means I have developed some road sense that keeps me alive.
The fact that I ride daily (and I am a driver too) I feel, gives me a little authority to speak on cycling matters in Singapore.
There was a recent article in the papers on errant cyclists (yes, the tired old “Should we police cyclists more blah blah blah?”) which bugged me. First of all, it bugged me that we are still talking about how cyclists endanger pedestrians. Not that they don’t sometimes, there are black sheep in every vehicular category, but no one makes a fuss when cars endanger cyclists EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
A cyclist knocks into a pedestrian and under most circumstances, no one dies. A car does that to a cyclist, and it’s pretty much game over. As a person who rides daily in Singapore, who is NOT a reckless cyclist, who observes traffic rules, I get close shaves with aggressive and unsafe drivers every time.
And yet, no one writes much about the need to educate and police drivers who endanger riders.
The onus of care is always on the driver of the bigger vehicle. This rule is adhered to in developed countries that have bicycles in their transport mix. Not so in Singapore.
The other peeve about that article was that it mentioned a Keep Left rule. It made it sound like a cyclist is required by the Traffic Police to keep far left at all times.
I am not sure what the specific Traffic Police law is but most countries say “as far left as is practicable”. Practicable is the key phrase here.
You see, if you ride far left on the road, you are asking to be killed.
A bicycle MUST never hug the kerb. Ride too close to the left and you face several dangers. One, there are nasty grills on the road, the ones that cover drains. A car or even a motorcycle may not feel anything going over drain grills, but a bicycle wheel will go right into a grill and the rider will fly. Stay far away from grills.
Secondly, if a cyclist keeps too near the kerb, even with no grills, he or she has nowhere to go if a car gets too close. Which happens A. LOT. You the cyclist need to ensure that you have room to maneuver if a car comes too close from the right.
Thirdly, riding too far left means that a car is more tempted to overtake you in that lane, even when it is not safe to do so. And a second car behind that car may not realize there was a rider in front of the first car (since the first car did not move out too much to overtake you) and continue driving straight. Straight into the cyclist.
This is the reason my default riding position on the road is just outside the double-yellow lines. Left enough not to get in the way, right enough that cars can avoid you properly.
There are also other dangers with riding too far left. Especially with cars parked along the road. Drivers in Singapore do not have the habit of checking for cyclists before opening their door. So if you ride too far left, along a row of parked cars, your chances of getting “doored” is very high. When you get doored, you may even fly off your bike and onto the road on your right. Into the path of another moving car. Good bye and thank you for playing.
Another common problem is turning right at junctions. There are two ways to do this. One, flitter far right and join the right-turning cars at the junction (usually the second last and last right lanes). This can be hairy.
The second way, which I favour, is doing a hook turn. This is practised in many countries where cycling is a way of life.
The way to do a hook turn is to ride on the left side of the road as usual, then approach the junction, and ride PAST the junction, the do a right turn to join the traffic going in the direction you want to go (that is, right).
Since that traffic you just joined is still stopped in front of a red light, you can safely ride across the road, be on the left side of that road, then when the light turns green, you carry on straight, still on the left side of the road.
Neat right? Do a hook turn, it will save your life.
Cycling as a means of transport and as recreation is getting more popular. As the numbers grow, it becomes even more important for cyclists to know and follow the rules to ensure safety. In fact, all parties need to practise road safety – from pedestrians to cyclists to motorists, even as steps are being taken to increase the space for cyclists.