Harsh reality of city cycling hits home
I have written about other cyclists getting hit on the road — many not lucky enough to get a chance to cycle again — and I never thought I would have first-hand experience of it to share in this column.
But I was wrong.
It happened last Friday as I cycled on South Sathon Road, my usual route, on my way in to work. Suddenly, a taxi driver hit the rear wheel of my bike - right on the painted bike lane. The impact threw me off my bike and sent me spiralling to the ground. I counted my blessings that the driver was able to stop his vehicle in time before running me over and perhaps killing me.
After the crash, the taxi driver was quick to check on me as I was trying to take photos of the accident scene (experience from my previous accidents told me I need photos when dealing with insurance agents).
As I was sitting on the road under the hot sun, I hoped a policeman on the traffic island would check and report the accident. But the officer just popped his head out of his air-conditioned booth, took a look from a distance and returned to his routine as if nothing had happened.
Over the next half hour we waited for the taxi driver's insurance agent to arrive and report the accident, and for an officer from Thung Mahamek police station to do his job. I was approached by at least five private rescue teams who tried to convince me I needed a medical check-up at the nearest hospital, and to leave the matter to the car insurance agent.
But the taxi driver insisted my bicycle remain at the scene as proof the accident had happened.
Finally, the insurance agent arrived and the first thing I heard was that the accident which took place on a T-junction would be the "responsibility of both sides", which effectively meant it was also my mistake that I was hit. This meant I'd have to pay for my medical bills and the cost of repairing my bike. Yet, my experience as a driver told me that if I drive and hit a motorcycle, my insurance has to pay. But when I am hit on the rear wheel of my bicycle by a taxi, how come "both should take responsibility for the accident"? I thought this agent must be using different standards to others.
Unable to reach an agreement on our own, we went to Thung Mahamek police station to settle the matter. At first, the police officer on duty tried to convince me I should not file a complaint as he "wanted both parties to settle the case off the record", as that would save time and paperwork. The officer agreed that I should be held responsible for the crash.
But how could I accept this when it was the taxi driver who didn't care about slowing down at a zebra crossing and stopping at the T-junction? Before seeing the officer, the driver had even accused me of running a red right.
Why on earth would a cyclist want to kill themselves by going straight though a red light? Not me, at least! I tried to prove that by asking the officer to check the CCTV camera. But guess what? The camera "happened to be broken." I've heard that before.
As the cabbie and I stuck to our own stories the police officer became curious about my profession. When he found out where I work, his tone suddenly changed markedly.
He reported the case as "the taxi driver didn't show sufficient care in slowing down his vehicle while taking a left turn when entering South Sathon Road from Rama IV Road and ran into the rear of the bicycle".
He didn't challenge my side of the story that I went through a green light, not a red one.
In the end, the taxi driver was fined 500 baht for careless driving causing an accident.
I still count myself as fortunate. I am lucky to be alive and, after the bruises are healed, I will be able to cycle again while the taxi driver, who kept saying it's karma that must be blamed for the crash, should escape a jail term.
But it was also a lesson for everyone; for me not to trust other motorists even when there's a green light ahead; for the taxi driver to be held responsible for his carelessness and not to blame it on karma; and for the car insurance agent to be fair to his client and the third party in the accident.
As for the police officer, I hope he learns something from the case and, as a law enforcer, starts doing his job straightforwardly - and not only because I work for a newspaper.
Sirinya Wattanasukchai is an assistant news editor, Bangkok Post.
Sirinya Wattanasukchai is a columnist for the Bangkok Post.