18 February 2008

Safety on trial

Do Singaporeans care enough about public safety? Why have we not provided paths for bicycles, separate from pedestrians? Full essay.


Anonymous said...

currently usage of bicycle as means of commute transport is low - hardly anyone ride bicycle to school or to work

assuming that LTA wants to encourage people to do this, it need to provide not just bike paths between HDB blocks and town centres/MRT stations/local schools, but also secure bike parking facilities at both ends, including HDB void decks to save people the trouble of taking bikes upstairs; it is a more complex issue than just bike paths


Anonymous said...

On the topic of safety, I feel it's hypocritical in Singapore to give so much attention to promoting safety belt use in cars and taxis, while at the same time neglecting those of poor migrant workers riding in open lorries with absolutely no protection whatsoever. Is there no concern for their safety? People always have an excuse..."those lorries are required to go slower". But of course, they don't ACTUALLY go slower (again, contempt for the law). This lack of compassion for the poor just irks me to no end. Protect rich car-owning Singaporeans with seat belt laws and awareness campaigns, but give some lame excuse for the Bangledeshi workers forced to ride in open lorries under constant risk of death.

Anonymous said...

I doubt installing sheltered bike parking is complex.

Even in America where the car is king, real bicyles (not the foldable variety) are allowed on buses and trains.

And like many countries, we do not need a full bike path. Just an extra two metres of the left lane on most roads will do.

budak said...

There's some irony in that cyclists in Singapore are generally perceived as either poor folks/guestworkers who use it as a cheap if hazardous form of transport (and often on footpaths) or well-off recreational/fitness roadwarriors pounding the roads in thousand-dollar multi-gear machines. Whether or not this perception is valid, it doesn't help move forward the thinking of both the public and policy makers that cyclists are an afterthought on the roads.

Have you seen this site? http://cyclinginsingapore.blogspot.com/

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

At the same time as I uploaded the essay, I wrote to Jalan Besar Town Council to inform them about the loose metal sheet dangling over people's heads at 74 Race Course Road. They replied promptly (well done!) to say "Thanks for your email. We have redirected your feedback to Tanjong Pagar Town Council as Race Course Road is under their jurisdiction."

This highlights another problem. There was no easy way despite a quick websearch, to determine which town council an area comes under. I assumed that since Jalan Besar was just 2 blocks away from Race Course Road, it would be part of "Jalan Besar Town". But, as you can see from the reply, it comes within "Tanjong Pagar". Now who would have guessed?

Still, at least the message was redirected. Does that mean that Town councils spend a lot of their time redirecting messages to each other?

Anonymous said...

We are known as a "Fine" city ie there are a lot of things you won't want to do here because of the fines. That's fine but the instances you've highlighted shows there's a glaring neglect on enforcement.

It would appear that the policy and rule makers had naively assumed that everyone would just follow the rules without the enforcement. They obviously hasn't thought about the attitude to rules that our migrant workers have brought with them from their third world environments. From where they come from, following rules would be the last thing on their minds. Getting busy and filling their stomaches would be more the priority. Again, it seems, they had only thought that the rules would only be followed by Singaporeans. How shortsighted.

Like you, I've on many occasions brought lapses like those mentioned to the authorities. Whilst it is our civic duty to do so, it is also their occupational duty to keep a look out for such lapses.

In the old days, if you rode a bicycle and had a pillion rider, you would probably be booked by the omnipresent mata matas.
Nowadays, to see one on the roads is an occasion for buying 4D!

WK said...

There is another "biking" conflict that I see nowadays in the Bedok area. These are the motorised-bicycles taking up a lane on the road. I do not see any license plate on these "motor-bicycles", so the owner-riders probably think these motor-bicycles are in the same category as bicycles.

Last Sunday I was driving in the middle lane of 3 lanes in Changi Road near Bedok Central. The bus in front on the left lane was trying to edge out into my lane. When I overtook the bus I then realised that the bus was trailing behind a motor-bicycle whose rider was taking his own sweet time chugging along as if he had every right to the lane.

