Sunday, December 20, 2009

Jeanette Wang, I concur

I have been following Wang's writings on bike commuting, and the more
I find out about her, the stronger my admiration. She's not only a
bike commuter preaching the benefits of bike commuting, but she can
chiongsua pretty well too. Apparently, she has racked up some pretty
awards in triathlons, something I never have the balls to do. I just
absolutely hate running.

Wang makes a lot of splendid arguments in today's Sunday Times, page
29. Unlike all her other articles on her online blog, this time it's
totally on safety - in fact, an appeal against aggressive driving.

Wang basically argues that drivers should not belittle cyclists. She
argues that SG roads are sibeh dangerous. Her friends Kenneth and
Robert has kana-ed serious injuries as a result of errant drivers.
Kenneth kanaed a 'dooring' and Robert kanaed a sideswiping. They
survived, but pretty shittily.

I've never ate such shit before, but these cases, albeit sparse and
isolated, are serious. Which is why I advocate Road Machiavellianism -
that is, taking more space on the lane than you need to force drivers
to get out of your way when overtaking. The space between the double
yellow lines are not bike lanes! The whole left lane can legally be
yours as long as it is justifiably 'practicable'.

However, there is one major flaw in her article. It does not address the correct
crowd when pleading to drivers for patience, or to cyclists for more
predictability and courtesy.

Let's face it. If your main paper is The Straits Times and not Lianhe
Zaobao
or other mother-tongued based papers, you are likely to come
from a better social strata. You might have an "elite, uncaring face",
but you are likely more law-abiding (in the SGrean case, I bet law-
fearing is more accurate) and have a proper sense of self-
preservation. As a cyclist, that means you are better informed about
the rules and your rights, and ultimately following the rules. This
crowd is small, because their idea of the road is that it is freaking
dangerous. This crowd, however, is the crowd that promotes driver-
cyclist harmony automatically.

So who is the offending party? From experience, there are two groups
of vulgar cyclists. The forgivable and the ones who should be shot.
The ahpeks, aunties, children, and very significantly, foreigners,
poorly informed, anything goes in their riding. I don't blame Indian
foreigners or riding so offensively, because back there traffic is
rubbish and anything goes. Their mentality is: if they die, it's fated
- a Hindu thing.

Then there's the most guailan of cyclists - the errant road bikers on
training rides. I've written about them, and I bet you get my idea.

There is a lack of education here on cyclist's rights. Most drivers
have all sorts of warped hearsaid ideas about cyclists. We're not
meant on the pavement. But ask your colleagues and neighbours and see
what they say. To increase our safety, I believe the next edition of
BTTs should have an article of cyclist's rights, so be it foreigners
or NSFs rushing to get their licences, all can be exposed once and for
all, indisputably, to the norms of cycling on the road.

Wang's suggestion if safety in numbers is true too. But heh... Don't
count on it. The bicycle in Singapore is not seen as a tool but more
like a toy for joy. Some of my friends are unable to cycle too. Never
learnt it, dad said it was too dangerous. Maybe on weekend rides,
there will be a increase in numbers of cyclists, but I don't forsee
more bike commuting happening anytime soon. But wait! Isn't Singapore
damn open to foreigners? Ah! the silver lining! Just don't expect the
roads to be any safer.

So can we get along like Wang says? Sure. Not so soon and until we
realist bike paths are not the answer to driver-cyclist rapport and
increasing safety, but the fundamental things like education and
safety in rule-abiding numbers.

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