Sunday, May 16, 2010

Evelyn Toh, RIP 2010

"Cyclist dies after being hit by van," by Melissa Pang. The Straits Times, 16 May 2010. Man held over death; fatal accident comes two months after another cycling death

Ms Toh posing with her bicycle in this photo, which was taken by her husband Hoi Seng just before she went on her ill-fated ride last Thursday. - Photos courtesy of the family of Evelyn Toh
It was a photo taken before she went on her usual cycling routine, and the last that would ever be taken of her.

Last Thursday, Ms Evelyn Toh, 39, became the latest member of the cycling community to die in a traffic accident.

Her husband, who would give his name only as Hoi Seng, said he snapped the photo on the day of the accident. He said his wife, whom he wed 11 years ago, liked to be photographed in her sports gear.

Her death follows that of Mr Benjamin Mok, 35, who died two months ago after he was hit by a suspected drunk driver. A 62-year-old general practitioner was arrested in the case.

Hoi Seng, 40, a manager, said his wife had at least 15 years of riding experience. They have no children.

'When the police called, I did not believe that the accident was possible. She was a very safe and experienced cyclist.'

He knows little about the accident except that his wife was hit from behind by a van while on her usual cycling route along Sembawang Road.

The housewife, an avid sportswoman who participated in up to seven marathons and triathlons a year, was taken to Tan Tock Seng Hospital where she succumbed to serious injuries.

Chinese-language newspaper Lianhe Wanbao reported last Friday that a 53-year-old man had been arrested for causing death by a rash act.

Ms Toh is remembered by Singapore Armed Forces technician Ayub Hasbi, 46, for her safety-conscious ways.

Saying he knew the former Iron Man participant through a weekend cycling group, he added that she would 'warn us about potholes, traffic lights and cars'.

Mr Ayub, who has more than 20 years of cycling experience, thinks more needs to be done to improve safety for the cycling community.

Last year, 17 cyclists and pillion riders died on the road, down from 22 in 2008.

After Mr Mok's death two months ago, cycling groups stepped up efforts to make roads safer for cyclists.

The Straits Times reported last month that Safe Cycling Taskforce president Steven Lim was looking to increase the number of road signs that warn motorists of the presence of cyclists.

There are currently at least 119 'Cyclists Ahead' signs.

Mr Ayub, however, questions the usefulness of these signs.

'It is giving an instruction, but whether motorists follow it is another matter. Even if the signs are big, they won't work if motorists do not show regard for them.'

But former national triathlete Jeanette Wang thinks 'a sign is better than no sign' and that they can be effective.

'Out of 10 signs, motorists will see at least one, and will know to look out for cyclists.'

Ms Wang, 28, an associate editor at Shape magazine, admits that cycling continues to be a dangerous experience for her.

'There's always a close call when I'm on the road. I have to jam-brake every time I ride because cars just don't notice me, even though I have front and back lights, and reflector strips to make myself more visible.'

Mr Robert Choy, 50, who has been cycling for 30 years, said motorists and cyclists both have a role to play in working towards a common understanding.

'Singapore drivers don't have the patience for cyclists. They also don't anticipate how fast a bicycle can go and think they can beat all cyclists,' said the self-employed man.

According to him, serious recreational cyclists can reach speeds of up to 70kmh when going down a slope. Ms Wang estimated that these cyclists travel at 35kmh on average.

Hoi Seng and his family hope Ms Toh's death will help raise awareness of the importance of road safety for cyclists.

Said his elder sister, who declined to be named: 'It's important to educate the public...If other road users were more careful and considerate, lives would not be wasted.'

Hoi Seng is unsure if he will ever cycle again.

'Evelyn was my inspiration. We'd look out for each other on the roads when we cycled,' he said.

'But I know she would want me to continue. She had always encouraged me to lead a healthy lifestyle.'

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