We’ve written about Bangkok Biking before, but it’s time to revisit (recycle?). Bangkok cycling is undergoing somewhat of a renaissance these days, after motorbikes replaced bicycles as the preferred mode of city transport in the 1960’s. More and more people are taking up the activity again, and several high-profile events have put the hobby – err, lifestyle – front and center.
It’s prudent to start by saying that while Bangkok is by no means “safe” to ride a bike in, neither is any city. But in fact, most Thais are patient drivers, adept at keeping a steady hand in traffic that swarms with motorbikes, tuk-tuks, and various other forms of transport. Horns are rarely used, and drivers are generally considerate of others. Several friends of Smiling Albino have said they’d rather ride a bike in Bangkok than many other cities.
Recent developments have given bike riding a boost, bringing it from a sometime-hobby to a legit lifestyle goal. Firstly, you have a concerted effort by the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority to expand the bike lane network in the city, complete with pylons to separate the paths from regular traffic. Granted, Bangkok is certainly not Amsterdam or Copenhagen, but it’s a start. Indeed, plans for a 184 kilometer lane stretching across five provinces are well underway, giving Bangkok’s biking community something big to look forward to.
There was also the recent Bike for Mom and Bike for Dad events, overseen by Thailand’s Crown Prince, which saw tens of thousands of riders across the country join in a coordinated ride to honor the birthdays of the Queen and King, as well as serve a symbolic act of unity and to promote a healthy lifestyle. It even made it into the Guinness Book of World Records eclipsing the previous record.
Bangkokians have seen a marked increase in the last couple of years of cyclists flying down canal paths and bike lanes during the week’s commute while decked-out road-bike gangs head to the airport cycling track and provincial roads on the weekends.
“Okay,” you may say, “Bangkok is seeing more and more riders. I can bike, but why should I?”
Most importantly, many people assume that ‘biking in Bangkok’ means squeezing your way between cars, buses, and tuk-tuks on major thoroughfares, but that’s not the case. Experienced riders spend most of their time on the small roads and hidden alleys that snake back into the unseen areas of the city. This is where you discover the “real Bangkok” that guide books simply can’t take you.
Also, the increase in riders means that an entirely new ecosystem has sprung up to welcome them. You can now find bike-themed cafes and restaurants around the city that offer parking and even discounts for bikers. Websites and guides have materialised showing routes all over the city, and how they link up. Bike shops large and small sell everything from kickstands to space-age carbon fiber racing frames. And Facebook groups and social media chat rooms share information, sell used gear, and make suggestions on the where, how, and when of biking. It’s a new dawn!
We understand that biking in a strange place – especially one as strange as Bangkok – can be daunting, but trust us when we say you’ll find no better way to explore the many hidden corners and winding streets of Bangkok. Tour buses? Pffft… give us a bike any day.
Contact Smiling Albino to enquire about our unique cycling tours of unseen Bangkok today!