Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Recent cyclists accidents' revives discussion

"3 accidents in a day: Cyclists concerned," by Mavis Toh. The Straits Times, 12 Dec 2009. Drivers say cyclists ignore rules, but the latter say motorists are impatient

THREE accidents involving cyclists on Thursday have reopened a longstanding debate between motorists and cyclists over the issue of safe cycling on roads here.

A 35-year-old cyclist died after he was hit by a lorry in Bedok South Road.

In Tampines Street 81, a 64-year-old cyclist was seriously injured when he was involved in a collision with a lorry.

Another accident in Clemenceau Avenue saw a motorcyclist seriously injured after he was in a collision with a cyclist, who escaped with abrasions.

Police are investigating all three accidents. But the debate has already begun.

Motorists are frustrated with cyclists who they say road hog and switch lanes abruptly, often without regard for traffic behind them. The cyclists, however, say motorists are impatient and often drive too close to them and too fast, especially when overtaking.

In the first nine months of this year, there were 15 fatal accidents involving cyclists. There were 22 such fatal accidents each in 2007 and last year.

Former national cyclist Kenneth Tan, who cycles daily to his workplace in Thomson Road from his Woodlands home, said the hour-long ride is often dangerous.

A year ago, he was flung off his bicycle when the passenger door of a truck was suddenly opened as he was cycling past. He was warded for three days with serious injuries to his arm.

'The bus drivers are more considerate, but other drivers now tend to go faster and come very close when they overtake,' said Mr Tan, 42.

But marketing manager Tanya Tan, 34, said drivers were not always to blame.

She recalled an incident two weeks ago when a man in his 40s cycled on the centre lane of a three-lane road in Toa Payoh at less than 20kmh. 'All the cars had to slow down and there were several near misses,' said Ms Tan, who drives to work every day.

Under the Road Traffic (Bicycles) Rules, cyclists should ride close to the left-hand edge of the road so as not to obstruct vehicles.

In the first nine months of this year, the Traffic Police issued more than 1,300 summonses to cyclists flouting traffic rules, compared to 471 summonses for the whole of last year.

Most were fined for failing to ride in an orderly manner or cycling on footpaths. They were also fined for changing lanes without due care, failing to keep a proper lookout, and failing to give way to traffic with the right of way.

Many of the drivers and cyclists The Straits Times spoke to were also unclear about the traffic rules concerning bicycles. Several drivers said cyclists should get off the roads and ride on footpaths instead. But it is illegal for them to do so.

To ensure safety, several cyclists suggested that a cycling lane be introduced. Said Mr Adrian Mok of the Safe Cycling Task Force: 'We can mark out smaller lanes on existing roads or widen pedestrian paths for cycling.'

But a Land Transport Authority spokesman said that, given Singapore's land constraints and the need to optimise available land space to meet the needs of all road users and pedestrians, it was not feasible to provide dedicated lanes for bicycles on the road.

Currently, there are cycling tracks off the road in five towns - Tampines, Yishun, Sembawang, Pasir Ris and Taman Jurong.

Mr Tan Jin Thong, president of the National Safety Council of Singapore, wants to make it mandatory for cyclists to wear helmets and abide by bicycle rules. mavistoh@sph.com.sg

Additional reporting by Linus Lin

"Save lives by having separate lanes," letter by Daniel Chan. The Straits Times Forum page, 14 Dec 2009.

"LAST Saturday's report highlighting accidents involving cyclists ('3 accidents in a day: Cyclists concerned') once again brings the issue of safe cycling to the fore.

There were 15 fatal accidents involving cyclists in the first nine months of this year, and one wonders how many more fatal accidents there must be before the authorities sit up and take notice.

While cyclists do not threaten the safety of motorists, the lack of space for motorists to pass cyclists safely only adds to the frustration of driving. Also, a lack of policing has allowed some cyclists to flaunt traffic rules at their own whim and fancy.

Clearly, something must be done to accommodate the increase in numbers of both cars and cyclists on the roads. As the statutory board that spearheads land transport developments in Singapore, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) must take cognisance of both the safety of cyclists and the frustrations of motorists.

It is no longer tenable nor persuasive for the LTA to reiterate that Singapore's land constraints make it unfeasible to provide cycling lanes. Cities such as London and New York, which are as densely populated as Singapore, have successfully introduced cycling lanes. The benefits are obvious: Traffic flow will not be impeded by slow bicycles, while cyclists will be shielded from dangerous traffic. Other countries like France have made it illegal for cars to overtake cyclists without a gap of 1.5m.

