5 road accidents. That’s the number of incidents I saw during a mere 240 kilometres’ cycle over New Year’s. None of them were drink related. All of them were in broad daylight.
Road accident #1: I set out from my home in Phnom Penh at 7am to start ride my bike to Sihanoukville via Kampot. It was a Saturday morning, so traffic was light from weekend office closures. That was, until I reached the airport, less than 30 minutes into my ride. Cars, tuk-tuks, motorbikes were squashed together in an uncharacteristic manner. After a few minutes of bike pushing, I saw the ambulance booting towards city centre. I then passed the broken glass and two very crushed motorbikes lying on the road side. I stopped together with a number of others to take a quick look and a surrupticious photo.
Road accident #2: So there I was, cycling along the road, when two dogs started sprinting towards me from the other side of the road.
A white dog was chasing a black dog, getting them off their property. The black dog reached the tarmac just as I yanked on my brakes in anticipation of hitting him. But before I could take him out, a sleek Lexus four wheel drive did the honours and rolled right over the animal. Plastic and metal hit hair and bone. The Lexus hit the gas and accelerated on. The last I saw of that dog was its twisted black back leg on a dog that was lucky to still be alive. But it is the squealing I can still hear even now, squealing of a dog that needed medical care. Unfortunately for him, canine vets don’t inhabite that part of Cambodia.
Nearly Road accident #3, but not quite, so doesn’t really count: The road began to narrow once I hit National Route 4. The lanes were wide enough for two cars to pass each other out. The verge was a dirt track, 10 centimetres drop off the tarmac thoroughfare. So when the beer trucks carrying bottles of Angkor to Sihanoukville overtook me out, I would stop pedalling so they’d whisker their way past me as quickly as possible. The worst however were the Lexus four wheel drives coming from the other direction, overtaking trucks in their way. They would aim straight at me and force me off the road. Tempted as I was to play chicken, each time I would succumb and throw myself in the ditch whilst cursing Cambodia’s rise of the Lexus four wheel drive.
Real Road accident #3: The next accident was as real as it gets. There I was, cycling along when I saw a motorbike parked on the road side. A man stood beside the bike. Another lay face down beside it. The man on the ground wasn’t moving. The guy standing up looked shell shocked.
For a spilt second, I considered stopping and lending a hand. But then, what could I do to assist? I don’t speak Khmer. I am not a doctor. I wasn’t from the area. Then I saw some locals running towards the scene. So I left them to work out if the man was alive or dead or simply resting, and to figure out how the motorbike and their passengers managed to take such a nasty spill.
Road accident #4: Lots of things wander along and across Cambodian roads. Water buffalo, dogs, children, snakes, and cows all move on and off the tarmac at random. So I wasn’t surprised when I passed a cow sacked out in the middle of the road. I slowed down to swerve around it. The cow had a neat set of tyre prints right across its neck. Blood coalesced around the indented, white furry tyre tracks. Just like road accident #3, the perpetrator was nowhere to be found. In Cambodia it’s obviously not the done thing to hand around.
Road accident #5: The fifth and final accident of the trip had an element of bitter sweet revenge. It involved a Lexus again, though this time it was the victim, not the assailant. The driver had lost control and crashed off the road, most likely at high speed. The Lexus’ bumper was affixed to a tree trunk. The windscreen was slightly cracked. The driver had already been whisked away to safety, whilst the tree was still standing tall, having won the latest road rage battle.
And so, the morale of the story: Never cycle on National Route 4 in Cambodia, unless you want to see, or even partake, in some real road carnage.