Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Killing cyclists and cycling in Singapore

One of the WheelsAreTurning riders reported two accidents, one with a near fatality at least, last Sunday 19 Dec 2004, which he called a black day for cycling. He had looped back to offer help at one accident scene but was waved away, so one can hope the riders had things under control.

Now Mr Brown reports on the other accident and it sounds grim and the events leading to the incident almost unbelievable. [link/see update below]

Last month, a hit and run truck driver left a cyclist injured in the drain at the Sungei Kadut - Woodlands Road junction, heading towards the railway line. The driver of a passing bus ferrying Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve staff on their way to work stopped to offer help but was waved away by the rider's friend. The victim looked very bloody but hopefully recovered. The staff were talking about it hours later and told me about it.

Krish, one of the Buloh staff, told me he used used to cycle to work but gave it up after he deemed the route from Choa Chu Kang too dangerous. Likewise a Scandinavian friend, Morten Strange, also decided against cycling here. It's not because its hot or humid, its simply deadly.

When I read about bicycle accident statistics decreasing in Singapore, I wonder if it's simply because there are less cyclists - many have simply decided its too dangerous to cycle anymore?

See also Who gets killed.

Update on Sylvester Ang - The accident is reported in The Straits Times today. [pdf]

'A blue bus approached the group of riders from the opposite direction. A lorry was parked in front of the bus, so one of the cyclists signalled the bus driver to stop and not change lanes until the line of 40 cyclists had passed.

"But he showed me his middle finger and moved out of his lane." After the bus left its lane, the cyclists were forced to slow down and shift further to the left. "Some were squeezed onto the grass patch... we were forced to bunch up together." Some cyclists shouted at the driver to slow down, but in vain. Seconds later, a 'very loud' bang was heard.

'The bus hit Sylvester Ang and dragged him for about 7 m as it swerved back into its lane and stopped. Right after the accident, the bus driver was seen shaking his head and making calls on his cellphone. None of the passengers, believed to be tourists, got off the bus.'

'Police and the SCDF arrived about 15 minutes later and rescued Sylvester, using airbags to jack up the bus. He is now in intensive care, believed to have suffered severe head trauma, punctured lungs and multiple fractures to his lower limbs.'

First posted in Otterman speaks.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Make driving appear more dangerous to make it become safer

"Roads Gone Wild." By Tom McNichol, Wired 12(12): 108-110.

'The problem with current road designs are that driving and walking are assumed to be incompatible, and should be segregated. Traffic engineers adopt the idea that to increase traffic flow, just make roads wider - as roads became wider, roadside trees were cut down and other landscape elements removed. Road signs, rather than road architecture, enforced behavior.'

Pedestrians lost all their urban space.

"The strict segregation of cars and people turned out to have unintended consequences on towns and cities. Wide roads sliced through residential areas, dividing neighborhoods, discouraging pedestrian activity, and destroying the human scale of the urban environment."

Traffic engineer Hans Moderman suggests that most road signs are an addmission of failure. Imagine this - no street signs, no crosswalks, and no accidents. Driving shoud be made to seem more dangerous to make it safer.

The article discusses several case studies of intersections, road designs and experiemtns conducted in Europe that review the approach to traffic engineering, and thus urban design. Read "Roads Gone Wild".

It's good to know these are shared visions. But how long will it take to permeate the mindset locally?

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Boston cyclist maps bike paths

"Cyclist pushes mapped bike paths." By Anthony Flint, news, 15 Nov 2004.

"For drivers, Boston-area maps brim with detail -- one-way streets, highway entrance ramps, and in the case of MapQuest, the locations of Chuck E. Cheese's restaurants.

But what's often missing, avid bicyclist Bryce Nesbitt noticed, are features useful to those not behind the wheel: walkways, bike paths, T stations, shuttle bus stops, and pedestrian entrances to parks.

So Nesbitt, a volunteer for a Somerville physical fitness group, embarked on a self-styled crusade: to get mapmakers to show all those nondriving features correctly. " Read more...

