Sitting in rush hour gridlock in the congested center of Bangkok it is hard to imagine that biking in the city could be pleasant, much less safe. It’s a pity that this is the facade of Bangkok that most visitors experience.
Little do Bangkok’s visitors realize that main traffic arteries make only 8% of the city’s surface area, while most other major cities are around 20-30%. In short, this means that 92% of Bangkok is comprised of small side streets and residential neighborhoods, intertwined with lanes and pathways ideal for cycling. Suddenly your perspective of Bangkok changes from a city of traffic snarls to a scene of tree-lined canals, secret gardens and village-like neighborhoods.
To be quite honest, and this will come as a surprise to many, cycling in Bangkok actually makes living here so much more enjoyable. Exploring the backstreet routes the city reveals a treasure trove of history and culture that I may have never discovered. There is so much life in Bangkok that one just cannot experience from a taxi or the seat of a tour bus. Biking through Bangkok opens up so many more dimensions to the city.
So have I piqued your interest? Keen to saddle up and start exploring on your own? There is always the option to join a guided cycle tour if not, but if you like to do things your way here are a few safety tips - Some might sound like common sense, but it’s always good to head out prepared.
Here are my top-tips for how to Cycle Safely in Bangkok:
- Wear bright colors to make sure you are seen
- Wear a helmet (of course)
- Always signal when you turn (or, for busy intersections, go straight)
- Always stay to the left (this is the driving side in Thailand)
- If you are turning right at a busy intersection, stay on the left until the red light, then move to the right lane once traffic has stopped. This will avoid the need to cross several lanes of moving traffic and have you in the perfect spot for the next green light.
- Riding in the bike lanes can be tricky due to food carts, parked cars and other obstacles. It’s often much easier, and safer, to ride with the traffic and there is a natural flow to it.
- If caught behind a bus stopping bus let the passengers finish getting on and off first before passing.
- When riding alongside parked cars be alert to someone opening a door.
- When riding narrow elevated paths, dismount and walk if you feel unsure of your balance.
If you would like to cycle on your own and explore Bangkok, download this handy app, Punmaung, for a map of cycling routes in Bangkok. If you don't feel confident to rent a bike and explore by yourself, then joining one of Grasshopper Adventures guided bike tours would be a great option to experience cycling in Bangkok in a safe way. Grasshopper Adventures’ Bangkok tours let you discover the hidden side of the city - Routes are carefully researched to avoid traffic and find the hidden highlights and the guides are all trained with your safety as their primary consideration. With good preparation and some planning, cycling in Bangkok is not more dangerous than cycling in any other place in the world.