About a month ago, I’d written about bicycling with my son. In response to that article, two readers, TOJT and Romeo, cautioned against biking in Thimphu – they warned that inexperienced motorists and road rage make biking in the capital a dangerous exercise.
I’ve been biking a lot recently, and find that Thimphu traffic is generally respectful of bikers. But there are times when our roads can become unsafe: immediately before and after office, when every one seems to be in a hurry, for example. And, sometimes, when negotiating passing and oncoming taxis and trucks. And, when confronted with the occasional angry motorist.
So, yes, we need to do need to make Thimphu’s roads safer for bikers. In this regard, I’ll be calling on several agencies in the coming months. These include:
- Thimphu City Corporation to discuss improvement of existing roads, and their plans to construct biking paths;
- Road Safety and Transport Authority to talk about existing and new regulations on biking; and
- Associations for operators of taxis, trucks and buses to explore means of promoting better awareness for bicycling safety;
But, most importantly, we, bikers, need to learn how to ride safely. We need to ensure that our bikes are roadworthy; that we always wear safety gear, especially helmets; that we undergo adequate training; that we ride in control; that we respect other forms of traffic; and that we obey traffic rules.
Biking is a lot of fun. And it is good for health and the environment. It is also cheap. But, if it is not done right, it is dangerous. All that’s required for an accident to occur is a momentary lapse of concentration or, as in my case, reason.
Last Saturday, as I approached the main roundabout on the Norzin Lam, instead of slowing down, I accelerated. The car in front of me had a clear road ahead, and the traffic policeman motioned for the driver to proceed. As I pedaled harder, I glanced to my left to make sure that the road I would take, towards the Swiss Bakery, was clear. It was. But when I returned my attention on the road ahead, barely a second later, I saw that the car in front of me was braking. And, that I was barreling head on towards it.
I instinctively grabbed on my brakes. My bike stopped. But, I didn’t. I was thrown off my bike, head first, on to the tarmac. Thankfully, I didn’t hit the car in the front. Thankfully, the car behind me wasn’t speeding. Thankfully, the road was smooth. Thankfully, my hands absorbed most of the impact. And thankfully, I have no broken bones.
My wrists, elbows and knees still hurt. But, I’m already much better. I realize how lucky I was. And how stupid I’ve been.
So, yes, bikers beware of inexperienced and inconsiderate motorists. But, given Thimphu’s very interesting roads, we need to beware of ourselves too!