Here’s a guest post from a reader on the other side of the globe, 17-year-old David Low of Singapore. (To remind our American readers, “pavement” is the U.K. English word for “sidewalk.”)
Should I give up or should I just keep chasing pavements? — Adele
I’m not sure how many budding teenage cyclists read Bike Noob, but as a 17 year-old kid, I thought I’d like to share my thoughts on cycling with other cyclists of my age.
I live in Singapore, a small city-state that is only 710 square kilometers large (268 sq. miles — roughly 3.5 times the size of Washington D.C). With an equatorial climate, the weather here is perfect for cycling all year round. However, the small island that my country resides on means that space is at a premium. To have dedicated bike paths that other countries can have is a luxury that we simply can’t afford.
Many beginners who are afraid to cycle on the roads start out on the pavements, and I think that’s fine. However, I feel that cyclists should try and keep off the pavements as much as they can because:
- Cycling on pavements is an anti-social (not to mention illegal in my country) behaviour in my opinion. People don’t expect to see a bike hurtling past them from behind, and many a time they are startled. Sometimes, they may also accidently move into the path of an oncoming bike. After a few bad experiences like this, people start to see cyclists as a menace, and we don’t want that!
- It is dangerous to do so. Cycling on the pavements is always dangerous, as pavements are not designed for cyclists. Blind corners, hidden objects, potholes, and the list goes on.
It may be only two reasons, but I think that they are very important, and we can’t overlook them. Of course, sometimes the pavement can be safer for all the budding cyclists out there, but I always wondered where and how did everyone learn how to bike? Did you guys take the pavements? I’m sure the Bike Noob readers can chip in!
It’s here though that I would like to share my personal story on how I literally flew off the pavement to learn how to cycle on the road, and why I don’t recommend cycling on pavements.
In December 2007 (I was 14), as a complete newbie, I did not have the confidence to cycle on the road, and kept to the pavements like a good boy. I was cruising along at about 20 km/h on my mountain bike when I was startled to see a large gap (almost half the pavement was cut out, and it was now flush with the road level with a shiny new manhole cover where it used to be) in the pavement that didn’t use to be there. Before I could react, my front tire dropped into the gap and I came to a complete stop. While my front shock suspender largely cushioned the impact of the fall, the collision still sent me flying over the handlebars onto the road, right smack in the middle of a bus- priority lane. You could imagine how horrified I was at the realization of where I ended up on.
Fortunately, luck was on my side, and the traffic light behind me had turned red. The few cars that were headed my way managed to avoid hitting me.
That incident got me off the pavement and onto the roads and made me a staunch advocator of keeping cyclists off the pavement. Although that close brush with death still haunts me, I am proud to announce that I am a confident cyclist today, rocking a Felt Z-80 road bike!
Great post, Adele! I’ve never been to Singapore but I have seen pictures of it. I admire you for braving those streets!
You may be surprised to learn that most Americans grew up learning to cycle on the sidewalk (pavement) and a great many Americans – especially those who drive cars – still believe sidewalks are where cyclists belong. Almost all children ride on sidewalks to this day and many states had laws making bicycling in the street ILLEGAL until the mid 1990s.
So needless to say, we have a ways to go here in the New World. I absolutely agree with you – despite having to contend with the cars and trucks, streets are much safer for cyclists than pavements.
Bike Noob says
Uh, Steve…Adele is the British pop singer. “Chasing Pavements” is her big hit. David Low is our esteemed guest poster.
LOL! Well, I guess I am officially an out of touch, old man!
My apologies, Mr. Low. Congratulations all the same!
In a study of bicycle-related accidents in Montreal (a city with extensive bicycle-only paths), researchers found that the injury rate of riding on a bicycle path is 28 percent lower than that of riding on alternative routes on the road. I wonder if the numbers are reflected here in Austin?