The Danger of Riding Downtown Bangkok

Without a single doubt, the riskiest place to be on a motorcycle is in Bangkok. It's the most demanding and unpredictable environment of all, and you need to be as sharp as a fighter pilot to avoid trouble.

A lot is happening, and much of it it can change quickly. It all needs taking in, and to do that, you have to slow down and pay full attention. At some points of a journey through busy downtown traffic, 45 or 50 km/h can be way too fast. Take it dead easy.

Do it long enough and you'll develop a sixth sense for what people might do or what might happen next. In the meantime, realize that many hazards can be hidden until they present themselves right in front of you.

Pedestrians can be one of the worst offenders. They can suddenly walk out between parked cars, sometimes looking the wrong way. Drivers can also emerge from behind doors flung open without warning. And taxi's now-a-day move 4-lain if they see somebody calling for a ride.
Children and animals are most unpredictable, expect them to do anything. Delivery vans, taxis, buses, and any other commercial vehicles using Bangkok's streets can often be in a hurry and have different priorities to you (to say it polite). Look out for them especially.

Gaps in lines of stationary traffic you're riding down the outside of should be treated with plenty of suspicion. T-boning an emerging car that another has let out isn't pleasant.

Keep an eye out for slippery sections of road. Junctions where traffic stands still or brakes hard can be covered in oil and rubber. Also keep in mind that Bangkok was not designed for two-wheels, so you can encounter (slippery) metal pieces in the tarmac. A piece of debris like a flattened tin can may well prove to be your undoing if it's right on line mid-corner.

And never expect your route to be guaranteed clear if traffic lights are on green. REMEMBER this is BANGKOK. Have a peek at the junction to make sure opposing traffic has stopped first. Ten years riding in Bangkok taught me just how risky Bangkok city riding can be. It can make racing at the MotoGP child's play. Tag: Motorcycling Traffic Safety Danger Gear
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Model Maniac

Monday, 27 July 2009 @ 08:48 PM ICT
Born and raised in Bangkok I've been riding dirt bike in Bangkok for almost 30 years. In 1980 my office was at Nakornpathom Province and I rode my Honda SL-125 from Klongton to Nakornpathom every Monday morning, stayed there over weekdays and rode back home Friday evening. I remember that the fastest time I made for the journey there was just an hour. You can hardly break my record these days with whatever bike you use, there're just too much cars on the roads now. From 1981 to this day I've been working at Nang Learng, about 13 kms from Klongton. As far as I can remember, I've never had an accident on Bangkok streets, but I hit a dog once in my own Soi (Lane), collapsed and and hurt my leg (the dog was not hurt). While riding I've been very cautious. Not only the left, right and front that I have to look, but my rear too. Rear view mirrors are a must for me, I cannot ride a bike without them. I look at the left and right mirrors every once in a while, making sure that there's no one trying to overtake me from rear left or right. You won't be a good fighter pilot if you don't watch your rear. As for as readiness, I have a raincoat on the handle bar, just in case it rains. My bike needs re-fueling once a week, and I make sure I won't forget to refill my gas tank (today I try Gasohol 95 for the first time, I usually used Benzene 91 - my bike seems to be a little faster with higher octane. I'm using Platinum PX-175 these days). While my bike can do 120 kmh, I've never run faster than 80 kmh, except for a very short time. I need not hurry knowing that I'm using the fastest vehicle in Bangkok. On New Petchburi Road there are three lanes for cars but four lanes for bike, the fourth lane is the footpath. I've made good use of it when situation called for. One thing to remember, it's "Safety First". Just don't risk anything on the roads. Apart from safety helmet, I also need open-ended gloves and a gas mask. I just can't bear and breath the pollution from tuk-tuks and buses. If you ride without a gas mask, I highly recommend one. You can have its filter replaced but you cannot replace your own lungs. Be kind to others who also use the roads, think of them as your own relatives. If you're not in a hurry, say, to visit your mother-in-law at a hospital, give way to others who ask for or who seem to need one. I am a Buddhist but may I quote Matthew 5:7 "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy".


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