Safety for cyclists is key

Safety for cyclists is key

Cyclists across the country will jointly make history by taking part in this coming Sunday's "Bike for Mom" extraordinary cycling event, as a tribute to Her Majesty the Queen marking the auspicious occasion of her 83rd birthday, which fell on Wednesday. 

In Bangkok alone, 40,000 cyclists have registered to join the 43km ride from the Royal Plaza through Bangkok's streets to the 11th Infantry Regiment in Bang Khen.

The cycling procession will be led by His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn. Also in the procession will be Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, his cabinet members and many other VIPs. 

In the rest of the country, governors of each respective province will lead bicycle enthusiasts in their show of loyalty and love for the "Mother of the Nation". 

During preparations for the cycling in Bangkok, HRH the Crown Prince has expressed his concern for the safety of cyclists during the ride on Sunday.

This has prompted agencies such as the Royal Thai Police and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration to come up with safety measures for the cyclists.

About 10,000 municipal and city police are to be deployed along the bike route to maintain order and to ensure safety. 

This historic one-day event should serve as an inspiration for authorities concerned, namely the government, the Transport Ministry and the city administration, to seriously consider recognising cycling as another transport mode in urban areas in addition to cars, and integrate bike lanes or bike paths into the public transport system. 

Hopefully, the event should help those motorists who treat cyclists as a nuisance and bike lanes as an intrusion into their road space, to change their mindset that roads are exclusively meant for motor vehicles, and not for bicycles.  

Roads are meant to be shared by all users, including cyclists and pedestrians. But there are rules that they must observe. For instance, pedestrians must not jay-walk or cross the roads on zebra crossings or flyovers.

Besides bike lanes or bike paths, safety for cyclists should be of paramount importance to protect them from reckless drivers.

Several foreign and local cyclists have been killed and wounded on highways by reckless drivers since the beginning of this year. Among those killed were Chilean cyclist Juan Francisco Guillermo who was on the last leg of his around-the-world journey, and British cycling couple Peter Root and Mary Thompson.

Even though the prime minister has set cycling as a national priority, we still lack practical bike lanes across the country.

The state budget, accounting for over one billion baht, is used to construct short bike paths for leisure, rather than comprehensive bike routes for transport.

Without bike lanes, cyclists who use highways are at risk from reckless drivers. Even in cities with some bike lanes like Bangkok, cyclists are at the mercy of motorists.

For cycling to be a public mode of transport in urban areas such as Bangkok, safe bike lanes are needed.

And a good example for the authorities concerned to look to for inspiration is the Colombian city of Medellin -- formerly one of the most dangerous cities in the world, notorious for drug-related violence. Today, it is a born-again city with a strong urban cycling culture.  

Political will and the public's participation in town planning was key to the amazing transformation of Medellin, where cycling is now a mode of public transportation. It should serve as a good model for Bangkok to emulate so it can become a more liveable city with less air pollution, and where cyclists and motorists have a fair share of the use of the roads, with mutual respect for each other's rights.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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