Thanks to Paul Barter for the alert

Share the Road

I first saw this logo at the 3RVS CARES webpage. They were in meetings with their county commissioners and other officials with the aim of placing these share the road signs on "prominent city to country arteries that are frequented by both motorists and bicyclists."

The signs do not designate a road as a bicycle route but instead alert motorists to the fact there is a good chance of encoutering cyclists and prepare the motorist for an encounter.

The idea of bicycle lanes in Singapore has been raised and refuted a few times.

Perhaps "share the road" signs are a softer option to begin with. It will require a rexamination of the subject and prevent the same arguments from being drummed out thoughtlessly.

Well this first, then weekend cycling lanes next!

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Bicycle route mapping project

Togoparts bike trails forum is always full of questions about how to get from A to B and how to avoid hazardous places. I for one have always wished there was a good bicycle map for Singapore, like there are for so many other cities around the world, such as London.

So a few cycling enthusiasts here in Singapore have been discussing the idea of mapping routes here in order to create our own map! We have come up with some preliminary drafts to share. NOW WE WANT YOUR HELP. You will also see lots of question marks on the draft maps. We want feedback from all you cyclists out there. Are these useful. Are they correct? The routes are colour coded according to our rough assessment of stress level/danger level. Do you agree with our assessments? Do you know of other short cuts that we have not marked? Do you want to help create more similar maps?

Here are the maps we have so far and a very rough legend. We hope to gradually expand on these and improve them, with your help. Just click this link to view the sketch maps of the Clementi, Kent Ridge, Holland, Alexandra, Newton and River Valley areas.

WARNING: These are REALLY rough and they are not tested. They are rough drafts lah! If you use them then please be careful. Use at your own risk! Let us know about any problems you find.

Update (2008) - for cycling routes.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Urban cycling in Jakarta

--- beg ---
September 25, 2004
Cyclists, get set, ...oh the tracks are yet to be built!
Urip Hudiono, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

"..I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride it where I like."

The last line of Bicycle Race, the hit song of British legendary rock group Queen released in 1978 might echo the desire of Heru, a foreign bank employee on Jl. Sudirman, Central Jakarta, to ride his bicycle to work along Jakarta's major thoroughfare.

"I hope I can ride my bike to work... or at least use it to travel a short distance around my office building, to go out for lunch for instance," the 35-year-old resident of Bintaro, South Jakarta, told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

His wish, however, is not yet on the agenda of the Jakarta administration. Without a bicycle lane, daring cyclists have to negotiate the congested city streets.

"We have to compete against motorcycles, cars and buses on the streets. The exhaust fumes are unbearable and many drive recklessly," he said. "Even if we share the sidewalks with pedestrians, many of them are damaged or overtaken by motorcycles during traffic jams."

Heru said he could only ride his bicycle on weekends around his house or at the Bung Karno Sports Complex in Senayan, Central Jakarta, or on Jl. Sudirman on Sunday morning, when the street is closed for joggers and cyclists.

"High-rise buildings along Jl. Sudirman are actually nice to look at as we cruise along the street on a bike," he said. "I wish I could enjoy that every day."

Heru welcomes the proposal from the organizers of Bike to Work and Car-Free Day events that the administration builds bicycle lanes.

"It will be more comfortable if the lane has a canopy of trees to protect cyclists from rain and heat," he said.

The city administration will also conduct a feasibility study on the necessity of a bicycle lane.

The Indonesian Bicycle Industry Association (AIPI) chairman Prihadi also suggested that the city create a network of bicycle rental stations in business districts and shopping malls to allow people to rent bicycles to commute short distances.

"Such a policy will also help boost the sales for the local bicycle industry," he said, adding that the country's annual sales for bicycles is around four million.

Vendors at the city's main bicycle market in Pasar Rumput, South Jakarta, said their monthly sales of mountain bikes, which range between Rp 650,000 (US$71.43) and Rp 3 million, were at least 10. But the number can quadruple during the holidays or when there are fun bike events.

