The Transport Minister got some advice from his mother when she learned he was going to bike the chaotic streets of Bangkok to open a bicycle campaign: ''Bring your ID card. In case you get run over, they can contact home.''
Bicycling has long been almost nonexistent in this city of 10 million people, where those who dare to pedal must cope with unfriendly road designs, crumbling pavement, sweltering heat and growing hordes of cars, buses and motorcycles.
''It is quite dangerous,'' agreed the minister, Chadchart Sittipunt, who survived the ride and bikes in quieter realms of the city at weekends. He said most drivers ''don't feel that bicycles belong on the road. The cars do not feel that we are part of them.''
Yet bicycling is making early signs of a comeback. There has been some government encouragement, including the new Pun Pun project that allows people to borrow city-owned bikes from 50 stations scattered across the city. But the city's traffic failures may be the greatest incentive: When cars are at a rush-hour standstill, bicycles are sometimes the only vehicles capable of moving.
There are officially 200km of bike lanes across the metropolis, but not only are they a discontinuous and faded mish-mash of paths, their purpose is largely unknown to Bangkok's motorists, street vendors and pedestrians.
Mr Chadchart said cyclists number ''in the thousands'' in Bangkok _ numbers dwarfed by the 100,000 trips by boat, 200,000 by the underground, 600,000 by elevated rail, three million by bus and millions by car and motorbike made each day in the city. The number of cars on Bangkok roads is growing _ nearly 580,000 were added last year alone, according to the Department of Land Transport.
But the Lycra army is not easily deterred. Last month, nearly 20,000 bicycle riders showed up at city's annual ''car-free day'' event, compared to about 2,000 six years ago and only 150 in 2005.
Bangkok also has more ''hidden'' cycling tracks than many riders know about, and they provide an intimate glimpse of the city's often missed charms, as well as its gritty underbelly.
Here are three easy trips to while away a lazy Sunday afternoon with your friends.
ESCAPE THE CONCRETE JUNGLE
Billed as the ''green lung'' of the city, Bang Krachao is where the Chao Phraya River loops back on itself at Klong Toey Port, forming a teardrop-shaped island covered in jungle and mangrove and with abundant wildlife.
If you're even slightly familiar with the city getting there is a piece of cake and costs next to nothing.
DANGER ZONE: Below, a cyclist in heavy traffic during Bangkok’s morning rush hour.
Follow Ratchadaphisek Road as far as you can to the river, turning left at Tha Rua Road or alternatively go all the way to the Shell depot and walk your bike through a village to the main Klong Toey Port road, Kasem Rat Road.
At the entrance to the port, follow the lane next to the temple and you will come to a pier where a 20-baht ticket will take you and your bike on a five-minute cruise in a flat-bottom boat to the island. The boat people are all wiry and strong and will easily lift your bicycle on and off the vessel if you are struggling with sea legs or looking after youngsters. Rusty but reliable rental bikes can be had on Bang Krachao for about 100 baht for the day.
There are a choice of destinations on the other side, but the preferred pier is in your direct line of vision from Klong Toey Pier, and brings you out closest to the 200-rai Si Nakhon Keun Kan Park, known locally as Suan Klang Central Park.
It's a lovely ride on winding flat roads through a forest to the entrance to the park which, admittedly, has seen better days. Keep going past the park and you will come out on Bang Krachao's main road.
All up, the ride is an easy 5-6km through lush vegetation on nearly traffic-free, well-surfaced roads where the only sound you're likely to hear is the hum of your tyres on tarmac.
At the main road take a right and head towards Bang Nam Peung floating market and then take a left turn. The turn-off to the market is impossible to miss as there is a steady flow of weekend traffic coming in the other direction to the market.
Bang Krachao has many interesting little detours and you can venture on some of the elevated tracks which take you to remote settlements in swampy farm areas. But be warned, the tracks are several metres off the ground and only a metre wide so you will have a few hairy moments when encountering other bicycles and motorbikes.
The locals are down-to-earth and friendly and food and refreshments can be had at plenty of family-run shops and eateries. There is a small downside to some areas on the elevated rides though, as rubbish is piled metres deep on the ground, but the fresh air and lush surrounds more than compensate.
Bang Krachao can also be accessed from other piers, such as Chong Nonsi, if you get lost. Simply ask the pier security guard to phone a boatman and they will be on their way in no time.
