Biker Bites : Thoughts on the tragic motorcycle accident

First off, this post could be disagreeable to both car drivers and motorcyclists alike, so please hear me out first. I have spent a lot of time writing about motorcycles and how to stay alive as a biker, but I know many bikers won’t bother until they get into situations where they truly understand the risk.. or maybe it might be too late by then.

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Screenshot from ST website about the 21st Sep motorcycle accident.

This week, apart from the awful haze from Indonesia, a lot of Singaporeans were stunned by the news of a young 25-year-old Ducati rider who was killed by a big truck on the Pan Island Expressway at the Kallang area. The accident was grisly and bikers pleaded with others on Facebook not to distribute graphic photos of the accident.

The 50-year-old driver of the truck was arrested and many keyboard warriors assumed it was his reckless driving that killed the biker.

It wasn’t until a few days later that someone posted an in-car rear camera video of what actually happened. I felt very sad when I watched this video today:

The 43-year-old lady driver of the SUV was arrested and then the online barrage turned to blaming her driving instead or telling bikers that motorcycles are dangerous, lane-splitting should be banned and so on.

It was a very tragic incident and the one good thing that came out of the video was that the innocent truck driver was exonerated.

I’m not here to say who is wrong or right, and who knows what I would have done if I were either the driver or the biker at that very moment. But I’m here to say the following things that I’ve written here before and the same risk factors always keep cropping up when motorcycles crash.

Everyone involved is in pain. You’re not.

Nobody gets into a car or onto a motorcycle each day hoping to kill someone on the road or to die.

To those blaming the female driver, did you ask if she could see the biker or was it a blind spot he was in? How would you feel if you accidentally knocked someone down? What would you say if it turned out you didn’t see this coming, you just wanted to change lane into an empty slot, and now you might have to go to jail and have nightmares for the rest of your life?

To those who were quick to blame the truck driver at first, how do you feel now? Can you imagine the anguish he has been through, even though he was innocent? Does he still have a job?

I have my thoughts on what the biker should have done, but who am I to say? How can he defend his actions now that he’s gone?

The only thing that cannot be denied, is the suffering inflicted on all parties due to one accident.

Lane 1 on expressways is a danger zone. Just stay away.

I don’t get it. I see so many small bikes and P-plate bikes chiong-ing the rightmost Lane 1 at high speed. Recently, I even saw a P-plate rider making hand signals at another car (trying to pick a fight) while the rider was on Lane 1.

Even in the comfort of my car, I try to use Lane 1 sparingly to overtake vehicles and quickly change lanes back to the center lane. Yes, it’s slower on other lanes, but I’m not in a hurry to crash either.

My internal alarm bells ring incessantly every time I’m on Lane 1 because I don’t know which driver in front is going to suddenly slam the brakes and create yet another pile-up.

I’ve been driving and riding for 20 years and the fear factor has actually increased over time because the standards of driving/riding here are so low. What’s more, the roads are congested in SG, so drivers tend to drive too close to each other.

Everyone in Lane 1 simply exposes himself to much risk.

We bikers are 100% responsible for our own safety. Everyone else who doesn’t ride should stop preaching.

Lane-splitting is not illegal in Singapore or in many countries. It reduces congestion and allows bikers to cut through any jam efficiently. But it is also high-risk and is always dangerous except when the cars are packed together and not able to quickly change lanes.

If traffic is tight and you see an empty space the size of a car lot that you want to filter into, you can be sure there’s another driver who wants to do the same. The car will always win vs the bike.

Bikers, riding in SG requires us to keep a safe distance from moving cars and trucks as much as possible. Before any lane-change maneuver, evaluate the other cars’ behavior for few seconds, make a quick pass and accelerate on.

Remember most car drivers DON’T look out for lane-splitters and you don’t really know if they can actually see you due to the blind spots. Know how exactly much torque your bike has in each gear so you can accurately apply power to get out of tight spots, or┬ájust slow down and give way.

And here’s the illustration again on blind spots, you can be close to the car, but the driver may not even see you at all.

blind_spot2

And for the rest of the world, please stop telling us to stop riding or to ban this and that. Many bikers ride because they can’t afford a $100K car in Singapore. I ride because I like to save petrol, parking fees and ERP fees. It’s more practical to say we should ban lousy car drivers who have poor driving skills since cars kill more than bikes, but who says that right?

We bikers know the risks, we accept the risks and the more sensible bikers mitigate the risks with careful riding, body armor and full-on road awareness. I don’t speak for the irresponsible riders or drivers out there, I do my best to be a good road user and avoid the reckless ones.

Stay safe, fellow drivers and riders. RIP, fellow Ducati rider.

23 Replies to “Biker Bites : Thoughts on the tragic motorcycle accident”

  1. The only time when I can appreciate noisy bikes is when they are riding close to my car. Even if I cannot see them I know they are near. Blind spots are real and present dangers.

    1. Could be the fault of our driving schools for not emphasizing blind spots and the frequent glancing at the rear mirror.

