Thursday, October 02, 2003

Who gets killed on the road?

See the updated post here

According to the traffic statistics in the Singapore Police Force's Annual Report 2000/1, motorcyclists and their pillion riders are the single largest road user group involved in accidents - accounting for 46% of road fatalities in 2000/1 and 52% of people slightly or seriously injured. The sheer numbers make them a specific target group for road safety measures by the police. Trends point to peak hour accidents and younger riders.

But if you look at fatalities amongst all accidents for 2000/1, the fatality rate for all accidents is 2.1% (407/19,308). This is contributed largely by the fatalities by motorbikes and their pillion riders at 1.9% (187/10,029). Motorcar drivers and passengers are relatively safe at 1% (47/4,584). Cyclists on the other hand have a 3.9% (27/689) fatality in reported accidents and for pedestrians, its 6.1% (113/1,852)!

I am missing estimates for number of road users by user group. Considering the relatively small number of cyclists on the road, the 27 fatalities are high. But I can understand Traffic Police being more concerned, for now, about the 10,000+ injury-resulting accidents involving motorbikes.

First posted on Otterman speaks

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Thoughts about cycling in Singapore

I was part of a URA Subject Group to provide feedback to URA/NParks about the Parks & Waterbodies and Rustic Coast Draft Concept Plan. This was fed into the Master Plan 2003 subsequently. I spoke up for cyclists/skaters where relevant. No one was against sensible suggestions in this objective group but they were active citizenry, not government.

Suggestions ultimately have to be implemented and if attention is drawn to it, it gets some priority, especially by multi-tasking departments.

I have been mulling over some ideas, and here they are off the top of my head:

  • Leisure cyclists do not have a coherent voice, but I see now gradual changes in SACA; SMURFS and Togoparts are a very good development.

  • There are not enough events for regular folk. We have a few mass cycling but none on ride safety for HDB town riders. Groups like BOAC bikers contribute a lot and are very important. We need more to pop up. I know there are a few out there, I met them during some public rides.

  • Thanks to the internet and sites like togoparts, there is already a lot of basic information about bike shops etc. All this helps.

  • We must harness our voices with others who share common desires, e.g. Other park connector users: joggers, walkers, nature lovers, students. Mountain bikers should see how they can integrate their desires with naturalists. Park Watch groups have been formed to take a social role in their parks. We can contribute in some, e.g. in East Coast Park this has begun.

  • By not having a significant profile and reach amongst citizenry and their leaders, not enough people are speaking up at opportune moments ≠ squeaky wheel gets the grease.

  • Park connectors make up some 40km. Another 120km by 2015- not promised but it will be "a challenge" to realise this. We have to ensure the public enjoys the rewards of a park connector ≠ fresh air, less dust, a place of serenity, more plant and animal life nature, impression of space in a small country, connectivity between neighbourhoods. NParks has been on their own so fasr. E.g. there are RC leaders who believe park connectors should be provided with the connectivity despite the expense. I had balked at the cost of an underpass inane discussion, but he said it was a matter of priority, which merely depends on outlook.

  • The current state of park connectors has issues - they are blocked at a whim in some parts, they are not connected when they could be - we need to examine these and begin to take action in a small way.

  • There are mature plans overseas which have considered some of these ideas (urbanised cities have the same space issues) and I am looking for such information for ideas when I can.

  • I am not the idealist or visionary to think of inserting cycling lanes on Singapore roads. But how about cycling lanes in the very wide and frequently used roads for cycling such as Changi Coastal Road or Thomson Road, that is not too demanding? Are there not accidents at Changi Coastal Road?

  • Use such a proposal to find out who can and will do things, or who won't. Personal networking is very important. To get hints about timing to pitch, people to avoid and others to hunt down!

  • The cyclistπs image is bad in places like pavements in Punggol; mountain biking in some parts - exclusive or inconsiderate. Embrace a code of conduct. E.g. On pavements, park connectors, anywhere, the cyclists should give way to the pedestrian - and this also means not alarming them by loud warnings from behind. Race management must be done effectively yet politely so we do not antagonise others. Bikers should be more considerate when they go offroad. I see some sensible suggestions on Togoparts recently about riding safely.

  • We need bike clinics about traffic riding. That SMURFS group did a great job for introductory mountain biking. We need one for riding with traffic, as opposed to mountain biking, road riding and urban cycling. These are terms I use to differentiate the classes of cycling because they require different approaches and techniques; there may be proper names for these. For traffic riding, I still profit from my compulsory motorbike lessons for Class 2B and Highway Code taken some 16 years ago! You need to adapt those for bicycling. Even so-called experienced riders can profit from this from my observations.

  • If we don't care about others, should they care about us? It is easy to dismiss the needs of an unpopular group. How many are even thankful for mass rides organised for them like Leisure Cycling and Runway Cycling! A code of conduct might serve to build up an awareness of what is "not cool" to do. The inconsiderate cyclist is bringing disrepute to every other cyclist and closing the minds of the necessary people. Not everyone is objective enough to see past an unpleasant incident.

  • Cycling must have a more mainstream image than it has now. I seem to feel (but am not sure) this happening. Alvin was apparently working to get cycling recognised in NTU. We need more like him. I have friends in SACA who are trying with schools.

  • NTU's Round Island Cycling is the sort of event that we need to see more of. It was a hospitable environment in which beginners at long distance can safely tackle a round island ride. What you might expect from a national organiser level, but they did it. Kudos to the NTU students. I went up to them and thanked them and also emailed them my thanks again later. I wonder how many did. Some of friends did make the effort but our culture for acknowledgement is poor, although it can significantly motivate.