The experiences of other countries make it clear that positive action can be taken to better accommodate both cyclists and motorists in Singapore. LTA's unwillingness to take action has frustrated all road users."

Daniel Chan

"Cyclist recalls close calls on the road," letter by James Wong. The Straits Times Forum page, 15 Dec 2009.

"I REFER to yesterday's letter by Mr Daniel Chan ('Save lives by having separate lanes'), regarding safety of cyclists on Singapore roads and the number of fatal accidents involving cyclists.

I am an avid cyclist who cycles once or twice a week. Last Saturday morning, I was almost run down by a taxi driver.

I was cycling along East Coast Road at 6.15am. Suddenly, a taxi travelling in the opposite direction turned right into my path to pick some passengers standing on my side of the road.

Had I not slowed down to avoid the taxi, I would have been knocked down. I confronted the taxi driver but instead of admitting his mistake, he challenged me to a fight, all the time shouting at me that I had no right to be on the road.

I have had a few close calls on the road and most of the time, taxi drivers have been the culprits. They stop suddenly to pick up a fare, make illegal U-turns, or cut two or three lanes to drop or pick up a passenger. Bus and truck drivers are the other bullies.

My bicycle has a bright flashing headlight and tail light. There is no way I cannot be noticed. It is just that most motorists feel cyclists do not belong on the road and have no right at intersections.

Many cyclists use Changi Coast Road on weekends. Although there are many speed regulation strips along this stretch, many motorists use this road to test the speed limit of their cars.

I hope the Traffic Police will not wait until more cyclists are killed before they install speed cameras there.

I also suggest that the Traffic Police and the Land Transport Authority put up more conspicuous signs to remind motorist to look out and give way to cyclists. Some signs are already there but they are not conspicuous enough.

Cyclists also share some of the blame. Some cycle at night without proper lights and do not follow the Highway Code. Traffic Police should make it mandatory for bicycles to have headlights and tail lights all the time, with a stiff penalty for failure."

James Wong


Indiana said...

And yet even where there are dedicated cycle paths, even if clearly marked, pedestrians then flout the signage and walk 4-5 abreast blocking the path even stopping in the path and adding to accidents. I suffered a compound fracture to my elbow when a pedestrian walked out onto a bike path without looking then just stopped, the resulting crash had me hospitalised twice for a total of 6 days and cost me nearly $30K in medical bills.

It seems to me that in the rush to "modernise' Singapore has lost its cycling past, or rather in the RUSH that is Singapore everything has to be done in a hurry, and maybe if people slowed down a little and, dare I say, a little more courteous, the roads could actually be shared.

dsowerg said...

I'd like to repeat this - the TP advice to cyclists to cycle as close to the kerb as possible is STUPID!!! When you leave space next to you, that's just inviting cars to encroach into your space.

And if some car really gets too close, you have no escape route. HELLO, rock hard pavement.

Hold up traffic if you must, as long as you do it on the left lane and get home SAFE!

Anonymous said...

I like how the ST's subtitle paints both groups in broad brush-strokes.

"Drivers say cyclists ignore rules, but the latter say motorists are impatient"

This gives the impression that cyclists typically ignore rules and motorists are typically impatient.

Of course, when you read what's actually in the article, all you get are anecdotes of extreme impatience or extreme disobedience of rules. Tanya Tan did not say 'cyclists ignore rules'. She just said some don't. Reinforcing stereotypes with such a misleading subtitle is plain irresponsible on the part of the ST.

There is also an asymmetry here that is not getting much play. When drivers drive unsafely out of impatience, they are endangering other people's lives. When cyclists ignore rules, the threat they pose to other people's lives while doing so is much smaller. So I don't see how drivers with any conscience can uphold the 'since cyclists break rules, I can drive unsafely' line. (And this is if we ignore the usual point about how two wrongs don't make a right. If someone behaves irresponsibly, does that make it OK for me to put his life in danger? )

Back2Nature said...

Someone please stress on defensive cycling, and driving. Defensive behaviors have the objective of zero [near] accident.

Wearing helmets DO NOT ensure safety, it just may reduce head injuries, which is still in debate.

I suggest the LTA, TP and the Safe Cycling Task Force should conduct surveys to find out good/best practices from cyclists who have been commuting regularly on roads for years (i.e. they survived so far), instead of just based on what they imagine or their own experiences.

One can have all the lights, safety helmets, knowledge of rules and right of ways, etc. etc. BUT defensive cycling IS the most important thing that enhance safety.

Sivasothi said...