      Personally, as a driver, it is my ingrained habit (learned from taking driving lessons in the UK) to constantly glance at the mirror. This way, I am always aware of the traffic behind me as well as in front. In particular, because of my constant monitoring of the rear-view, I am aware of any bikers entering the blind spots.

      1. Driving schools here do emphasize shitloads on blind spots. Not just in the UK, sire… You might wanna take some lessons here in SG before irresponsibly accusing our local schools of not doing enough.

  2. No matter what’s the viewpoint, we lost a fellow rider, in a very unfortunate accident which is highly portray in the media now (the anguish the family must be going through relooking at this over and over again).

    Everyone needs to be a responsible party on the road, and have respect for each others safety.

    RIP to the biker, and i hope time will heal the wounds left in the family

  3. I am not a rider. I am a driver who commutes from east to west everyday on our expressways. And I cannot agree more with everything that you have said. For those who ply expressways regularly I am sure you would have noticed 7 out of 10 accidents (or even more) occur on Lane 1. For that same reason I stay out of Lane 1 as well unless overtaking.

    Regardless of what is being said about riders vs drivers, no one deserves to have their life cut short like this. RIP to the Ducati rider and condolences to his family & friends.

  4. Tragic accident. As an ex biker and a driver, I can attest to the occasional lapse of concentration, the biker who lurks in your blind spot, and the reckless few (riders and drivers). I have also seen countless drivers who use their phones while driving, on expressways. Drive safe and ride safe, it is every road users responsibility. Condolences to the young man’s family.

  5. I’m a rider .sometimes it very unsafe to ride in between cars. Cos u dun know when the cars will change their lanes. Riders should be very careful cause I know sometimes they are rushing to another place. If that so. Can try to go out early. Not need to rush. Recently I see many drivers like to change the lane without any signalling. I’m thinking how they get their license.. everyone is sharing the road. Let’s drive safety. Rip the ducarti rider . And have to say about the female driver. Hope she’s alright. I dun think she want to see what had happen but she should go report herself instead of some kind soul post the video. If nobody post the truth. The innocent truck driver will in deep shit. I dun think she wouldn’t know if she hit someone….once again. If u are using the road.. drive / ride safety.

  6. Ian, very well thought out & written piece. I agree with you on many points. In fact, I tend to think of lane 1 in the manner you do PLUS I think of all other road users as my enemy. Well not really that sort of enemy. More like staying as far apart as possible from other drivers when ever possible.

    I am a driver & a rider too. I have been riding for close to 30 years. I chose to ride simply cos I love riding more than driving.
    I ride daily to work from Nusajaya to Sgp almost daily for work.

  7. I have both a class 2b and 3 license. Let me relate a bewildering episode I experienced while driving home after work one night. I was exiting the MCE to Keppel viaduct and was driving behind a car on lane 2. Wanting to overtake the car, I switched on my indicator, looked in my right mirror, then my blind spot and proceeded to filter right to lane 1. Very quickly I heard 2 soft beeps of a horn causing me to pause my transition and quickly look all around. I didn’t see anything unusual and completed the maneuver.
    After passing the car, I filtered left back to lane 2, looking in the corresponding mirrors and blind spots. But then I heard the 2 beeps again. Again I looked round and didn’t find anything unusual.
    Very quickly after all these happened, a motorcycle slowly passed me on the right, which shocked me because I had not seen this motorcycle before but surmised it must have been he who was sounding his horn. I can old figure that he might have been moving around and each time I looked at a particular blind area, he had already moved to another spot outside of my field of vision.
    It’s now obvious to me that even if a driver looks out for traffic, circumstances might prevent him from actually seeing a motorcycle close to him. It certainly is very dangerous for a motorcycle to get too close to a car or squeeze through between lanes.

  8. As both a driver and rider. I think it best for cars to signal early when trying to lane change. As for riders lane-splitting, always slow down when you see there is space for a car to fit in in either lanes you are splitting. Have to be ready for stop or flight in that instance to avoid any kind of collisions. As a rider i try my best to get out of any car’s blindspot as quick as i can. That would mean it is generally safer for bikers to ride 10% faster than average speed of traffic. Lane-splitting is safer as there is more space to play with in an event a car in front of jam break so a rider will have more time to react and avoid getting squished from front and back. Basic rule is just be considerate on the road and always signal early even if there is no one but you on the road. You might never know there is someone in your blindspot. Drivers now who glued to their phone while driving should really be penalised big time. Its no different than drink driving. For this accident, it is indeed a misfortune. The rider was not a tad too slow or too fast which could potentially avoided the collision. But i guess it is really fated and no one to be blamed indiscriminately for this accident. RIP to the fallen rider.
    And never hog the road. 1st lane only for overtaking. If really drive slow, take the last lane. Don’t hog on 2nd lane even. This is so 1st lane is always clear for overtaking purposes only.

  9. Not all drivers had the same blind spot area and angle. Therefore never presume other to have the same alert as you on the road. Drive and ride safe.

