Cycling on the roads can be especially daunting for new cyclists or people not used it. In year 2016, the Department of Statistics Singapore (Singstats) recorded 594 bicycle-related accidents; of these, 20 people alone were killed. In 2006, 493 bike accidents were recorded compared to 594 accidents in 2016, ten years apart.
Then, aside from watching out for traffic, the stress and onus is on you to obey all traffic rules and make sure that what you do does not jeopardize the safety of other users, and vice-versa. Let’s face it: a bike is a flimsy thing compared to a car. Human lives are precious; it is indeed ironic that we drive the very thing that endangers us. Regardless, here are 5 basic points you could follow to ensure your own safety while tackling the roads. (Road bikers, stay safe!)
1. Wear a (Snug-Fitting) Helmet
No piece of advice has been more sage and universal than this. That chunky blob shielding one’s head from busting like a watermelon upon impact. Last a friend shared, his bike helmet protected him in a biking competition when his bike crash-landed on his head. Choose a helmet that fits your head snugly and do not allow for any slack in the strap. It need not be fitted on so choking-tight, but with enough tautness to ensure your smoothened durian shell stays firmly on if you happen to – touch wood – crash-land.
2. Use the Appropriate Hand Signals
Cars are capricious creatures; drivers may lose control of their craft no matter how careful. Compared to other countries, our Singapore roads are indeed safer. I have been to the Philippines and Malaysia and can attest to this: there, you have to really time your crossings, for cars will not slow down nor wait for you. Having said that, our kiasu nature makes us a rushed, predictably unpredictable people. It may not be the norm for someone to give you the middle finger right off the bat, but Basilisk glares and Utama snarls are packed in irate drivers’ repertoire, ready for immediate use should they be properly provoked. Then, there goes the old adage… of making someone’s day!
Verbal soliloquy aside, using hand signals preps oncoming drivers of your intent as a cyclist. A flat palm out, high over your head signals oncoming cars to give way, or it could mean “thank you” to a driver who has given you way.
Read here for Togoparts’ guide on using hand signals on the roads.
3. Ride on the Correct Side of the Road
Research shows that it is 3 times more dangerous to ride against traffic than in favor of it. While cases of cars driving against traffic flow has surfaced, and some drivers duly punished, no law has been passed forbidding cyclists from riding against traffic. Therefore:
a) ride on the left most side of all roads, cycling within the double yellow lines. Take dedicated cyclists’ lanes, such as the one marked out on Tanah Merah Coast Road (TMCR) to ensure your safety.
a) keep a healthy distance between 2 riders. That’s done by keeping an imaginary middle bike between the two. Duplicate your bike in your mind and superimpose its size in between you and the other rider to create this “shadow bike”. Keep this imaginary distance the whole way.
c) Left/Right Hook
c) do not cycle on the blind side of cars!!! It’s left-hand drive in Singapore, so beware of cars dishing out their “left hooks”. An old uncle, Mr Artie Tan, age 87, was mercilessly killed by a bus years ago when the latter caught him in a “left hook” at Marine Parade. The recourse to this would be for you to give way to the left-turning car if you’re cycling on the double yellow line. Best still, take the pavement if you can help it.
For your benefit, this guide shows all the ways a cyclist may collide with an oncoming vehicle. The article is meant for countries with left-hand drive, but the concept stays the same. Just reverse the pole and there you go.
4. Get a Front and Rear Bicycle Lamp
Front lights should illuminate the road sufficiently; the rear light should make your bike visible to rear users. That’s the rule of thumb to employ when fitting your bike with bike lamps. Of course, one can choose reflective strips for the back light, but it’s advisable to use a battery-operated red rear and keep it blinking as you ride.
Front lights generally have the following points to observe:
- Power vs visibility. Depending on your needs, you can choose between a spectrum of power: strong 1500-lumens trail lights to weaker 500-600 lumens that’s just enough to light the road faintly in front but not throw limelight on a plateau of rock.
- Weaker but Longer is Better than Stronger but Shorter. Power is useless if you cannot sustain it throughout the whole ride. On the contrary, a weaker light with a longer-lasting battery serves the cause. Make sure the light isn’t that weak that you cannot see where you’re going, but generally, a moderately-powered light is sufficient for most rides on the roads.
- “Just nice” is just right. Too much power causes bounce-black and unnecessary reflected glare, dimming shadows and making everything seem an overlit fairytale world in front. Add in a child blowing bubbles and there you have the picture. In this case, moderation is perfection. You shouldn’t be blinded by light as you ride.
- Bike Lamp should fit securely on your handlebars. A powerful lamp is pointless if it points way down as you ride instead of lighting up the road. Make sure you can fit the light at the appropriate front-facing angle and that it throws its light in the proper light-arc. Okay, enough of technicality – it should light up the road in front, that’s all.
5. Having a Proper Bike Fit
To ride a horse, one should have a proper saddle fit. Give or take a few centimeters, shortness of design here or there, but generally, a proper saddle is one that fits a horse well. Likewise in bike-terminology, a bike has a saddle; instead of digging the correct saddle size, it’s more of fitting yourself with the right-sized bike. You cannot wear a pair of pants if it’s too ginormous, right? =)
Casual cyclists may want to talk to their bike shop owners to get suggestions or rough measurements on what size of bike to choose. If you’re a professional, then it’s time to hit a professional bike-fitter and have proper measurements of your body size taken.
To achieve riding comfort, three golden rules remain:
a) Adjust your saddle to the appropriate height that matches your body frame.
b) Your feet should be able to touch your pedals at the 12- and 6- o’ clock positions with a slight bend at the knee.
c) You should be able to crank up and down while seated comfortably at 12 and 6 o clock positions without feeling too strained or too short.
Read this article by Togoparts on general tips for bike-fitting the casual cyclist.
Read this article to achieve the correct height for your saddle.
Remember, a properly-fitted bike + correct saddle height + adherence to the 4 points above = safer riding on the roads.
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