Saturday, June 18, 2011

Top 5 Danger Zones when Commuting in Singapore

Danger, danger!
An inexperienced cyclist would benefit most by knowing where to be on his toes, and where he can let his guard down a little. There are a few areas on the road where you have to be careful of other fellow road users...

5. Cross Junctions

Another dangerous place is a cross junction, and for the same reason as slip roads. Right turning cars might misjudge your speed and attempt to make a right turn. Usually, you'll notice these kind of drivers will slowly let their cars roll, before stepping on the gas.

Solution: Keep your eyes peeled!

4. Narrow Roads
1.5m matters and every car driver will give you that 1.5m of berth... if it is convenient. You see, on extremely wide roads such such as Ang Mo Kio Ave 1, where the left lane is wider than the rest, drivers often have a lot of space where they can siam you, and therefore on those roads, it is safer. But let's say you are in a dual direction, single lane road with twisty roads like Portsdown Avenue. Now that's when it gets really terrible.

Solution: Roads such as these should be avoided unless they have a low amount of traffic.

3. Little India

When in Rome, do as the Romans do. When in Little India...

Little India is one of most culturally accurate districts in Singapore. It beats the Arab Street experience as it does the Chinatown experience. Mostly because the infamous anarchistic traffic of India is also present in Little India. Over here, you have to keep your eyes peeled for buses, cars and pedestrials who have this impression that every inch of Little India is a zebra crossing.  Keep your eyes peeled and prepare your brakes. You must also know your surroundings well to be able to get out of the way safely. Another tip is to stay in the middle of the lane, so you have better reaction time when someone decides to gun it all of a sudden.

Another street that compares well to Little India is Geylang Road. There are less of these illegal crossing, but there are cyclists going the wrong direction, cars parked on the shoulder and as a result, cars having entering the road have problem seeing oncoming traffic, etc. It's a red light district with little semblance of traffic rules.

Solution: Avoid totally or ride slowly.

2. Buses & Bus Stops
When you commute above 20km/h average, you will play a game of leapfrogging with buses, unless you are like Mr. Brown who patiently waits behind the bus. Either way, once in a while you will find a bus behind you, and depending on the driver, he might either follow behind you, or try to overtake you. When I meet the former driver, I am very thankful, but when I meet the latter... then you have to be careful.

Critically, an overtaking bus is not such a big problem until you are near a bus stop. A bus driver that cannot successfully overtake you in time will have to stop his bus, and there are a two ways to bus drivers do it.

  1. Squeeze you in at the bus stop (brake!)
  2. Brake and follow behind you
Solution: You'll know when a bus is going to stop when you see someone standing up and hailing for it. Look behind, and you'll probably see a bus. Decide early if it's better to slow down or to speed up and clear the bus stop.

1. Slip roads

Watch out!
Riding past a slip road is one of the most harrowing things ever. Drivers don't like to brake and wait for you to cross, so a few would try to step on the gas and try to overtake you, but this is where the problem lies. They often misjudge your speed, especially if you are a fast cyclist.

On the other hand, after the entrance, there's an exit. At the give-way line in the exiting slip road, you have to beware, as some cars can again misjudge their abilities and yours.

Solution: Keep your eyes peeled, signal your intention that you are not going into the slip road by signaling right or taking the lane (riding in the middle), depending on situation. At the exiting slip road, look squarely into the eyes of the driver, and beware if he doesn't notice you and if you have no traffic behind you. Hands on brakes!

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