Although there is still no exact figure of cyclists in the city, Taufik, one of the Bike to Work event organizers, said he usually met 20 other workers riding their bicycles on his route from Ciledug to Jl. Sudirman.

"The figure is pretty much the same on other routes," he said, adding they were assessing the exact number of people who cycle to work to be submitted to the administration along with their bicycle lane proposal.

--- end ---

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Advice to newbie MTB riders

Advice to newbie MTB riders

Having ridden a little on local trails but not very much, here are some thoughts for newbie mountain bike cyclists, seeing that the next SMURF clinic is around the corner, on 19 Sep 2004.

SMURF Clinics - a foundation

SMURF clinics are a necessity. They aren't about how to ride a bike, so you have to learn to balance on a bike, change gears and brake reasonably well first. Get help from a friend for this.

The clinics provide a proper foundation which casual instruction does not achieve since it is guided by a syllabus. Ad hoc instruction on the trail by friends tends to respond to challenges of a specific trail. Without a lesson plan, familiarity leads to overlooking significant issues such as lowering seat posts when going into trails. I found out only much later and it was very helpful when I did!

Having advised newbies myself, I found this worked well - try something easy like general trails in Ubin, then to the SMURF clinics, and finally rides with instruction by friends at T15. The clinic provides a useful foundation which were upgraded later on other trails.

One way to pay instructors who provide these free clinics is to help them out at their cycling events or during the next round of clinics. SMURF clinics are run by "Uncle Nik" [Ho] and friends.

On mental preparation and confidence

When I first tried out trails, two experienced friends, Athena and Chi provided instruction and demonstration for specific (easier) trials at Sentosa. I listened, watched and followed and so it was relatively easy there.

On another occasion, Airani and I were late, rushed down meet the gang as they emerged at BT, did not realise we were doing the BT trail that day but followed them in and kept up (our first taste of BT as well). We had simply been too hasty, were not focused so both crashed at easy bits, mind you! My crash was mild (I tend to bounce off the ground) but Airani cracked a bone and her wrist was in a cast for a few weeks.

I realise for myself at least, the ability of both rider and bike outweighed confidence. When I work at confidence, I have an enjoyable rides free of excessive braking and dismounts.

Knowing your bike and practise

The more I got used to my GT Avalanche 1.0, the better I could estimate its ability and response to terrain. After more than five years on the Champion Du Monde, I am at times still compensating for the wrong bike!

A friend from the clinic I attended, YZ used to frighten me with stories of his spectacular crashes when he first acquired his new bike complete with disc brakes. He has since got used to it and there are thankfully fewer dramatic stories.

Since I did most of my haphazard learning with my heart in my mouth. I tried something else with some newbies - practising basic skills on simple trails and even on flat ground. Something they could also do near their place, on their own. It helped to build familiarity with braking ability, gearing, balance etc., and does wonders for confidence. They later realised a tough trail was simply an amplification of what they had already tried and the principles they learnt help them overcome these.

Riding kakis
On any ride, always go at your own pace. If are the riders are too fast and leave you behind, abandon the ride; its best to have company in case of emergencies. Ride leaders on Wheels Are Turning or DREAM-Escapades
usually indicate the type of ride and if they will wait for newbies. Find out if unsure.

Knowing the trail builds confidence
Don't be disheartened if everyone you are with on a ride seems to zip through a trail and are then are always waiting for you at the next slope. E.g. the T15 slopes. When you get to know a particular route well, you will become familiar with each slopes' incline, distance, corners, dangers etc. Regulars who zoom far ahead have this knowledge and it makes a big difference.

It's just like racing drivers who learn their circuits down to a T!

So learn a particular route well and tackle it regulary; you'll soon find yourself zooming ahead in the easy parts wiothout hesitation. Does wonders for confidence too!

From a post to Wheels Are Turning

First posted in Otterman speaks.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Cycle to work in Singapore?

