Biking right

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!

 

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Comments

  1. When people are biking for leisure and not for commuting to work, why do they go in towns like the Norzin Lam or at rush hours anyways?

    Avoid crowded areas and rush hours altogether when you are on your joy ride on a bike. first safety and happy riding lesson.

    However the general concept of riding bikes on roads for commuting is a good issue to ponder upon.

  2. maybe some smart chappie will come up with a brilliant idea of initiating a study tour to one of those european countries and learn how they are taking city traffic to new heights. jokes aside, it seems bicycles are really easing traffic and cutting down on pollution over there. closer to the region, millions of our neighbours on both sides ride merrily on their bikes, although safety in their case is a bigger issue than with us.
    I urge the Honorable OP to rein in the NEC, GNH, and as many agencies of officialdom, plus our very generous and socially-politically-culturally-ecologically-conscious donor friends to support your drive [or in this case ride] for safer roads. cheers to the bicyclists, and cheers to the pedestrians.p.s. glad to know you’re ok.

  3. For safer roads for the bikers but OL la – you definitely meant “braking” rather than “breaking” – have a good day

  4. Biking is not cheap. A good bike would cost more than 25000 and accessories would add up another 5000. My friends wish to own a bike but the price of bikes keeps them away. I hope the 400 bikes gifted to Hon’ble PM goes to those who can’t afford rather than issuing on Bhutanese way of High to Low Rank system. On the other hand, the bike dealers in Bhutan charge exorbitant prices like almost +/-10000 and also we cannot rent a bike as the daily rental charges are USD 35/40 per day.

    I also feel that there should be no tax levied on the import of bikes, some kind of registration should be done with Police/RSTA should be there (not the number plates) to track the theft or for record keeping and there should be insurance policy on bikes as it crosses more than 25000 (which is equivalent to most scooters, if not more). I hope OL would find my suggestions valid enough to take up the issue to the agencies.

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