Tag Archives: SE Asia

Phnom Penh- Don’t look under the hood!

Riding in Phnom Penh is quite exciting. There are more 2 wheelers than 4 wheelers, though most are motorized.  It begs the question: how can you design roads for 2 wheeled vehicles? That is still a bit of an advanced question though since the first challenge is getting people used to the idea of lanes, traffic lights and traffic rules.

You still don’t need a license for a motorscooter so rules are largely interpretive. You have to learn to abide by the ‘flow’ of traffic and figure out lots of unwritten rules. For instance, people going the opposite direction on the street generally stick to the outer lane, unless they are trying to cross. Bicyclists are the next ‘lane’, then cars. Scooters fill in all the cracks and go everywhere. Horns are essential.

Bicycling is very hot since it was 35 and humid when I was there. To avoid arriving at your destination sweaty and dirty, you had to go early in the day (before 8 am) and use a dust mask. Mine was a lovely masculine pink. A hat and long pants and shirt keep the sun off. Sun glasses were surprisingly not used, even though grit and pollution from the road gets in your eyes so you need eye drops. Riding at night is cooler but extremely dangerous.

Some test roads had motorscooter lanes, especially long distance national roads. But they were more designed for motorscooters not bicycles. They also served as extra buffers for cars if oncoming traffic was in their lane. Bicycles were seen quite often in rice paddy fields as well, especially for kids (whose bikes were always too large) and those too poor to afford motorscooters.

Pretty much only students and very poor people who couldn’t afford scooters ride bikes. Anyone who has money rides a fake Lexus RX300 or fake Land Rover. They look brand new, but are actually made of 20-30 year old cars with completely new exteriors and interiors. But don’t look under the hood. It’s probably not roadworthy. They of course try to barrel you down off the road. Maybe that makes them feel more important.

Number of near fatal collisions in 2 weeks: 4

Frequency of near collisions: daily