Sivasothi said...

Foldable bikes may not actually need modification by MRT.

See "How to bring a folding bike onto MRT?" by Chu Wa. JZ88 folding bike blog, 22 Sep 2007.

He ends saying, "If the train is really too packed, wait for the next train as you would normally. The fundamental here is to be considerate to other users."

See also "A graphical study of "MRT fit" for popular folding bicycles," by Chu Wa. JZ88 folding bike blog, 27 Dec 2007.

Ponder Stibbons said...


Actually, the motorcyclist/cyclist does have a right to the lane --- it is not illegal for either motorcyclists or cyclists (however you wish to classify him) to ride on the road. So I don't see what you're complaining about. The simple fact is that there is no space in one car lane to accommodate both a bicycle and a bus --- the bus will always have to move right a little to pass the bicycle.

whitepomfret said...

Sharing is an attitude. Mutual respect. We can each reshape social expectations to be founded on mutual respect and care for each other.

Like the law of the sea, the larger vessels give way to the smaller ones, those with power give way to those by wind. So likewise, trucks give way to cars, cars, give way to motor and pedal bikes. bicycles give way to pedestrians. All can be done without resentment (read - loss of face and position), but in harmony. It's a nature we need to regain as Asians, as people.

If cyclists can all greet and politely ask to pass (signal with a bell beforehand esp. when approaching a pedestrian from the rear) and then THANK when passing. That is often acceptable for most pedestrians. They will reciprocate.

I've just taken a pic of a sign on a path in Australia: (Sorry I can't upload it on this comment (it'll be nice) It reads:
Below it are the symbols of:
- a cyclist
- two persons walking abreast
- a person on wheelchair
- a person holding a dog on a leash

Words added below the cyclist symbol were: "ring your bell before passing" (note that once it's a culture to rind when approaching from the rear, pedestrians will not take it as a sign of aggression)

Words added below the person and a dog symbol were: "keep dog on leash"

Respect, respect, respect.

If we start giving and receiving respect graciously, the paths will not be as narrow as we think they are.

It can be done. I've done it - when I ride my son to school. We've changed the morning community in Ghim Moh over the span of one year. People are talking to each other more now; smiling, greeting, waving. It can be done in each of our estates. Try it. Give yourselves 1 year: 6 months to warm up the comfort level of your community, 6 months to enjoy the fruits of change. It'll work. :-)

human powered transport everyday

Anonymous said...

At the East Coast Parkway, the pedestrian and cycling paths are well delinated for obvious reasons and i do not see the point of a trial run at Tampines. On the contrary, I think they should make pedestrian paths more unfriendly to cyclists.

Cycling lanes are great in principle, but as a cyclist on the road for many years, I must say that it may not be the best solution if it is not going to be island wide. While the bicycle is a greener alternative, unlike the temperate regions, biking under the equatorial heat can be a rather sweaty experience and most workplaces do not have extensive shower facilities, and I don't think workers have the time or energy to be constantly changing clothes.

In the meantime, I think it is still generally safe to cycle on the roads if you have the mindset that you are not the king of the road and the only right of way is when someone gives it to you. Some people think that it is the foreign workers who are to be blame, but from my own observation, everyone including Singaporeans are guilty

Several tips here:

1. Always keep close to the curb of the left lane.
2. make yourself visible and your movements predictablee especially at night.
3. Do not squeeze between vehicles.

Kai Khiun

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

Re the dangling piece of metal, and further to my comment/update 18 Feb 11:16h,

Tanjong Pagar Town Council called me this afternoon to say they have looked at my photograph. However, it is private property and the Town Council is only concerned with public housing areas. Therefore there is "nothing we can do" and "we are unable to help you."

I told them, I don't need their help. But somebody is going to get hurt unless someone takes owenership of the problem.

Sivasothi said...

Different strokes for different folks, I guess. On a pavement, the cyclist should travel at a pedestrian pace! You'll find no need to even ring a bell then.

