To Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, let us co exist in peace as road users
by Adriane Lee on Sunday, August 19, 2012 at 6:35pm · ————————————— Dear Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong,
We write to you with great sadness at knowledge of yet another cyclist who was killed today 18th of August 2012. Mr. Freddy Khoo along with 2 other cyclists was hit by a lorry whose driver was supposed to have fallen asleep at the wheel at 655am along Loyang Road.
At the same time the news reported of a 65 year old gentleman who was killed at Jurong East by car and going viral online now is a video of a 13 year old cyclist who failing to keep a proper look out and crashed into a passing car. He is lucky however for he survived to learn from his mistakes unlike the other two gentlemen who tried to be follow traffic rules but were simply unlucky to have been mowed down by drivers who made a deadly mistake.
Just a few months ago, there was a similar case where another recreational cyclist list his life when a lorry crashed into him in the morning at Changi Coastal Road, the lorry driver too claimed to have fallen asleep on the wheel. Since then, there have been calls for heavy penalties for drivers who cause fatal accidents involving cyclists, there have also similarly been calls by drivers blaming cyclists for the deaths for simply being there on the road.
There is a growing misconception among motorists that road use is only for those who pay road tax and that cyclists do not belong on the road. This results in reckless and life threatening driving by drivers who think they are doing the right thing to show cyclists “where they rightfully belong” that being off the road. Actions that include passing cyclists at extreme close proximity at high speed, swerving in front of cyclists with horns blaring and even pushing cyclists off the road towards the kerb swearing vulgarities at the same time, actions that pose a real life threatening danger to both the cyclists and other motorists.
Cyclists have every right as other motorist to use the roads for road tax is not collected for construction of the roads as the common fallacy suggests but rather as a form of taxation for maintenance required as a result of use by motor vehicles. Non motorised vehicles such as bicycles are exempted because they do not tear up roads. However this right is not recognized nor respected by motorists and even government agency LTA. In other countries such as Holland, Australia , USA and neighbouring Taiwan, there are bicycle lanes in the form of demarcation on existing roads of a 1.5 to 2m zone where motor vehicles are not allowed to enter and similarly cyclists are supposed to stay in. However LTA in it recent disturbing statement by Minister Lui Tuck Yew, he stated that cycling lanes have no place in Singapore, partly because of space constrains but largely because it will give cyclists a false sense of security and hence it could be dangerous for cyclists.
How LTA came to this conclusion is still a mystery to all as facts and figures worldwide point to cycling lanes being the key to creating a safe environment for all. It creates rules and sets the boundary where both sets of road users, cyclists and motorists keep to. At present, frankly without proper demarcation to signal a proper keep away distance from cyclists, it creates NO SENSE of security for a cyclist willing to cycle on the road.
For those not willing to risk their lives on that road and there are many, they cycle on the pavement earning the irk of pedestrians as seen from news articles by reporters, letters from the public calling cyclists “King of the road” for they seem not to follow any rules. As one cyclist’s Mr. Francis Chu wrote in response to the press, cyclists are more orphans of the road, welcomed on neither road nor pavement.
The government is asking Singaporeans and residents to be more environmentally sustainable and to embrace sports as part of an active lifestyle. Yet when the call is answered by embracing cycling, we pay for it either with verbal abuse or our lives.
Cyclists are not saying that it is totally the fault of drivers when accidents take place, rather the present system is flawed with different agencies not working together to create a safe environment on the road. We admit that at times cyclists too are at fault and the problem is unless we recognize the rights of cyclists on that road, no measures are being undertaken to ensure there is peaceful coexistence. The efforts of the different agencies both government and non governmental are commendable but without collaboration, there seems to be many gaping holes in how policy is being planned and implemented. Even feedback to relevant authorities such as LTA seems a challenge in itself as seen from how close to impossible LTA has made it public feedback online to be with everyone having to register a lengthy form and having to log in even if one just wants to read comments posted on the public feedback forum. Feedback to LTA on this matter was acknowledged once but no action taken despite constant queries. For LTA to be answering for feedback for a 5 to 10 year master plan, is the response from a mere hundred over respondents really a representative of the active users want? Or is it merely to achieve a criteria in the feedback process that feedback must be sought but whether or not it is actually taken into consideration is irrelevant? Will this then mean again design that looks good on paper but is flawed during implementation.
At present there is no education for both motorists and cyclists which is what we need to solve the quagmire we are in of arguing over rights on the roads.
For motorists, education is needed to let them know that cyclists have a place on the road and that respect in the form of safe driving when encountering cyclists should be accorded to them as fellow road users. This is also to alert them to how to react to cyclists on the road and avoid confrontation.
For cyclists, education is needed for all cyclists on the rules and regulations that cyclists must follow as road users, for example, not beating the red lights, going against traffic, keeping to their lanes on the far left of the road. This is to ensure their own safety and to let other road users know cyclists can and do follow road rules as fellow users.
With regards to calls of penalties for motorists whose driving have killed cyclists to be increased,honestly increasing it might be a onetime deterrent but it does not solve the problem. We really rather that no motorists have to face trial for this offense as no matter how heavy the sentence the motorist gets, the life of the cyclist cannot be revived. Hence instead of increasing sentencing, we rather that education to both parties prevents accidents from taking place in the first place. We are sure that the drivers who were unfortunate to have been involved in the accidents are suffering from their own inner hell knowing they have taken the life of another. As the word says, it is an accident and we are sure no driver wanted it to happen.
Let not the death of these cyclists and the psychological trauma carried for life by these drivers involved be in vain, let us work together road users and the government to make sure these instances do not happen again.
You spoke during the National Day rally of a Singapore that is inclusive, a nation that we all embrace as one. One where the government and the people work together. Then let it start by a very simple act of promoting peaceful co existence among all road users be they motorised or otherwise, for that person on that bicycle regardless of race, religion, nationality is someone else’s father, mother, son, daughter, brother and sister just like you and me. By doing so, we will show to other nations, we are an inclusive society and one that Singaporeans can be proud to call home.
Adriane Lee.Cyclist,Motorist.Marketing Executive, Age 36 and somebody’s son Peter Chong,Writer and Photographer, Married with a 18 year son.