And so the call for more cyclist-friendly road rules and 1.5m-wide bike lanes continues to grow – following the recent spate of cyclist deaths. But until the authorities decide how best to cut the Gordian knot, the onus is on you to continue to ride defensively. Tony Tan, associate editor of the motoring magazine, Torque, and an avid cyclist with some 20 years of pedalling experience himself, shares his top 10 safe-cycling tips.
1. Check Your Gear
Helmet on? Check. Tyres pumped and examined for wears and cuts? Check. Nuts and bolts all tightened? Check. If you’re planning on having a smoother ride – and more control over your two-wheeler – hit the tarmac with one which has been receiving regular maintenance, says Tan. You don’t want to be distracted by grinding gear shifts – or a wheel spoke snapping – in the middle of Nicoll Highway.
Lose the “my grandfather’s road” mentality – whether you’re a motorist or a cyclist. Ride defensively and abide by all traffic rules for cyclists. That entails performing the dual roles of a very safe driver as well as a responsible pedaller. For instance, if you need to overtake, do it like a motorist would – check your blind spot, accelerate, and come back in again. And while you needn’t be in a state of heightened awareness for the entire duration of the cycling session, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security – even after you’ve cleared danger zones (such as traffic junctions) or when you’re traversing seemingly idyllic straight roads. It also helps that you’ve some awareness of how other motorists behave on the road. At T-junctions, for example, larger vehicles such as buses and trucks tend to keep on the left after making a right turn. Be prepared to have these hulks nipping at your back moments after you go pass the area – so let your guard down at your own risk.
Start keeping your safety lamps on even when you’re riding in the day. If the SAF has such a regulation in place to keep vehicular accidents and incidents in check, it’s worth your while to follow it as well. And not just any safety lamp: The front must always be white in colour, and the rear, red, and preferably also blinking. Safety lamps in such a configuration create uniformity with those of other vehicles. A motorist who observes a white light approaching needn’t crack his head to realise that a two-wheeler is approaching – going against traffic, no less! Similarly, the red, blinking rear safety lamp also allows the motorist to differentiate bicycles from motorbikes and their static, red rear lamps. And this may make all the difference between the driver deciding to slow down – or otherwise.
The proposed 1.5m wide cycling lane, despite its merits, may not be entirely feasible because it would occupy nearly two-thirds of a road lane, explains Tan. So, while the authorities mull over its possibility, stay safe by keeping left at all times – about two bike-widths, or 1m, from the kerb: In Tan’s opinion, this distance hits the sweet spot between space for motor vehicles also using the lane – and for yourself.
Resist the temptation to weave your way to the front of the queue of vehicles amassed in front of a traffic junction. You may land up on the left of a much larger vehicle – which puts you effectively in that driver’s blind spot because the vehicle’s side view mirrors tower way above your bike. Avoid sticky situations like these by behaving like you were a vehicle – no, not by hogging the centre of the lane. Instead, stop and keep a keen eye on the traffic light in front. When it turns green, get ready for your turn to move off, and blend to the left after you do so.
Not all of Singapore is the cycling town that Tampines is. So, if you’re cycling along the park connector network (PCN), observe where it ends – and where it starts. While NParks has done a good job in building up the PCN, Tan feels that signage to clearly identify the locations of these routes are sometimes lacking. When in doubt – especially when you reach traffic junctions, dismount and push your bike. You don’t want to end up jostling with pedestrians for their time on the road.
If you’re a driver who has been frustrated by cyclists behaving badly on the road, perform a “Ctrl-Alt-Del” to wipe your memory clean of the incident. Nurse a grudge against those pedallers beyond the next traffic junction, and you’ll have a disaster in the making. And if you’re a cyclist on the receiving end of aggressive driving, slow down – stop even – and let the raging driver move off. When you take up his dare, you risk ending up in a body bag.
Be consistent with what you’re doing when you’re cycling – whether it be the distance you keep from the kerb or how you signal when you want to make a turn. Because consistent behaviour is quickly recognised, you’ll be leaving the motorists around you with no chance to second-guess your actions – a gesture which they’ll appreciate. You do yourself no favour if you display erratic behaviour on the road.
Yes, Coastal Road is regarded as one of the best, purpose-designed cycling routes in Singapore, says Tan. And unsurprisingly so – when there are signage like “ Beware of cyclists” and “A joint project by LTA and SCTF” displayed prominently. The PCN – for slower cyclists – also runs parallel to the route. The sad irony is that accidents are taking place at a location where road users are supposed to be more aware of cyclists. So, don’t put yourself at risk: The Coastal Road is an area where you would want to practise defensive riding – especially when you encounter one of the many trucks and transport vehicles which ply the road, advises Tan.
We’re all entitled to our share of gripes and complaints – when it comes to other road users. The apportionment of blame for accidents involving cyclists, however, knows no end. Still, as Tan emphasizes, there’s nothing a little patience on the road cannot solve – whether you’re a cyclist or a motorist.