Cyclists need more support

Cyclists need more support

The tragic incident on May 3 in which three Chiang Mai club cyclists were killed and four others injured could have been avoided had the driver of the car which rammed into the cyclists heeded the much-publicised slogan: "No drink driving".

The driver, a 23-year-old university student, was clearly at fault. Tests showed high levels of alcohol in her blood and police said she admitted she had consumed alcohol at a pub in Doi Saket, Chiang Mai, and took a nap in her car on the side of Chiang Mai-Chiang Rai road before driving home. But she didn't make it home and instead slammed her car into a group of cyclists.

Just months before the Chiang Mai tragedy, a cyclist was killed in Bangkok by a reckless driver.

In February, Chilean cyclist Juan Francisco Guillermo - who was on a final leg of his five-year round-the-world cycling odyssey with his Singaporean wife and a child - would not have had his life cut short in Nakhon Ratchasima had the 64-year-old driver of a pickup truck, Thiwarat Chaipidet, not been speeding. He reportedly told police he didn't see the cyclist along the roadside and clipped Guillermo's bike with his car. Mr Thiwarat was charged with reckless driving causing death and injuries.

These fatal incidents are just the tip of the iceberg. Police figures reveal many other similar accidents involving cyclists and motorcyclists that went unreported by the media. In most of these cases, motorists were at fault for reckless driving or drink driving. 

Most cyclist clubs apply strict rules for its members as far as safety and traffic laws are concerned. For example, all members are required to wear crash helmets and exercise great caution while riding on roads.

But there is always the risk from reckless drivers who have no respect for the right to share the roads with other drivers. Cyclists in particular are considered to be "obstructions" rather than rightful road users.

For the sake of safety, cyclists too must try to reduce their own risk by choosing routes with less traffic or less prone to accidents, as suggested by Thongchai Pannasawat, a veteran cyclist and president of the Cycling for Health Club of Thailand.

Mr Thongchai said the national team of cyclists also trained on highways but never had an accident because they are selective with the routes for training - "not any route or road they wish".

In recent years, cycling is increasingly popular among middle-class urbanites as a hobby, a sport or for health reasons. More cyclists are seen riding in groups on roads in Bangkok and upcountry provinces while more bike shops have opened to cater to the needs of the cyclists. For many office workers, cycling has become an alternative mode of travel from home to office and vice versa.

As more people take up pedal power in the city due to worsening traffic, it is indeed a big letdown that the government and city have barely done anything substantial to respond to cyclists' needs for safe bike lanes and strict law enforcement to enhance road safety for all road users.

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