Imbecility and Skill

My commute was 10 mins shorter today, and at first I was happy at the thought that I was actually getting fitter. But on further thought, I realised it was probably because I was lucky with the traffic lights today. Remember waiting for a significant amount of time at only six junctions. Somehow that ten minutes seems to make a big difference (even though it would only be spent waiting otherwise): I feel significantly more perky than I would after a normal 1-hour commute.

I wish this wasn’t the case, but I am beginning to observe a correlation between the cycling skill of cyclists and the imbecility of their behaviour on the road. By imbecility, I don’t mean clumsy mistakes that they make due to their lack of cycling skills. I mean completely avoidable, deliberate floutings of traffic rules or engagement in risky behaviour. I had mentioned recently the boys who meandered the wrong way down Yio Chu Kang Road without lights, even jumping from the pavement onto the road before a busy left turn. Today, I passed an astonishing three cyclists along Thomson Rd (usually I see none; at most one). The first was a complete imbecile. I was stopped at a red light, with cars from the perpendicular road turning left or right. I had planned to run the red light once all the cars in the queue had finished turning. I heard a furious ringing of a bell from the back, and this imbecile, cycling quite slowly, came up from behind and just rode through the junction brazenly, cutting in front of a car that was about to turn. Dear Imbecile, what makes you think the drivers in their sealed metal boxes can hear your bell at all? Furthermore, even if they could hear your bell, they have the right of way when their light is green.

Near the Thomson Sec. School area there was what seemed to be fog. I muttered something to myself about the oddness of seeing fog in Singapore, before I entered it and realised that it was fumes meant to kill mosquitoes. Oh great. Can’t be too healthy to gulp large volumes of those in. That was probably why the roadie I passed in that section was going so slowly. Probably trying to minimise gulping. Then again, you have the same dilemma as with getting caught in rain: do you run for shelter and hence run into more raindrops, or do you go slowly but let more raindrops fall on you because you spend a longer time in the rain? I went for the former strategy.

The third cyclist was your typical foreign worker on a badly maintained, unlit mountain bike with a seat that is way too low for efficient cycling. Usually they stick to the sidewalks, but this bugger was on the road, and, as with most cyclists on mountain bikes with too-low seats, was not doing a very good job of cycling in a straight line (or perhaps was not even trying). He made a mistake that perhaps is not an obvious mistake to novice commuters: sticking to the left side of the road so religiously that you even enter the bus bays and emerge from them the way a bus would. This is a mistake because the point of emergence is dangerous. Cars expect to see buses emerging, not cyclists. And they simply won’t see you if you’re unlit. Better to just continue cycling on the left edge of the lane; at least you keep in sight, trace out a predictable trajectory, and avoid surprising drivers with your emergence.

Final example of imbecility on the part of incompetent cyclists: cutting in front of drivers when coming off sidewalks to cross an intersection. Guess what. Drivers don’t expect to see cyclists coming off sidewalks into their paths, full stop. They have some greater expectation of slower-moving objects, known as pedestrians, coming off sidewalks. But even those they expect to give way to the cars. So you’re actually risking your life a lot more riding across an intersection after coming off a sidewalk than you are riding across it on the road itself. For drivers are looking at the roads they want to turn into.

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