But traveling at a slow pace actually requires skill. Oh and patience.

Functional, neighbourhood cyclists are not usually fast and well suited for a peaceful co-existence with pedestrians.

The little I experienced of pavement cycling in Tampines seemed to suggest that Tampines is special. Even the pedestrians appeared comfortable with slow-moving bikes amidst them. The design and structure of the area was helpful too.

It will be interesting to see if the official, facilitated, pavement-sharing trial was able to encourage that natural evolution in the very short time tthey have.

Or did it simply serve as an advertisement for the sort of non-functional speedster that knocked you down?

We'll see.

It'll be a triumph if it works. But it might not mean it can be implemented as easily elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

To kai khiun,
generally agree with your points except about keeping to the left and the weather :)

keep too much to the left and you will invite cars to squeeze you into the kerb.
it is better to keep at least 1 m from the kerb - that way drivers are aware of you and not tempted to squeeze by you.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mr Yawningbread - interesting topic, I cycle since many years in Singapore, even far distances and I am not a poor migrant worker but I am a migrant worker of some sort... I suppose a large cycling community is Ang Mohs of any sort that are just used to cycle, and dont blame them its the fastest, cheapest and most healthy option .. a long as its quite short or a shower is in reach..

With regard to cycling on pedestrian paths, I would ask you the following:

A) How many cyclists are killed on roads each year? I don't have the exact figure but quite a few, more then ten at least. Terrible. Yet I would say from my experience Singapore is sill "relatively" safe to cycle (compare to Bangkok, KL, New York, etc..)... this is because roads are relatively good and wide, and people drive not aggressive or fast. Relatively!

B) Vice versa, how many pedestrians are killed by cyclists each year, 0? See, its a simple matter of survival strategy. I personally dont like cycling on pedestrian paths at all (too slow, lots of tree roots, rain drains etc) but for kids, oldies or people not so firm on the bike they simply find it more comforting.

To Kai Khiun - I disagree with point4, the FASTER the BETTER! If you can cycle 30-40 (like I try doing mostly), then you go with the traffic flow and much less likely are overtaken by cars which is the biggest danger to get knocked down.

I just again observed in LA, really a traditional car place.. amazing; bikes can be taken into the metro, each bus has bicycle racks on the front, cars drive more careful and observant thats quite good already!

Also I find more people should try cycling. Its a common erroneous believe that cycling is so terribly sweaty etc etc. Try yourslef on a warm day, a distance of say 3-4 km:

- Walk it all the way - totally sweaty!
- Walk to the bus stop, wait for the bus, squeeze in, pay a dollar, get out, walk again - MORE sweaty!
- cycle it, takes 10 min, nice and breezy! As long as you find the right path, can cycle etc...

I do have a car but very often I take the bicycle for short distance or for shopping at t few different locations closely together, its just much faster, ecological and sporty...

Cheers ExExpat

yamizi said...

Hi YB,

Just a few points of that I would like to raise from my experience as a pedestrian, a cyclist (when I was much younger and only on certain routes, from Ang Mo Kio to MacPherson) and a motorist.

I don't see building a bicycle path would have necessary enhance the safety of pedestrains.

1st. Say if the path is going to build alongside with the pedestrain walkway, it is easy for both cyclists and pedestrains to have cross-path and accidents still may occur.

2nd. Say if we are to follow certain country and have the bicycle path to be designated on the road that motorists are using, again, there may be instances that both motorists (take a good look at bus lane, there are still handful of vehicles in there during bus lane timings) and cyclists (probably too eager to do right turn? Had witnessed a cyclist occupied a full lane, 2nd from the center divider before) may cross-path and accidents still may occur.

3rd. Cyclists' bicycles have no registered numbers, so it is very easy for them to knock onto someone; scratch on some vehicles; damage some properties and getting away without been recognised and apprehended.

