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?