From The Biker’s Mouth : Cycling Safety in Bangalore

Its very tough to really really convince people that cycling is hardly an act of daredevilry. Its a normal, safe, mode of transportation and recreation, not an adventure sport meant only for those living on the edge!

This was posted by Kanishka Lahiri in the course of a discussion on one of the lists I’m on:

“I have some personal experience that might help dispel certain myths. At the outset, I am a far more experienced driver (~15 years) than I am a cyclist. I consider myself a careful and good driver. I moved to BLR in 2007.

In 1.5 years of driving around Bangalore, I had 4 (all minor, but highly stressful) accidents. That;s more than the number I had had in the previous 14 years. This includes brushes with auto rickshaws, cars, and one stupid cyclist. On a separate occasion I got punched in the face by a motor bike guy because I braked to allow an old lady to cross Sankey Road. Needless to say, each incident resulted in high levels of stress, and a feeling of being physically threatened.

I started cycling in June 2008. Number of accidents in nearly 1.5 years — ZERO. Number of near misses: I’ll admit there have been a few, but in almost all cases, I could attribute the near miss to stupidity on my part. There are a set of rules one ends up following when cycling on Bangalore roads. Mature cyclists make up their own rules to make themselves safe in what otherwise looks like a hostile environment. As a result, for me, while concentration levels are high when biking, emotional stress, and physical risk levels are very very low. Much lower than when driving.

The point I am trying to make is, the notion that our roads are highly unsafe for cyclists who have good judgment is a myth. And my contention is, cyclists must have good judgment, else they have no business being on the road. So I agree, an 11 year old who has little experience, is well-advised when told to stay away from busy roads. But then, why single out cyclists? All road users are required to have good judgement, since city roads are a shared and potentially life-threatening environment. That’s why we issue driving licences, and that’s why we don’t let 10 year-olds drive motor cycles.

At the same time, I am not saying that all is well for cyclists. Things could be better. Much better. Many of the rules I practice when cycling seem unjust to me. I practice them because I need to be safe. But ideally, policies on road-space sharing should be designed in such a way that I do not have to follow some of these crazy rules.”
So there. This one’s as unbiased as they get. I’ve a similar story (more in relation to motorbike which I used a lot before I started cycling) but by now, I’m probably considered an outlier. The whole effort reminds me a bit of Wall-E. Perhaps even walking will be considered something fraught with risk and not something that normal members society undertake.

[ Earlier post on this discussed what we mean when we talk about “safety”. Do read for a very nice pov from another thread on another forum. ]

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