Opinion: Island View: Daily brush with death

PHUKET: Living in Phuket and being surrounded by beautiful hills and beaches, one sometimes tends to forget what a gamble braving the island traffic on a motorbike can really be.

Not to say that motorbike riders are hardly to blame; that’s far from being the case. However, only those of us who regularly risk our lives on two wheels in the labyrinth of four-wheeled vehicles and more, can testify to the true dangers of being a motorbike rider in Phuket.

I’ve been in Thailand for almost a year now, and after two months of spending a handsome amount on taxis, tuk tuks and bike rentals in the beginning, I felt the need to buy myself a bike – which is a pretty standard practice here. A few dozen brushes with death later, I think I’ve managed to narrow down the worst enemy of Phuket bikers: minivan drivers.

These guys hardly seem to know – or care – what or who is around them, as long as their wheels are touching the asphalt. When commuting to work, I used to take the back road near British International School to reach Koh Keaw. That is, until I experienced being run off the road by minivan drivers during the morning rush.

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I’m not talking about a few wrong passes here and there. I mean switching lanes, overtaking on steep, narrow roads and generally driving with reckless abandon. Much as I love the invigorating morning air and greenery of the back road from Kathu to Koh Kaew, there are only so many times I can escape these regular brushes with death, particularly now that there is ongoing construction near the mining museum, leaving only one narrow lane for cars, motorbikes and those lethal minivans on both sides of the road.

The trudging bumper to bumper morning rush of the Samkong Underpass construction site doesn’t seem like much of an alternative, perhaps, but at least the road is wider and the possibility of staying safe ever so slightly higher. I wouldn’t say it’s a choice between a rock and a hard place – more like a rock and certain doom.

My self-preservation instinct eventually dominates and I’ll grudgingly settle for crowded and frustrating – even if just means I live to see yet another just as crowded and frustrating day.

— Zohaib Sikander


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