Recently there is this viral photo on social media of a bike accident that happened in Antipolo (am not sharing the photo here since I am not a fan of sharing bad/sad photos of other people). A lot of friends who are into cycling were shaken on how safe it is to bike the metropolis. What I can say is that statistics wise- there are way too many motor vehicle accidents than bike accidents. Such (bike) accidents only gets magnified since its more shocking (raw images of mutilated bodies) and the biker being the underdog between man vs machine gets maximum sympathy. Am not saying it’s wrong but am just stating the fact. In fact I am still pro bike commuting that whoever fault it may be- I will still be on the side of the biker.
In the particular accident referred to- it really seems to be more of a freak accident (of course the stupid driver is still at fault) that any protection or adherence to good bike rules may not have saved the biker. But of course there are still a lot, AS IN A LOT! of room for improvement to make biking in the Philippines safer as I admit the Philippines is not a bike friendly country. There are still a lot of advancement needed in the front of legislation, policy making, infrastructure and most importantly in terms of cultural change. Respect and admiration should be reversed- currently Filipinos look up to people who own expensive cars and look down at people who can only afford bikes.
Anyways- here are some tips I gathered and altered based on my opinion on how to safely ride the metropolis:
- Ride a predictable line so you don’t surprise the drivers around you. Avoid sudden turns or changes in lane. Help the driver read your actions by making yourself predictable.
- Keep Left or Right. In normal situations you should keep yourself right and stay there. Give ample space for vehicles to pass you so as not to give them reasons to nudge you. But in some cases its better to keep left- for example in areas where jeepneys/buses converge to pick up passengers or on roads with lots of intersections. Stay left especially (or only) if there is a center isle to protect you from the other (counter) lane. Staying right in such situations would slow you down and irritate you and on such areas, traffic is a mess so there are more changes that you get bumped by the converging vehicles. But remember in staying left- also follow the same rules of being predictable, staying on the same lane and giving enough space for vehicles to overtake you.
- There is an exception to the rule of giving enough space for vehicles to overtake you- in areas where its too narrow- maybe the road is narrow or obstacles are present like construction debris, open pits etc, it maybe better to occupy the middle space (entire road) while passing to ensure the vehicles will wait for you to pass rather than giving them a chance to overtake you on a narrow road that they may bump you towards the obstacle or even throw you out of the road. But this is only good for short and/or slow sections- of course if you hold up the entire traffic, you may get the ire of a lot of drivers that got stuck because of your doing. Once they have the opportunity to pass you- they may get back at you. Again, while in the middle still follow the previous rules.
- Always have enough space to maneuver in case of emergency. Always have a plan B route.
- Make yourself visible and be sure the driver sees you but act as if you are invisible- making little impact to the driver as much as possible. Being visible includes safety gears, proper jersey colors and the action of making yourself visible. Being invisible simply means the other vehicle should not need to do anything to avoid you (as much as possible).
- Always follow traffic rules. Don’t ride on sidewalks. Don’t cross intersections when its red. Always remember- respect rules and other road/trail users if you want yourself to be respected too. Don’t imitate the common (but not all) motorcycle drivers.
- Look as far ahead on the road as possible and anticipate the moves of others drivers. Just like reading the line when doing trails.
- Be conservative but at the same time aggressive. Conservative in your moves but aggressive that other vehicles would take you seriously.
- Ride with blinking head/tail lights always at night but also good if you can do it at daytime (think that in some countries cars are required to constantly have their headlights on for a reason).
- The best horn is your scream. Scream or shout if you have to- its faster and more effective than using horns or bells.
- If you get into altercation- don’t engage and let go. Better be safe with ego bruised than feeding your ego then getting out black and blue. But make sure you have given the other party a piece of your mind. For evil drivers to triumph is when good riders do nothing. We hope that voicing out when we are at the right would someway educate them eventually.
- Finally if there is such thing as defensive driving that is the hallmark of Philippine driving- there should also be a defensive biking. In lay man’s term- “Think that all the other drivers are stupid and will make mistakes so be alert.” But don’t get carried away (in driving- Filipinos take this to heart too much that they literally look at the other drivers as stupid in the extreme sense and that he becomes God’s gift to the driving world. That is the main power source of road rage).