Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Singapore Sports Council's Safe Cycling Guide

I just learnt of this lovely 48-page pdf booklet which various groups contributed to. It is a great resource for cyclists starting out and a great read even for cyclists who have wandered the streets for some time.

I have placed a copy on my server (click to download pdf)
Safe Cycling Guide « Safe Cycling Task Force

I first saw a link to this guide posted on the Safe Cycling Task Force (SCTF) blog [link] which has begin to get populated with posts. I'm looking forward to more!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Westward Ho! A safe ride on the Western Park Connector, which links eight parks

While the debate about cycling to work ensues, the quiet and continued improvements to the park connector network promise to enhance the leisure cycling population of Singapore in the years ahead. After almost two decades, there is a safe way for the leisure cyclists to take to the streets and it is a cause for celebration!

132zendogs-westernPCN-10jan2010 on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

083zendogs-westernPCN-10jan2010 on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

If a path near your home has the PCN mark, rest assured you have a link to much wider and safe routes. Eventually this number will venture to the roads and join the call for better conditions on the road for cyclists and help to ponder the solutions.

022zendogs-westernPCN-10jan2010 on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Ever since I heard that eight parks in the west were connected, I have been itching to give the Western Park Connector Network a twhirl. So two Sundays ago I headed out and the critical new addition? A bridge over the PIE! Now it is possible to cycle from Ghim Moh to Choa Chu Kang and Dairy Farm - all without fighting traffic! Yes, there is a safe reason to dust off that old bicycle now.

My fellow Zendog, Chi had scouted the route and along with Cat, Airani and Aaron, we took a slow ride (average speed 13km/h) through the Western PCN. Despite the lack of a sea view, athe western route is topographically more interesting than the coastal part of the eastern PCN, which connects Pasir Ris to Fort Road.

001zendogs-westernPCN-10jan2010 on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Flickr Photo Download: 195zendogs-westernPCN-10jan2010

Our route that day included Dairy Farm, Bt Batok, Jurong, Choa Chu Kang, Pang Sua, Bt Panjang and Zhenghua. The links are smooth and much of the route is shaded. The government has certainly invested a lot of money in the PCN and it was quite a privilege to enjoy the ride! It's surely time for the average Joe to buy a bike and enjoy the plantings, routes and scenes - touring the neighbourhoods would definitely be an eye-opener for people from other parts of the island.

Zendogs are pretty familiar with the west, but even for us there are always new things and people to observe - a man was quarreling with a crow, whom he said had pecked his head. When we left he was still brandishing his slipper - and the bird was following him - quite a personal altercation!

There are some pedestrian clusters through which you have to ride slowly or even dismount unless skillful enough to ride at a walking pace. Interestingly, people at these clusters were comfortable with our bikes, with no signs of nervousness that is sometimes observed elsewhere. We rode slowly, of course, extending to pedestrians the sort of courtesy we would like to receive from vehicles on the road. Since we were at a walking pace in some instances, we could even chat with some pedestrians!

All along, the route was well signposted. The connections were really easy to make as well.

The Hillview Park Connector is a converted pavements for most of its length which run past condo entrances - these require cyclists to be alert about vehicles entering and leaving their premises. Since it was a quiet morning, I switched to the wide road, a better option here, I felt. Thankfully, most of the connectors are alongside rivers (canals) and MRT tracks - these were heavenly!

I only had an hour's sleep the night before and had a lingering cough but the rest had assured me a comfortable ride. True enough, I enjoyed the ride and covered 46km. The last bit through Zhenghua Park heralds the end with a rustic feel complemented by the design of the benches and playground and the type of plants - rainforest tree species which were planted, for a majestic future.

Flickr Photo Download: 185zendogs-westernPCN-10jan2010

So what are you waiting for? Buy a bicycle and tour the west! In future the other PCNs will just as well be connected up. When the PCNs are then all linked, a leisure cycling paradise awaits you. It will be a great way to get to know Singapore. Meanwhile, my verdict? Five stars, out of five!

Nokia Sports Tracker Beta

  • Photo album of my ride - link

  • NParks: Park Connector Network - link

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

(Cyclists) Victims usually have themselves to blame

By Neo Chai Chin, Today Online, 13 Jan 2010. chaichin@mediacorp.com.sg

SINGAPORE — More often than not, cyclists are at fault when it comes to fatal or serious road traffic accidents involving them.

