A throwback account of safe cycling through the eyes of a grown-up 15-year old.
As a kid, my bicycle was my only mode of transportation. Going to the playground in the next taman or to a friend’s house to play the latest video games or even for review classes after school. The bicycle was the ticket to your freedom at the age of 15. I explored the neighborhood with my rusty BMX. It was a go anywhere-do anything kind of vehicle with knobbly tires and foam wrap on the bike frame. The foam wrap made sitting on the frame more comfortable for a few seconds. The rear foot stands were installed and the BMX was “modified”. Letting the other rider stand behind the cyclist instead of sitting.
During those times, safety was never part of our vocabulary of cycling. When our group found a pile of sand in front of someone’s house, it was like hitting the stunt jackpot. No one talked about pads or helmets when we were trying to use the pile of sand as a ramp to jump and pull off stunts like “no hander trick” or “bar spin”. We learned the proper stunt right after we tried flying as high or as far as possible with a long ride up to the sand ramp.
Safety became a cool thing when one of the kids came with a helmet. And he then started doing more bold stunts, which we were all very impressed and also slightly envious. A double WOW! With a helmet, he could do these brave stunts. I NEED A HELMET TOO! That thought ran through my head. Weirdly, it wasn’t a drive to be safer by wearing a helmet but the ability to do more daring stunts. Unfortunately, I never got my helmet and my dream of executing an “inverse 360 tail whip no handed landing” never became a reality.
Today, being a father to an active young boy I always stress the importance of safety. Why? You may ask. Because cycling in urban areas here in Malaysia has gotten even more dangerous than before. Mainly due to more cars and motorcycles, you’ll see on the road resulted in the increase of vehicular traffic. And for the most part, the width of roads hasn’t been changed. So, the upsurge of vehicles made the road even narrower. That’s why during the early days, when my son was just learning to ride a bicycle I made sure he had his helmet and knee pads on. I found a simple way to guarantee he wore his helmet, no matter how hard he resisted. It is by WEARING MY HELMET TOO. Kids will emulate what the parents do. I wore my helmet and he wore his. Now it has become our habit. He never rides without one, even if it’s just a taman ride. Additionally, wearing a helmet boosts his self-confidence more, even to the point of taking his BMX to a pump track. Safe riding areas are not that abundant, so safety has and will always be paramount when it comes to cycling.
Recently, there were discussions with regular Saturday morning cycling buddies about safe riding using helmets. What is the safest helmet and coolest in a literal and figurative sense? Now “coolest” means to be well ventilated to stay cool in our hot and humid climate.
Cycling safety choices have been evolved to provide safety beyond helmets;
- Gloves which protect our palms in the event of a fall and provide comfort on the handlebar;
- Bicycle lights for visibility day and night;
- Bright-colored cycling jerseys to attract attention of car drivers;
Cyclists are also encouraged to wear identification bracelet like a Lifeline ID as an added safety measure in the event of an accident. The ID includes “who to contact” in case our comrade meets with an unavoidable and unfortunate accident. Details like allergies or medical conditions are also stated on the ID to provide more information about the cyclist – the RAJA PECUT.
In a nutshell, cycling can be fun and exciting, but we should also do our best to make it safe. Not only for us but for our future generation!
Cheong Yue-Jin is an avid and experienced cyclist. He is now full time in serving the cycling community, with the intention to encourage more people to cycle, and create awareness of safe cycling. He has a cycling dream, the dream to tour the Great Ocean Road on two wheels and to see the Tour De France LIVE with his son!