I used to cycle a lot when I was working in Holland. However after I moved to Singapore in 1996, I realized that this city was not really friendly toward cyclists. I gave up cycling and start driving a car.

Two years ago, I started to experience frequent dizziness after squatting for just a few minutes or when I walked up stairs quickly. Then, while working on a research project last year, I was shocked to discover that physical inactivity, like smoking, is now one of the three main causes of unnatural death[1]. I learnt that regular moderate exercise is the best solution. So I began to to look for a form of exercise that I could perform regularly. I tried going to a gym, but that only lasted for a couple of weeks. I am, like most people, quite hopeless when it comes to self-motivated exercise!


I started to reflect on my experience in Holland. Cycling to work there was a form of regular exercise that was naturally integrated into my life. It is easy for the Dutch people to cycle; in fact cycling is often the fastest way to get around in town! Compared to Singapore, I noticed that in urban area of Holland, cars are fewer and slower, the air is cleaner, there is much less traffic noise, and overall it is a peaceful yet vibrant living area. No wonder Dutch are so healthy, I thought. No wonder the cost of medical insurance could be so low and their old folks were still pursuing an active life. A pro-bicycle policy has triggered a positive chain reaction leading to improved public health, a lower medical burden, better environment and better quality of life for everyone.

However, in Singapore, as soon as I wake up in the morning, I would literally be sitting down the entire day! When I go to work in the morning, I sit in my car. When I reach the office, I sit in front of my computer or in a meeting room all day long. Well, except for lunch break which involves a five minute walk to a nearby food center. After work, back at home, I sit in my sofa, in front of the TV, to "relax". Physical activity had been effectively engineered out of my life!

I started to see a connection between a number of issues in Singapore:
- High population of diabetics, now starting at younger age.
- Increase rate of obesity, also in young children.
- High medical cost, especially for the elderly.
- Stress and air pollution due to increased traffic.
- Faster traffic and lower road safety.
- Cyclists getting killed on the road.
- Parents afraid to allow their children to cycle.
- Streets are not safe for children to play (another reason a maid is needed).
- Hard to motivate kids to exercise.
- An issue of drunk drivers.
- Feeder buses in areas of low density living.
- Insufficient passengers in certain MRT stations to justify it's operation.

From a cyclist's perspective, all of this seems to be connected to the anti-bicycle environment in Singapore. This is not to suggest that a pro-bicycle policy will solve all the difficult issues immediately, but certainly, it will contribute in multiple and connected ways, towards a more positive situation.

The problem of riding a bicycle in Singapore

I wanted to pick up cycling again, for my own benefit and to inspire others. Cycling from home to work was not an option initially. I was too intimidated by the dangerous roads. However, cycling to the nearby MRT station was acceptable. So I rode to the MRT station near my house, locked my bicycle there and took the MRT to the station near my office. There, I had another bicycle locked and waiting for me to ride to work!

Unfortunately, both bikes were stolen after a few months!

Inspiration, experiment and innovation

After that painful experience, I read an article on a web page[2], which illustrated how folding bicycles are used to extend trips by trains in Europe. It was not only convenient but was also a healthy means of commuting. I was intrigued and wondered if I could take a folding bike into Singapore's MRT. To my delight, SMRT does allow folding bikes (when folded) on board the trains!

This can be a wonderful way to travel in Singapore, since it complements our present MRT system, eliminating the need to wait for a bus or walking a long distance, and is totally theft proof! I tried a few folding bikes including famous brands like Brompton[3] and a few Dahon[4]. Now I am using a new JZ88 foldable bike[5]. This bike is apparently designed specifically for Asian living in a compact urban environment. It is a lightweight, compact folding bicycle; is quick to fold and can be converted into a shopping trolley.

Initially I had doubts if this tiny bicycle could support my 175cm body height. However, thanks to its ultra-light structure and responsive ride, I now enjoy cycling so much that I cycle the entire 8.5km from home to work every morning! I am, however, extremely careful on the road, and will use the pavement if the road is too busy. I can bring it into any MRT station wherever I am and need not worry about bicycle theft again - I bring it into the office and keep it under my desk.