This has been the case in more than 50 per cent of such accidents between January and September of the last two years, said Senior Parliamentary Secretary of Home Affairs Masagos Zulkifli in Parliament yesterday.

Common causes for the accidents include changing lanes without due care, failing to keep a lookout, and failing to give way to traffic with right of way.

He was replying to Tampines Member of Parliament Irene Ng’s query on how roads could be made safer for cyclists.

Despite the recent spate of news reports about cyclists involved in accidents, Mr Masagos said the number of fatal and serious accidents had gone down.

In the first nine months of last year, there were 420 cases, a decrease of 30 cases from the same period in 2008.
The Traffic Police are also proactive in taking errant cyclists to task, issuing 471 summons in 2008, and 1,300 summons in the first nine months of last year.

The Traffic Police’s public education efforts include talks and exhibitions in schools, and showing videos to foreign workers. Learner drivers are also taught to keep 1.5m from cyclists and to check their blind spots for cyclists and motorcyclists, Mr Masagos said.


Chu Wa: "This is a wake up call for those who cycle carelessly. But it is not an excuse to NOT consider to make the road design more safe for cyclist -- What about the rest of the "accident"? Those who cycle carefully, follow the rules, and still get killed or hurt? Do they have to blame themselves as well? bad luck? Certainly the current road design can be improved to provide safer space for cyclists."

Ed's note: "Oral Answer to Parliamentary Question on what is being done to prevent accidents involving cyclists," 12 January 2010. Ministry of Home Affairs "Home Team Speeches" (see Paul Barter's comment below).
Ms Irene Ng Phek Hoong:

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs given the recent accidents involving cyclists on roads, what is being done to:

(i) improve safety on roads for cyclists;
(ii) educate motorists that cyclists have a right to be on the roads;
(iii) condition motorists to look out for cyclists.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Mr Masagos Zulkifli:
In the first nine months of 2009, there were 420 fatal and injury accidents involving cyclists. This is a decrease of 30 cases, or 6.7%, as compared to the same period in 2008. The number of fatal accidents in the first nine months this year has also decreased to 15, from 18 in the same period last year.

2 Investigations show that for fatal and serious road traffic accidents involving cyclists over the first 9 months of both 2009 and 2008, slightly more than 50% of the cyclists are found to be at fault. The common causes of accidents where the cyclists are at fault are namely changing lane without due care, failing to keep a proper look out, and failing to give way to traffic with right of way.

3 The Traffic Police has been educating the public on safe cycling habits as well as the proper sharing of roads by cyclists and other road users.

4 Traffic Police conducts road safety talks and exhibitions at schools and community-level events to educate all cyclists on traffic rules and regulations. These talks cover a pre-riding checklist, safe cycling tips and case studies of accidents involving cyclists. As part of the on-going “Road Safety Outreach Campaign”, posters and leaflets on cyclist safety are also handed out during these talks and exhibitions. To reach out to foreign worker cyclists, Traffic Police produces and screens a safe cycling video in different languages at the Ministry of Manpower premises and at the dormitories.

5 Motorists also have a significant role to play on our busy roads in according due care to cyclists. This is underscored from the onset of a learner driver’s theory and practical training. Motorists are therefore taught to give a side clearance of not less than 1.5 metres from cyclists when passing them. Motorists are also taught not to make sharp turns at corners and to slow down and give way to cyclists if it is not safe to turn. It is a strict requirement for trainees to check their blind spots during driving instructions and tests. This is to ensure that drivers are aware of motorcyclists and cyclists who might not come within their mirror views.

6 While Police will continue in their efforts to educate the public and take the necessary enforcement action, all cyclists and motorists must play their part and take responsibility for their own safety as well as according due care to the safety of other users of our roads.

Monday, January 11, 2010

"When the lines are fuzzy and nobody has the right of way"

"Be a cyclist in Singapore? No chance at all." By Tan Hui Yee. The Straits Times, 04 Jan 2010.

IT IS a sight that would make the skin of any driver crawl: A weathered old lady hurtling down the road's fastest lane on a kamikaze bicycle ride against the flow of traffic.

