August 9, 2013
How refined is your ability to spot pedal-powered vehicles on a busy city street? The two minutes of video footage above were captured at an uncontrolled intersection in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. After the first viewing, how many did you see? I only caught half of them the on my first attempt. To find out how well you did, watch the video below (same footage, but with the non-motorized vehicles indicated).
When we first pedaled up to this intersection, I thought I'd see an accident within sixty seconds. This traffic dance fascinated me. An hour later, not a single scrape. How could that be possible without any traffic signals, stop signs, or traffic cops? Or maybe, that WAS the reason it all worked. With an uncontrolled intersection, everyone has to be aware and share the space.
Many people I talk with who dream of bicycle journeys outside the United States, state fear of traffic (especially city traffic) as one of the top reasons they haven't tried it. I can relate. I had those same fears. But once I took the plunge, I discovered I often felt safer on foreign roads than I did in my own country. Fear is all about the unknown and the untried.
Just as on the city streets of Bangkok, once we observed and learned how to fit into the flow of vehicles (motorized and non-motorized) in Phnom Penh, pedaling around Cambodia's capital city was a lot faster (and often easier) than walking.
So how many pedal-powered vehicles did you spot? Why not add your bike to the count? Southeast Asia is an economical, beautiful, fascinating region of the world to explore by bicycle.
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS is posted every other Friday. Willie Weir is a columnist for Adventure Cyclist magazine. His latest book Travels with Willie: Adventure Cyclist will inspire you to hit the road and just might change the way you approach bicycle travel. He lives in Seattle with his wife Kat. You can read about their adventures at http://yellowtentadventures.com.