So who says you can't cycle to work in Singapore?


[1] WHO report indicated physical inactivity, unhealthy diet and tobacco use are the 3 main causes of unnatural death.

Ed's note - The World Health Organisation published the "The World Health Report 2002 - Reducing Risks, Promoting Healthy Life" which included in its cconclusions that "... in the developed countries of North America, Europe and the Asian Pacific, at least one-third of all disease burden is attributable to these five risk factors: tobacco, alcohol, blood pressure, cholesterol and obesity. The tobacco epidemic alone kills about 2.4 million people every year in industrialized countries. In addition, suboptimal levels of blood pressure and cholesterol each cause millions of deaths annually, and increasing levels of overweight are leading to epidemics of obesity and diabetes."

[2] Folding Bikes: Real Utility Vehicles / By Jack Oortwijn & Otto Beaujon

[3] Brompton folding bicycle home page

[4] Dahon folding bike home page

[5] JZ88 folding bike home page

Ref: Foldable bikes without protruding parts are allowed on Singapore's MRT. [link]

Thursday, August 19, 2004

A blind spot in Singapore's transport policies?

Since I arrived in Singapore almost 4 years ago it has often struck me as strange that this city state, which is so famous for its progressive and pragmatic approach to urban transport policy, seems to have such a blind spot towards bicycles. It seems odd because most other places that restrict cars and promote public transport (as Singapore does) also tend to make huge efforts to make walking and cycling attractive, since they complement public transport so well.

There are some bright spots for cyclists in Singapore, such as the growing network of bicycle paths in parks and park connectors, and the bicycle parking provided at many MRT stations, but mostly the official attitude seems to be something like, 'if we ignore them, maybe they will go away'.

Amazingly, cycling in Singapore is not going away. Sure, it is a minority thing, but the numbers of people cycling regularly are obviously far from trivial. In fact, leisure cycling seems to be taking off in a big way recently. I wonder if maybe a slightly different official attitude might be more useful?

I don't think even the die-hard bicycle fanatics imagine cycling will ever be the main mode of transport in any modern city. I certainly don't. However, maybe we can dream that cycling could be made a little safer and more comfortable, for the many who still choose to cycle despite the danger and hostile road environment. Perhaps we would even find that cycling has the potential to play a useful part as a niche in a 'seamless, integrated, world-class transport system' and complement all the other choices.

Cycling in Singapore

Two meetings and an email dialogue between transport and urban cycling enthusiasts revealed many interesting issues, views and solutions. In order to allow this content to reach a wider audience, this blog was created. It is a quick and easy means of sharing their information and a first step.

I subsequently added some relevant posts from my personal blog that predates thsi blog but this was when we got started - 19 Aug 2004.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Toronto pavement cycling: more collisions but less severe

In 2003, the City of Toronto published a Bicycle/Motor-Vehicle Collision Study, based on 2,572 car/bike collisions reported to their police between 1997-1998.

From the report: "Almost 30% of the cyclists involved in reported motor vehicle collisions were cycling on the sidewalk immediately prior to their collisions" - making sidewalk (or pavement as we like to call it here in Singapore) cycling the most likely cause. However, the injuries on sidewalk were less severe than those cycling on roads.

"Young cyclists were much more likely to have been riding on the sidewalk than were adults" - Amongst cyclists involved in collisions:
<18 years old: >50% were sidewalk cycling
>+ 18 years old: <25% were sidewalk cycling.

Frequency of collisions involving sidewalk cycling
Outer areas of city: 46% (522 cases)
Central area collisions: 13% (188 cases).
Think of Punggol, Sengkang and Pasir Ris as outer areas and this is an interesting observation.

Read more:
Toronto Bicycle/Motor-Vehicle Collision Study (2003),
Toronto Cycling Map: Tips for avoiding car-bike collisions.