My personal feel is that it is how considerate the cyclists are. If they are using the pedestrain paths, then they ought to exercise diligence in ensuring they don't hurt or startled pedestrains. If they are using the road, they ain't paying ERP, COE and road tax, so try to be more polite and not act as if it's their rights to expect motorists to give way to them. If not, I think it is unfair for motorists who had paid so much to use a vehicle on the road and have to give way to people who di not pay any to use the road and could easily get away if they scratch a car or something.

Robert L said...

Dear YB

The Town Councils collect SC&CC from HDB flats and shops and use it to maintain the estates.

The shops along Race Course Road are not within any HDB estate and do not pay any fees to any Town Council. It's a similar situation at Raffles Place or Tanjong Katong Road and many other areas. You would not expect any Town Councils to have jurisdiction over such areas.

I wonder how many knowledgeable Singaporean are yet confused about this.

If you had instead written to the MP of the constituency, then you would not be wrong to expect jurisdiction over the constituency.

Anonymous said...

"What's that again? A trial in which cyclists are allowed onto footpaths to see whether there's any conflict between pedestrians and two-wheelers?

But isn't that what happens all over Singapore every minute of the day?

Why do we need a trial? Are our policy-makers blind? Do they pretend that nowhere else in Singapore do cyclists go onto pedestrian paths and an isolated experiment is needed? Why do we have civil servants with heads in such clouds?"

Thank you YB for again stating the situation in such clear and concise language.

In the end, it comes down to respect and predictability. As a cyclist, I try to make my actions on the road visible and predictable. But I know there are some motorists who vehemently believe that cyclists have no right to be on the road and go out of their way to "shock" cyclists.

Just as bad too are the pedestrians who step out onto the roadside without looking first (the opposite of what you encountered). These people I find are often more of a danger than the cars. They will wander across the road listening to music or talking on their handphones and mostly are unable to judge the speed of a bicycle travelling at 30 - 40 kph.

Some pedestrians also walk along the roadside, on or slightly to the left of the double yellow lines, which is the area where a cyclist would typically travel.

Until all road users show more respect for the others, and exercise caution when encrouching into the "territory" of the others, the problem will never be solved.

Drivers should leave at least 2 feet of space when passing cyclists. Cyclists should make themselves highly visible, especially at night, and avoid actions that might put drivers in a situation where they would need to take evasive action. pedestrians should do the same with respect to cyclists and drivers. And cyclists should never cycle on a crowded footpath.

Anonymous said...

it would be good to have dedicated bicycle lanes on our roads. people are riding onto pedestrian footpath because they are afraid of being rundown by cars and buses.

I know because i was knocked down by a public bus while riding my bike when i was a kid (i survived the incident and is able to share this comment on your blog). i still remember the bus going on at full speed while approaching the bus stop (those damn bus drivers of those days but still it is not any safer today, there more cars and buses on our narrow roads nowadays).

i am an adult now and do not ride a bicycle anymore, but if i do again it will be onto the pedestrian footpath. our roads are so narrow and congested with motor vehicles, the wise thing is to go there, ride your bicycles on the footpath.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir,
I'm a German living in Singapore for 10 yrs. I like your website and comment here for the first time. As a dedicated cyclist I nearly always use the pavement as I have experienced highly dangerous situations on the roads. So I was not happy reading your and many others' forceful opinion that cyclists here belong on the road. No doubt I also wish to find bicycle paths everywhere. But that's not yet the case. With law enforced, hundreds of fatal bicycle accidents every year will be the consequence - in comparison to today's occasional small injuries and pedestrian's discomfort on pavements. Mothers must now prohibit their kids to use the bicycle along roads. They cannot ask children to break the law but will certainly not accept the risk of their offspring to be killed by an ignorant driver. Is that what you want?

cynic said...

1) THere's a problem to promoting bicycling because you can't charge parking fee for bicycle, hence, little parking lot for bicycle anywhere.

1.1)It is ridiculous to chrg parking fee even outside of the town. That is another matter altogether, another day.

2) It is safer to cycle on the road in M'sia than in S'pore. Simply we have more considerate drivers there.