  10. Technology can help to minimize or prevent such incidents. Vehicles can impose sensors at the area where blind spots are. The sensor will activate some bing sound inside the car when there is some objects nearby. Certain models carry this feature, however it will add cost to the price of vehicle of course.

  11. I agree the lane 1 user are bound to pile up and its like a timebomb just waiting to explode. As a rider and driver it is our responsibility to ride or drive safely and always on the look out for fellows drivers and riders. I ever experienced it myself ….during the morning rush hour everyone was travelling at 80 or more and as a motorcyclist we usually will be riding in between lane 1 & 2 squeezing whenever possible. There was me and a few riders forming a line. When the bike infront accidentally hit his handle bar to the lane 1 car mirror and before he could react …he was on the tarmac luckily i managed to stop and the car behind stop and blocked the lane . I help him up and told him how lucky he is that i didnt run over him or being run over by both of the cars. Lesson learnt i always prepare myself when i ride to look out for those “cant wait riders” and “dont want to lose” driver. Cos i believe in be prepared when u are on the road as u wont be able to predict what will happen next.

  12. Good article. I rode for 2 years in the army everyday. Had witnessed accidents caused by careless drivers. Had also lost friend to bike accident. Now I drive even though I love riding. On a bike, we really need to be really alert, and defensive. Would be best if the riders understand why drivers behave certain way. IMO, not enough emphasis was placed on teaching this to new bikers.

    Then there is also this group of drivers n bikers who are super aggressive n behave like they own the roads….

  13. Actually, I don’t understand why Singaporean riders don’t use their horn often. I am a rider and also a driver. When I ride and when i need to filter. I will usually do a 2 beep horn when I sense the car is keeping to close to the next lane to let him know that I am coming. Some might find it annoying. But It is better to annoy him than getting knock down like that. Its a polite horn in my opinion. just 2 beep to let him know I am coming. Not those long horn which annoys them.

  14. First off, RIP to the biker and condolences to the family.

    Next off, I am crazier rider than I am of a driver. I worked in UK for too many years, even driving emergency vehicles and I see the full brunt of both accidents.

    As any rider will tell you, especially PROFESSIONAL VOCATIONAL RIDERS such as Dispatch Riders, PizzaHut/KFC/McD/Domino guys and gals will say (and the Abang-Abangs), you ride a big bike, don’t ride like U sending your rush order on a Kap-Kia, aka… Don’t SELIT/SQUEEZE. Lane discipline will let you stay alive, especially on peak hour and dangerous spots.

    Thus why you see any 2A/2 (upwards 400cc) will NEVER STAY IN BETWEEN LANES. Better stay a little bit more in the lane, be it lane 2 or Lane 1 than you squeeze, cos drivers can’t see you.

    If you ever “BUANG” or Skid etc in heavy traffic, DO NOT LET GO YOUR MACHINE! That will save your ass, pls don’t drop your leg (like the video did) as you cannot E-Brake. U will fall, but the bike will shield you , giving you that ample 1-2 feet of gap from your handle/tank/box (especially) from being crushed, like a roll cage. U fall, another car is enuff to kill you.

    I did my stint before in SG, riding like a lunatic, and every monday morning, ride from SG to my wife place in Kuala Pilah, Negeri Sembilan over 370km away at 2am with inner roads worse than the 99 curves and ravine/river on the side. And my bike mileage is around at least 8000km a month.

    Eventually, I succumbed to a silly accident where an LTA officer illegally U-Turned at a DOUBLE WHILE LINE in a LTA Vehicle. I cracked my spine and the specialist told me the ultimatum, stop riding or he issue me a Hospitalisation Leave for 1year which will get my driving license REVOKED FOR MEDICAL REASONS.

    Now, I still suffer the aches like a slip disc despite it’s been 2yrs now. It’s damaging to me for life.

    One tiny mistake.

  15. With regards to this issue I have raised this to the show talking point.. They will feature this issue in their upcoming episode soon.. Pls stay tune for further clarification

  16. A timely reminder for all bikers not to expect everybody else to be able to see us, because they often do not. We cannot blame other motorists and expect them to see you if you have a tendency to weave in and out of traffic. Avoid lane splitting unless absolutely necessary and you absolutely know that you can do it quickly and most importantly safely. If in doubt or your view is blocked somewhat, always back off and keep a safe distance until you see a safe opportunity to pass. Always be patient – better to be late than never reaching your destination. Aggressive biking gets you nowhere. Ride wisely, ride safely.

  17. There are also times when staying in lane is not necessarily safer than lanesplitting.
    During peak hours, vehicles always tailgate, and sometimes at a considerably speeds of over 70km/h on expressways (on ALL lanes). Will that ‘safety distance’ of a few meters before and behind a motorcyclist be helpful at all should there be a collision? Should a chain collision happens, a biker will probably end up as meat paste between 2 vehicles.

    Lanesplitting opens up a far bigger safety distance and view of traffic ahead, allowing riders to better respond to changes in traffic.

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