First posted in Otterman speaks.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Riding posse for William Tan's ultramarathon

Reach Out and Run for the Elderly, 11th Jul 2004

In an effort to raise funds for the Toa Payoh and Geylang Senior Citizens Health Care Centres, William Tan once again raced his wheelchair over 100km of roads in SIngapore, through Toa Payoh, Paya Lebar, Geylang, Esplanade, Pasir Panjang, Clementi, Boon Lay, Jalan Bahar, Kranji, Woodlands, Admiralty, Sembawang and Thomson, before returning to the clinic at Toa Payoh.

Last year (13 July 2003), Wheels Are Turning were represented by Kian Wee, Airani and myself, as guests of Aaron's NUS' Cycling team, with Ling riding up front with the route leader. Yesterday (11 July 2004), Aaron, Airani, Catherine, Chi, Hua Qin, Ah Sheng, Dinesh (first time we met him!) and myself eventually served as part of the advance party while Ling and Janice were part of the main body.

Successful ride management provides a continuous flow of roads - no interruptions and few stops for William Tan on his racing wheelchair. Braking is an energy-expensive option and can be dangerous is too sudden. While the hired CISCO police always do an excellent job, and can even command non-major traffic junctions, a pedestrian or vehicle cutting into the path of the main body suddenly could cause a bad accident.

William's ride begins in heavily built-up areas, ventures out to more open areas (like Kranji Dam, Admiralty and Sembawang), and then returns to the urban sprawl once again. So the beginning and end of the journey are peppered with lots of side lanes, slip roads, turns and junctions posing potential danger.

The convoy looked like this in the end:
|Ambulance|--> |Main body|--|William & Core team|--> |Outriders, Blocking crew & CISCO police|--|Route truck|

A core team of about four cyclists maintain a pattern around William. They keep to his pace, encourage him when the going gets tough and keep a lookout while he concentrates on his demanding 100km ride. Together with some 20-30 cyclists, the main body forms a protective long 'vehicle', and is less likely to be missed or interfered with by vehicles on the road, although some still try!

The advance party of two outriders and a blocking crew ride ahead of the main body. The two outriders maintain a regular distance ahead of William, using their rear view mirrors. They cover emergencies that crop up behind the blocking crew or help out as blockers, and get the riders ahead to accelerate (a bell is useful!) if William catches up, to prevent unnecessary braking or a collision.

The blocking crew locks up all the side roads against impatient or unknowing drivers from crashing into William and the main body. They work with the CISCO police who are riding motorbikes, and at minor junctions, relieve the cops so that they can venture forward even faster. As needed, the blocking crew weave behind or ahead the route truck that directs the main body. It's hard work but fun as you have to completely stop in front of the junction or car you are blocking, see the front of the main body pass by safely, accelerate up ahead before blocking the next problem. Pretty good exercise!

None of had talked about our roles before this ride as we just turned up to register. The 2003 crew tried to slip in to old roles but things took longer to settle down. Since Geylang was peppered with many side roads, most of us began blocking and eventually settled down to this role. As we approached Sungei Buloh, and there was some discussion about the route, I became an outrider since I was fitted with a rear-view mirror and bell. So I partnered Dinesh who had maintained that position from the beginning and the others continued blocking of potential hazards ahead.

The core team and CISCO police picked up on this and soon everyone was working together smoothly. By the time we re-entered the urban sprawl in the afternoon, things were much more efficient and safer. I was quite impressed by the way WAT riders picked up on their roles and they can certainly be happy about their contributions that day.

Despite these efforts, a car rushed through the Thomson-Marymount traffic junction, between the outriders and blocking crew, and past a CISCO outrider who had parked stopped his motorbike and had stood in front of her part of the junction, shocking most of us! From her expression that one cyclist observed, the driver appeared confused and may have made a mistake. Luckily there were no collisions.

The advance party clicked into high gear after that and by Toa Payoh, were executing blocks and lane management over almost every inch with a vengeance! It became the safest it had ever been and I was quite impressed with the culmination of day's work. I guess we simply had enough time to work together. There were elements that could be improved and we will probably iron those out during future rides. Still it was an excellent display of initiative and team work.