UP AND AWAY ON PEDAL EXPRESSWAY
Lumpini Park, and its muscled mountain bikers, is famous, but the real treasure is a track tucked away nearby. Exit Lumpini Park at its northernmost part on Witthayu Road and you'll see an elevated green path which can take you all the way to Benchakitti Park, avoiding several major roads and the inner city traffic chaos.
You will have to carry or wheel your bike up the stairs to get to the elevated path (and also do it several more times on the ride as your cross over major roads) but this is a small price to pay for the convenience.
You can also exit the overhead path early and take another dedicated, but little-used, cycling path which goes all the way up a road parallel to Chalerm Maha Nakhon Expressway to Sukhumvit Road. If you follow the path to its conclusion you will be riding along Khlong Bang Nang Hong, which runs at the back of the Tobacco Monopoly concession.
At the end of the path take a right and then the first left to enter the main access road which splits Benchakitti Park and the Tobacco Monopoly area.
Unlike Lumpini, Benchakitti has a dedicated 2km cycling track as well as a walking track which runs in the inner road ring of the lake. The cycling track is much prettier and gives the rider the experience of riding through a garden oasis with the city's imposing skyline as a backdrop.
Riding times are restricted, but park staff seem casual about enforcing them and the park is greatly underutilised. Bikes can also be hired for 40 baht an hour.
DOWN AND DIRTY IN THE FAST LANE
Mountain bikers looking to venture beyond Bangkok's uninspiring concrete terrain, but lacking the motivation to actually leave the city limits, had reason to rejoice when Club 11 opened its gates in early 2011.
Nestled amid the jungle-strewn expanse of the 11th Infantry Army Base on Phahon Yothin Road, this 3km single track offers a hidden oasis for the urban mountain biker; a place to let their two-wheeled steed roam free in its native environment, without ever straying too far from the comfort of a well-stocked cafe. For the novice trailblazer, Club 11's twisting jungle-hemmed track offers a fairly gentle introduction to the sport; a handy place to scratch up those shiny decals and baptise gleaming new hardtails in a fountain of mud, sweat but probably not too many tears. For more experienced riders, it's a convenient place to hone skills before battling outbound traffic for a weekend trip to the more technical trails in Chon Buri or Khao Yai.
What the trail lacks in length _ experienced riders should be able to rip through it in 10 minutes or so _ it makes up for in substance: there are enough sharp berms, drop-offs and other obstacles to keep things interesting even after multiple visits.
Given that our fair city is about as geographically exciting as a bowl of cold rice soup, it goes without saying this trail is flat _ elevation change is less than 5m. But that's not necessarily a bad thing: flat also means fast, making the various sand traps and low-hanging branches an uncompromising challenge for the concentration of even the most fanatic fat-tyre aficionado.
Club manager Nattabut Sooksri stresses the track offers something for everyone, regardless of age, fitness or technical prowess. ''If you don't ride too fast, I think it's okay for beginners,'' he says. ''Everybody can ride it, but there are still enough challenging sections for expert riders.''
Entry fees are also reasonable: 100 baht per visit for unlimited track time. If you plan on returning multiple times, however, the annual membership package works out to be better value: a 300 baht joining fee means you pay only 50 baht on subsequent visits.
Club 11 is open daily from 10am to 7pm, but it's a good idea to hold off for a few days if it's been raining, as the trail quickly degrades into a boggy wasteland and takes time to recover. As of Tuesday afternoon, Nattabut was giving the all clear, saying the trail was ''only 20% mud'', though that may have changed with the heavy rains later in the week.
The entrance to the 11th Infantry Army Base is on Phahon Yothin Road, just over the Khlong Bang Bua bridge. If you're heading north, it's about 700m past Sripatum University on the right-hand side. Once you're inside the base, just follow the signs to the paintball field and look for the trail head.
If arriving by car, foreigners are required to leave a passport or ID card at the front gate. If arriving by bicycle, you should be ushered straight through and pointed in the right direction, but it's probably best to bring ID anyway just in case. If you don't want to ride the whole way, it's possible to take your bike on the BTS to Mor Chit, then ride the remaining 7km.
ROUGH STUFF: The single track bike park at Club 11, located within the 11th Infantry Regiment in Bang Khen, offers a mountain bike experience within city limits. Above left, a cyclist arrives at his Bangkok office.