Saturday, December 19, 2009

My cycling in Singapore experiences - defensive cycling

Trying to restart my blogging on cycling. Recently Jeanette at The Straits Times Blogs mentioned in her article Two wheels for a change that she started riding bicycle to reduce her use of cars. Among the comments, someone displayed unhappiness worrying that her promoting of cycling on road is irresponsible. However, ironically, studies show that the more cyclists, the safer each will be (see More cyclists means fewer accidents, says report, A Virtuous Cycle: Safety In Numbers For Bicycle Riders and my earlier post).

That will take times. Meanwhile, cyclists should put their own safety at very high priority. Here, let me share about some of my thoughts on defensive cycling.

Firstly, my definition of defensive cycling is a way of cycling to achieve zero near-accident incident and therefore achieving zero accident.

Second, knowing one's rights of way or legal rights is useful BUT forcefully exercising one's rights of way is dangerous.

Third, wearing safety gears that serve protective purposes is NOT a part of defensive cycling.

Fourthly, strictly following traffic rules, especially our traffic rules were not designed for cyclists, may be contradictory to defensive cycling.

OK, these are what I think from my own experiences to be helpful in defensive cycling.

1. Skills. Not all the stunt skills, but good advanced cycling skills. However, some skills are just for mastering, not for practicing nor demonstrating on roads. Skills such as near zero speed cycling, cycling without the use of one and both hands, cycling straight while turning head to check traffic behind and to the sides, emergency braking (I agrees with one expert argument that front wheel braking is better, but need practicing), etc. This point discourages most kids, teens, unskillful uncles/aunties to cycle on roads, and footpaths.

2. Driving experience. There is this saying that (my translation) knowing others and knowing yourself, hundred battles hundred wins. Driving experiences allow one to much better understands how drivers would behave and prefer cyclists to behave on the roads. E.g. how irritated a driver could be to tail behind a cyclists hogging the road/lane, how drivers mainly check for cars and pedestrians and thus easily overlook moving objects at speed neither that of cars nor pedestrians, etc. This point discourages those without driving license and those without driving experiences to cycle on roads in the cities where they don't have driving experiences in.

3. Have safety gears for defensive cycling. These are well maintained bicycle, rear mirror, rear red lights, rear red reflectors, front white lights, front white reflectors, lights on the body, etc. Note: Helmet and other protective gears are NOT included here. This point DOESN'T discourage anyone from wearing safety gears for protective purposes such as helmets, BUT please be aware that most of these protective gears don't help you in avoiding accidents.

4. Follow rules the safe[r] way, not necessarily the legal way. I hope this point will become absolutely invalid, but at this moment, sadly, many rules are not for the safety of cyclists. The idea here is not to ask anyone to break the laws, but to be think in a safe (in my personal views) way as much as also in a legal way. Sudden actions just to be legal vs safer buy illegal. E.g. sudden brake to stop at a T-junction red light with no traffic or pedestrians crossing vs carry on riding so that statistically lesser different vehicles need to overtake you. Legal but unsafe. E.g. dismount and push bicycle across a zebra crossing BUT didn't check for traffic vs slow down to near stop, check, wait, continuing riding slowly at walking speed across a zebra crossing. Illegal but safer. E.g. cycling on relatively wide, smooth, and little pedestrians footpaths vs cycling on roads with narrow lanes and/or heavy vehicles. This point hopes the authorities seriously review the rules to focus more on the safety of cyclists.

Ooops, I just realized there are other resources about defensive cycling such as the followings which have more detailed descriptions and advices:


XYZ said...


This is an excellent post about biking safety. I really agree with points 3 and 4. Especially point 3.

On point 3: Safety gear indeed does not make riding safer. It makes an accident safer.

Reading some of your posts have led me to realise that you and I took up cycling for similar reasons - bike commuting!

I've linked your blog on my nascent blog at as I think beginners should read your posts for inspiration and as a guide.


Back2Nature said...

Hi El Wey, thanks for commenting in my quiet blog. I will check up you blog. Yes, we need more people here highlighting cycling to commute as there are too many noise made by cyclists cycling either as a hobby (pro or amateur), for training/competition, leisure, short distances to/from MRT stations.

Hey, just stumbled on another blog with similar title: Bicycle Commuting in Singapore at

Similarly, on safety, I'm unhappy about too much emphasis on gears like helmet, while so little on things such as rear mirror.

Unknown said...


I'm billy and I commute to work almost everyday(if the weather permits). So far, been enjoying the commute and the morning fresh air.
quote-"cycling on relatively wide, smooth, and little pedestrians footpaths vs cycling on roads with narrow lanes and/or heavy vehicles."

I agreed with you on the above. Anyone with common sense will not want to put themselves in such risks.

Sadly, cycling on the pavement is illegal and will be fined. It's ironic to see cyclists have to risk their lives in order to be on the "legal side" vs "safer side".

Nonetheless, I believed law enforcement officers will be flexible enough to judge the situation.

Finally, thank you for the interesting article.

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