William surprised me - he was traveling much faster this year. His fitness appears to have improved considerably, although the weather certainly helped. Particularly the strong drizzle that cooled off the potentially hot Lim Chu Kang tarmac. And he also climbed the SLF slope faster and with less effort, although it was still agonising!

I surprised myself by coping well with the distance. So I'm not that unfit and will probably be able to handle the KL ride next year. But I will really know in a day's time for that's when the aches appear.

On Sunday 17th October 2004, William Tan rides again in aid of the Senior Citizens Hardship Fund. Wheels Are Turning intend to ride in support again.

First posted in Otterman speaks.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

About concussions and memory loss

One of my friends, "Ling the Merciless" recently suffered a concussion. She fell down a steep slope and was thrown off her bike, landing on her face. She was immobile but eventually regained consciousness, was taken to SGH, observed and released with a one week MC.

Now she suffered a mild concussion and lost consciousness. Although it is not an exact science, with some 28 measures, the Cantu scale is often used, probably due to its realistic simplicity.

And it indicates my friend suffered a Grade II concussion.

Grade II concussions are not common even amongst collegial and high school American football players - a study of 17, 549 players revealed 88.9% suffered Grade 1 concussion and only 10.6% suffered Grade II concussion. Serious impact she took! If you perch on a bike at the top of the slope you will understand.

She experienced the "usual symptoms" - disorientation, confusion, loss of consciousness, partial loss of memory about events prior to (retrograde amnesia) and events after the impact (post-traumatic amnesia).

Maximal post-traumatic amnesia immediately after the injury is not unusual - hence, it was good that she as surrounded by friends who did answer her repeated questions about her whereabouts.

Though her memory may recover with time, a complete recovery often does not occur. There are apologetic psychiatric explanations about this but a mild head injury, though prominent for its transient functional loss, may be in all likelihood, accompanied by pathological damage - in one instance I read about microscopic shearing of nerve fibers in the brain. Ouch!

The treatment for concussion is rest - *Oh! Gasp! Really?* - tell that to my adventurous and active friend. 10 days to two weeks is a recommended rest period. Not that it means she get to mount her bike and tackle Bukit Timah immediately after that.

Some sports medicine researchers suggest a hasty return to sport may result in "second impact syndrome," which can be really serious? I haven't read enough but it appears to be linked to symptomatic patients (e.g. still suffering from headaches) returning to the fray, undetected or because an athlete's conscious choice.

Though supposedly uncommon and even disputed, it still makes for fascinating reading - there is some evidence that a period of change in brain function (e.g. in metabolic uptake of glucose) lasts between 24 hours to 10 days to allow for healing. During this period the patient may be vulnerable to injury.*So rest!* Somewhere else, I learnt that old fogies like me (>18 years old) are apparently less vulnerable since we don't have developing brains. Wait a minute!?

Anyway, the threshold for subsequent trauma may also be lowered, meaning any subsequent concussion may result in symptoms consistent with a more severe injury.

I've taken two hits myself in the past, mild ones. Grade I if you must, with no loss of consciousness.

In the first instance, I was in Secondary 4, and it was a PE lesson - we were playing rugby. I suffered a blow somehow but continued playing, and only experienced symptoms significantly, after the game was over. Walking back to class, I panicked at the thought of the 'O' levels the following week! I hadn't studied as yet! A classmate looked at me strangely and said it was still early in the year.

Then I could not find my schoolbag - it had been hidden earlier in the science block. I had a game going to evade prefects on guard in the mornings. I would slip past them into my classroom, after morning assembly but before classes began. It was test of how well we knew the school's nooks and crannies. Ironically, first thing I did was to mark attendance of the class since I was class monitor. It became too easy so I abandoned the game.

Luckily my buddy, the class chairman, knew about this duel and brought me to where my bag was hidden. So I got to change and study.

