Saturday, December 12, 2009

Orchard Road: Heaven on Earth for the cyclist

Singapore has a very damn good way to manage traffic. While people from the West extol the benefits of saving time through bike commuting, over here, there never is enough traffic jams for such similar benefit to accrue to the bike commuter. Nonetheless, once in a while, when I head to Orchard, excrement will hit the fan when it comes to traffic. Like yesterday.

If you've read the Sunday Times, you'll know what I'm talking about even if you aren't there. Basically, it says that an 8-min taxi ride to Raffles City became a 42-min ride due to the traffic jams. It's terrible. Glad I didn't drive there!

I went on a bike, which was a good thing since I didn't expect the crowds/jams/crap. The road after the junction intersecting Scotts Road, all the way to Dhoby Ghaut was completely screwed. As if there were an accident or some fallen tree blocking the road. The traffic moved - but only by mere metres everytime. Such stop-and-go traffic is sure to annoy the car commuter.

The magic about Orchard Road is that it is perpetually jammed. I don't know why, but it is. It varies between seasons, but right now is the perfect time to go there on a bike. Never mind if you fold your bike and put it in your car and come from somewhere near Orchard Road, it's still faster than full-on car commuting. Where else in Singapore can a mountain bike beat a Lamborgini Gallardo or a Ferrari California? I certainly beat those two while riding in the bus lane. Their 500-thereabouts horsepowers were sitting in traffic with the rest.

Safety in Orchard Road is a big concern, though. There are massive amounts of cars. And in order to make your commute efficient, certain spots will lock you in, of which the old way out is to weave through cars going switching lanes at times. This can be rather dangerous. Should you want to do this, you should ensure that traffic is completely at a standstill, do not move when it isn't. Also, before switching lanes in stalled traffic, be sure to check if there is a motorcyclist heading your way before squeezing between the cars. Bicycles aren't the only ones who have this privilege of beating the gridlock.

I won't advise anyone who is new to bike commuting to go to Orchard Road. It's one of the most screwed places to ride because traffic is terribly congested. Ideally, you should have an airhorn, bright lights and a helmet for safety. But then again, how can you go there efficiently? Take public transport? Nahhhhhhhhhhh.

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