Monday, April 18, 2005

Leeway for cyclists

On my road rides, I have noticed that many bus drivers give cyclists considerable leeway.

I first began noticing this behaviour in 1997 when friends of mine and I used to ride from Serangoon Gardens to Changi. Along certain stretches of road like Hougang Ave 3, buses would leap-frog us as they overtook us but later had to pull in at bus stops and eventually overtake us again. In a highly populated area, the bus-stops occur in higher frequency and the amount of leap-frogging increases.

Yet, every time, bus drivers would pull out to the second lane when overtaking us - a safe and considerate gesture that we often acknowledged with cheery waves.

This was made possible by the fact that the three-lane roads were relatively empty on Sunday mornings. Bus drivers (or bus captains as they are called now, as they operate alone) are unable to be as generous on congested roads on weekdays.

I took this photo at a narrow juncture of Lim Chu Kang Road last Saturday morning (16th April 2005). The road here is a single lane (just before Lim Chu Kang Lane 3) and on seeing the bunch of cyclists toiling up the slope, the bus captain pulled out to the opposite side of the road, in the absence of oncoming traffic, giving them considerable leeway.

That Saturday and the last, we rode more than 200km from town to the east and west of Singapore, spending several hours on the road. In relation to our cycling group, I observed more than 30 other acts of caution or consideration at give way signs, before and after bus bays, at traffic junctions and between lanes. With a rear-view mirror, I observed drivers slowing down behind us to a crawling speed when approaching us a bus-stop we were cycling past, while others maintained a distance in busy roads or switched lanes to overtake.

I gave up counting he number of favourable acts; and there were commendable driving practises demonstrated by other road users in relation to cyclists as well.

Cyclists tend to remember only the offensive (and I suspect, rare) incidents, when a rogue driver (they do exist) tries or manages to squeeze us off the road. And we amplify accounts told to us by friends.

My experience from the past years suggest that rogue bus drivers are a siginificant minority. Sure, we need to keep a lookout for these and ensure they are rehabilitated. But we have to attempt to acknowledge good driving practises just as enthusiastically.

And cyclists will have to scrutinise their cycling methods on the roads just as closely. Are we innocent of all guilt?


Anonymous said...

Have u guys ever rode around Orchard Road before? Most of the bus captains there are impatient.. they will Honk at u when u are in their way. I usually speed up so as not to obstruct the way( Can't steer to the right cuz heavy traffic). and this often ends up with me constantly accelerating with the bus breathing down my neck!(that is..if buses could breathe :P). And the pedestrains of Orchard Road don;t seem to like cyclists. My friends and I get many a "Tsk Tsk!" when we politely ring our bells at pedestrains to get them to give way. Cycling at the heartlands are more enjoyable! ^__^

Sivasothi said...

I fliter into the second lane to overtakle buses stopping to pick up passsengers.

I behave like a guest on pedestrian walks and don't ring at them. I go slowly until gaps appear. We should not transfer our problem to pedestrians.

But yeah, if you are cycling for fun, stay away from busy Orchard Road!