Second time, also during a rugby game, but this time in university grounds. Rather embarrassedly, I collided head first with the other prop - I was trying out playing with the forwards and was enjoying the heightened tacking immensely - up to that point. The little runt (opposition scrum half) we were after slipped out of our hands but even he as taken aback at the two of us groaning on the ground.

Interestingly I was brought back 5 years in time to the hazy events of the first concussion. Right there in the university field, my mind was flooded with the images of schoolboys and our rugby match that day, some six years ago. I silently struggled to overcome the same feeling of disorientation I felt then and now.

This was no namby-pamby deja vu. This was the stuff of time portals! Presumably the memory fragments associated with a hard blow to the head had surfaced with the right stimulant.

As I struggled to bring myself back to the present time, I pondered about playing in the last game of that day-long inter-faculty tournament. In the end I decided to go ahead and strangely enough, and to my relief, I appeared to regain clarity as I played! Now I find how silly that was.

In both cases, the other players were unaware of my mild trauma. Apparently in the US, they are thus concerned about "bell ringers" who continue playing, unknowingly at the risk of long-term risks. If coaches and other staff are able to recognise mild symptoms (presuming they want to) the athlete's may be spared critical injury.

For some reason, players who suffer a concussion are three times more likely to do so again! Just makes you wonder, doesn't it?

For me at least, its probably good to know the memories of the playing fields of my old school are just a hard knock on the head away.

Guskiewicz, KM. NL Weaver, DA Padua, WE Jr Garrett, 2000. Epidemiology of Concussion in Collegiate and High School Football Players. American Journal of Sports Medicine, 28: 643-650. The literature cited leads you to a large numbers of papers in this field.

First posted in Otterman speaks.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Drunk driver gets four months jail - reactions

Letters to the Forum page of The Straits Times on 4th March 2004, decry the light sentence meted out to the driver who killed togoparts and NTU cyclist Alvin Boey (press mistakenly called him Alvin Ho), R.I.P. See the ST report of the sentence.

One writer says, 'I am appalled at the light sentence - four months' jail for killing a cyclist while driving under the influence of alcohol.' "In another article on the same day, it was reported that a man was jailed for a year - three times longer than Koe - for oral sex."
The other writer says, "The message being sent out is that a cyclist, acting fully within his rights according to the Road Traffic Act, is expendable."
Read more....

First posted in Otterman speaks.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Driver who knocked down Alvin "Kroxy" Boey was drunk

"Soldier knocked down cyclist after drinking binge." By Chong Chee Kin. The Straits Times, 27 Feb 2004.

"SINGAPORE Armed Forces First Sergeant Koe Seng Wah had already had too many glasses of beer when he got behind the wheel of his car on Sept 13 last year.

It did not stop him from exceeding the speed limit though. Shortly after he left Tengah Air Base at about 4.15pm, he hit a 23-year-old cyclist, who died at the scene.

Yesterday, Koe, 31, was jailed four months for causing the death of the cyclist through his recklessness.

A district court heard that the breath analyser test he took about two hours after the accident showed he had 78 micrograms of alcohol in 100ml of his breath - more than twice the legal limit of 35 micrograms per 100ml.

The cyclist, Nanyang Technological University engineering undergraduate Alvin Boey, was on the road with a group of friends in Jalan Bahar, which has a speed limit of 60kmh, when the accident happened.

Koe, who was driving his car at about 70kmh, was on his way to pick up his wife and year-old son, when he spotted Mr Boey and his friends on the inside lane, travelling in the same direction.

Instead of slowing down or moving to the right lane, Koe continued driving on the inside lane at the same speed, and hit Mr Boey's bicycle.

The undergrad was flung onto the windscreen of Koe's car, landing so heavily that he cracked it before ending up on the road.

Investigations later revealed that Koe had finished work at the airbase at about noon and gone to the mess hall where he drank beer for about four hours until he left.

In his mitigation, he told the court he had a clean driving record before the accident. He also said he was remorseful and had swerved right after he hit Mr Boey to avoid running over him.

He could have been jailed for up to two years and fined."

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