I took a motorbike license in the late 80's and the defensive riding techniques they emphasised and my time on a motorbike (mainly in Penang) made me a very safe cyclist. And yes, I do not hug the kerb.

Such training should be made mandatory for all cyclists on roads - in addition to the highway code.

A critical tool in addition to the headgear, clothes, lights, etc is a rear view mirror. Cyclists without one should not be riding amongst traffic.

Cycling slowly helps avoid injury; in slow lanes and shared paths, I slow down in case of errant pedestrians.

Of course, nothing will save us from an errant driver; peak hour traffic is thus best avoided. So I am not comfortable about suggesting to enthusiastic friends that they ride to work.

Instead I suggest they examine the specific risks in relation to themselves, along their intended route, before deciding. I point them to discussions like these which highlight the issues.

Anonymous said...


Could not agree more. It's also not just the threat of cars coming too close. There is often debris and other dangerous obstacles near the edge of the road. If you cycle too close to the edge, you may have no choice but to run into them.

I don't know who formulates this 'advice' but it seems clear to me that they know very little about safe cycling.

It's also worthwhile to note that some studies have shown that sidewalk cycling is more dangerous than road cycling.

thomask said...

Daniel Chan's letter was entirely correct (if a little too apologetic for naughty cyclists imho)... :P

For the LTA to keep spouting the "no space, lah" line is disingenuous at best and outright laziness at worst.

It could be they're stalling for time until the park connectors are fully implemented, as they don't want redundancy, but I'd argue the two spaces - PCNs and bike lanes on roads, serve two different sectors of the community: leisure / recreational cyclists and committed cycle commuters or fitness enthusiasts, respectively.

Road lanes here can easily fit one and a half cars. Narrow them all down to 1 1/4 lanes, and add a cycle lane. Not difficult, not expensive. People might have to learn they can't drive by aligning the white line between the headlights however... ;)

With China recently overtaking the US as the largest auto manufacturer and consumer, and cities such as Bangkok, Dhaka, Delhi, Hong Kong and Shanghai locked in seemingly endless traffic jams, it seems to me that Singapore has a "unique" opportunity to buck the Asian trend and actually become a more and more liveable city, rather than retreat down the rankings.

Long said...

I'm a cyclist and I rued for every day that I could not cycle to work. I would love to have separate cycling lanes but they do have some impact:

1) Road widths in Singapore are maximised considering that it is about 3.4m for the inner and outer lanes and 3.25m for other lanes

2) Singapore has to consider roads and roads reserves and other things such as planting strip (1.5m), pedestrian pavements (1m) and drains + their reserves (varies - average 3m).

3) Properties are already bursting at their seams with the small plot areas considering everything in point 2.

4) Changes require an intergration with the respective planning departments like URA, SLA, NParks, BCA, NEA, MOE(E for Env) etc.

The crux is: yes! It is really difficult to incorporate cycling lane in Singapore! Unless we are willing to give up something, like our planting strips, which are the first elements beside our roads usually. There goes our beautiful rain trees.

So what can be done to satisfy a group of cyclists and would be cyclists? I am not sure but maybe I can throw something up:

1) Pave all open drains and use that a pedestrian pavements. Thatll free up some space safe cycling lanes

2) Have designated cycling highways away from the bz roads. Cyclists will then break off from the highways to get off onto local cycling paths to get to their destination.

3) Encourage ministers and the chief of TP to cycle to work. (joke joke..)

It is not a thing that can be implemented quickly but something that require a lot of planning. first there must be a critical mass: the Authorities will not move if there's no critical mass. However cyclists will argue that if you have the infrastructure, you will have the critical mass. There is one thing for sure is that I can bet on my skinny and sometimes aching cycling ass that the Authorities will not do anything unless there's an imperial edict to finally recognise cycling as not a recreational pet peeves of a few selected treehuggers but an official mode of transport.

1 thing for sure is this: We, as a nation, have shown that we can do it if we want to do it. The ball is not in our court, it's in the Gov't court. Sad to say this, cycling is not a matter of national interest...

So ride safely everybody! And Godspeed!

Back2nature said...

I have shared some views on defensive cycling here http://back2nature.blogspot.com/2009/12/my-cycling-in-singapore-experiences.html

After that then I googled and found some other places on this.

LCK said...

it is sad to learn that another cyclist passed away on last Thursday along Sembawang Road.

Tucson Injury said...

I believe everyone should be responsible when on the road. Not only drivers but also cyclists and pedestrians. If everyone are responsible enough, road accidents could definitely reduce dramatically.