Every time I’ve gone cycling in Pulau Ubin I’ve been appalled at the way people cycle there. Alright, it’s understandable if novice cyclists are nervous about raising their seat to the appropriate height, but that’s not a huge safety hazard. A bigger hazard is their not bothering to, or not being able to, cycle in a straight line. But the biggest hazard is their ignorance of safe braking techniques. I witnessed two spills today that occurred because of poor braking technique.
The first occurred on the big descent on the dirt trail that leads out of Chek Jawa. I’d overtaken this girl, who like most novice cyclists had a seat too low and so on and hence was unable to make it up the hill without getting off to push her bike, on the ascent. At the short flattish portion on top I slowed down to change my gears back from the granny gear, and took the steep descent with a strong application of both brakes, not because I was afraid of going faster on that section of the slope, but because I knew that if I didn’t go slow now I’d be going really fast near the bottom, and I didn’t want to deal with the attendant dangers of braking suddenly at high speeds. To my surprise, the girl I’d overtaken on the ascent overtook me on the descent. “How brave”, I thought. It was a rather long slope with a turn so I saw nothing more of her until I was nearing the bottom. There was a fallen bicycle with a still body next to it. So I didn’t actually see how she fell, but I guessed it was due to poor braking, given her high initial speed. It was unlikely to fall badly any other way, given that there wasn’t enough gravel to cause you to skid if you weren’t braking, and there weren’t any obstacles on the trail.
The second accident I witnessed occurred shortly thereafter. This time I saw the whole trajectory and even thought to myself “she’s going to skid” a few seconds before she did skid. It was raining, the tarmac was slick, and a bunch of teenagers were approaching a bend in the road at high speed, going downhill. The girl basically did not attempt to slow down until she hit the bend, at which point she slammed on the brakes. The back wheel skidded, she panicked and applied more pressure to the brakes, upon which the front wheel locked and she flew over her handlebars.
Both these accidents could have resulted in far more serious injuries than were actually suffered. I don’t really have any ideas how the situation can be improved. I think there are already some volunteers who do bike orientation courses on Ubin (Pedal Ubin?), but given the sheer volume of people who were there today, I doubt it’s feasible to attempt to educate every novice on how to brake. Besides, many who would not consider themselves novices (think ‘macho’ teenage boys who think they’re fantastic daring adventurers) would probably not bother with any ‘trainings’ offered.