Kamikaze Auntie is usually found in the central districts of Singapore. She is robust enough to ride her bike without wobbling, but old enough to give you a tongue-lashing if you dare tell her she is riding dangerously. After all, it is illegal to cycle on footpaths in Singapore, she will snarl.

Against this backdrop, drivers probably felt nothing but relief when Tampines town announced last month that it was going to be the Republic's first cycling town. The two-wheelers would be given space on expanded footpaths so they could ride safely and legally alongside pedestrians.

But this has got some pedestrians all worked up. At work one day, I was treated to a long tirade from a colleague about the looming threat of gory deaths in Tampines as reckless cyclists mow down hapless residents.

'Look at what it is like in East Coast Park,' she cried. 'That is what it is going to be like in Tampines.'

Singapore's most popular seaside park is home to a whirlwind of high-speed cyclists, in-line skaters, joggers and campers. Jaw-dropping pile-ups are common there, as unsuspecting park strollers stumble into the paths of speeding skaters or cyclists.

It is true that dangerous cyclists are a hazard both on roads and on footpaths. Kamikaze Aunties aside, there are also clumsy cyclists who wobble along the road at low speed, as well as professional-looking athletes who are apt to weave from road to footpath, or vice versa, on a whim.

These cyclists stand little chance on the roads in a country known for bad driving. At least 15 cyclists lose their lives each year, many to drivers who feel that the roads belong to cars - especially their car.

The fact that the Land Transport Authority has resisted calls to build proper cycling lanes is probably one of the reasons that Tampines is expanding its footpaths for cyclists.

Still, the simmering debate begs the question: Do cyclists belong on the road or the footpath?

It is an issue which no amount of finger-pointing is going to resolve, but recent road traffic experiments in Europe might hold a clue.

In the bustling Dutch town of Drachten, the authorities have removed traffic lights, road markings and some pedestrian crossings. Lane markers are absent and there are no kerbs separating the street from the pavement. It is not clear who has the right of way, nor how fast drivers can go.

Conditions which most people would presume cause anarchy have produced the opposite effect: Traffic moves smoothly as drivers slow down to gauge the intentions of cyclists and pedestrians. All parties make eye contact with each other as they negotiate their usage of the ambiguous space. In short, the street has turned out to be safer for everybody, precisely because nobody has the right of way.

The Drachten experiment may be too out of this world for a place like Singapore, where there are clear rules telling people where they can eat and how to wash their hands. But the principles that apply in Drachten could well apply - in reverse - in East Coast Park.

Traffic engineer Hans Monderman, who reworked Drachten's roads, believes that clear lanes and street signs give drivers a false sense of security. Drivers speed down these lanes thinking there are no obstructions, which increases the severity of accidents should something catch them unawares.

According to Mr Monderman, lowering speed limits does not help if all other visual cues tell the driver that the road ahead is clear.

Which explains the pile-ups on the cycling paths in East Coast Park. The dedicated trails give cyclists the impression that they have the right of way and prompt them to throw caution to the wind.

Instead of erecting speed limit signs and slapping yet more penalties on errant cyclists, perhaps the authorities should be looking in the other direction. Perhaps the spaces - be they walking or cycling trails or secondary roads - should not be so clearly demarcated in the first place. (Note, here, that expressways are not part of this discussion, as such high-speed roads perform a key function in the transport system.)

After all, if footpaths are meant for pedestrians, and cycling paths are meant for bicycles, where should skateboarders and in-line skaters go? Where do motorised wheelchairs fit in, for that matter, or zippy two-wheel Segways, which are neither bikes nor wheelchairs?

How can the Singapore transport system accommodate a growing list of mobility gadgets in a meaningful way, without further cramping the available space we have?

Bus lanes need not exist if motorists gave way to buses on the roads. Similarly, cycling lanes would not be needed if motorists took care when overtaking them on the roads, and if cyclists themselves looked out for the safety of pedestrians in their way.

It might sound counter-intuitive, but the journey ahead could be a lot smoother if every road or path user had to learn to negotiate the space with every other user.

When the lines are fuzzy and nobody has the right of way, there could be just enough space for everybody, even Kamikaze Auntie.