  • If any of us have a strategy or set of ideas which are coherent and practical get input from friends and send it the papers, SACA and the relevant government department. Then follow up on it. Individual action is also helpful.

  • Share thoughts with the cycling community, who must come to be socially conscious enough to understand such approaches. We must be able to talk about it to friends and colleagues. If it is non-confrontational, embracing of other communities (naturalists, joggers, walkers, etc) needs, sensible, practical and not too demanding, it has a good chance of even recruiting advocates.

  • It means compromise: you cannot sprint on a park connector filled with people. How many riders grumble abut how slow cycling is on East Coast park? There are good bits with the bad.

  • In Togoparts I see some young ones who appear to understand this already. It's a good sign. They are getting familiar with the methods. They'd better, this is their fight too.

  • Some nature conservation results were 15-years in the making. I feel the environment is now more hospitable to such a social process. What took a decade may now take half the time. Of course good timing helps. Will cyclists stand up and make a difference for themselves? There will always be drunk drivers.

Ride safe all.


First posted in Otterman speaks.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Safe Riding and Park Connectors

I registered at togoparts the Singapore cycling community's webpage, to post my condolences to Alvin (a.k.a. Kroxy) Ho's friends and family. It's been a sombre day.

It seems Alvin was hit from behind, nothing much you do about that. But it prompted a review of unsafe riding many had witnessed. As some talked generally about cycle lanes and classes to teach safer riding, I added:

"I feel cyclists would profit from the sort of basic training - theory and practical - that motorcyclists go through, at the very least. I ride on roads regularly and find I have to apply a lot of strategies to survive the ride. The lack of skills my friends potray shock me. Some are skilled offroad but traffic-riding is another story. Of the bunch, only one or two are road-worthy. Same impression at mass ride events."

I profited a lot from the philosphy of safe riding imparted to trainees when I took my motorbike Class 2B ages ago. I wish cyclists had something like that to turn to.

I am doubtful we will ever have the bliss of cycle lanes. My best hope is the Park Connector network. Another 120km by 2015. It's "a challenge" not a promise. We have to see that it happens somehow, all of us.

First posted in Otterman speaks.

NTU undergrad cyclist killed by suspected drunk driver

A friend of mine saw the news footage last night. Blood was splattered near a bus stop at Jalan Bahar.

"He was the last man in the group because it was his duty to ensure the safety of the other 20 or so participants." - Straits Times, 15 Sep 2003

Poor chap. Biking advocate. Only son. Friendly and humble chap from condolences at togoparts. Gone just like that.

A cyclist or pedestrian is easy prey for an errant driver. While pleased that most of my cycling kakis are now well lit on roads and wear helmets these days, we would still need a miracle to survive a rear hit by an errant driver. Drunk drivers should lose their right to drive forever, even after a long spell in jail.

Ride safe everyone. Hope you are at peace now, Alvin Boey.

See The Straits Times> report and Togoparts Forum.

First posted in Otterman speaks (post date refreshed to 2005 after correction to surname; press had mistakenly called him Alvin Ho; his cousin corrected the error in Togoparts).

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Alvin Boey killed - The Straits Times report

NTU undergrad out on a cycling expedition dies in road accident. By Ng Toh Heong. The Straits Times, 14 Sep 2003.

"A second-year NTU undergraduate out on a cycling expedition died after being hit by a car.

This happened just a week after police announced the number of fatal road accidents in the first half of the year rose 22 per cent compared to the same period last year.

It was along Jalan Bahar near NTU where the accident happened on a Saturday afternoon.

23-year-old Alvin Ho [actually Alvin Boey] and two other students were cycling back to the university from East Coast Park when he was hit by a car.

The impact of the collision flung him towards a bus stop and he died on the spot.

At his home on Sunday, Alvin's sister said she was too upset to speak.

Police have released the driver, a 31-year-old man, on a $10,000 bail.

He was believed to have been speeding towards the PIE at the time of accident and has been charged with performing a reckless act.

Reckless driving, police said, are the cause of most road accidents.

The driver in this instance was allegedly drunk when the accident happened."

Thursday, September 11, 2003

South Buona Vista and the Scandinavian

I met a hefty Scandinavian man on a bike as I cycled along South Buona Vista Road this morning. Well, he had an EU sticker on the back of his bicycle and replied "Ja!" He didnπt sound German or look Mediterranean and reminded me a little of an ancient mariner that used to teach me, Jon Siggurdsson. He was sweaty, rode well, and had saddle bags.

We chatted behind SBS Bus No 95 which was waiting at the red lights of the Dover Road junction. He too worked at NUS and said it was a crazy thing to do, riding to work but he just had to do it! I bade him an enjoyable ride and suggested trying to stay alive, to which he replied in camaraderie, "same to you!" We then set forth to battle the slope and traffic hustling into NUH and NUS.

I realised then that many ang mohs have told me that it is crazy to ride here. The contrast must be considerable, if the Netherlands was any indication. The cyclist is afforded bike lanes, right of way in some instances (I remember a driver frantically urging me through a box junction), flat ground (Dutch speciality I believe), cool weather...oh, so peaceful. All conspires to keeps the rider alive! My best hope for this in Singapore are park connectors of which we have 40km now, and it is suggested, another 120km by 2015!

Okay I admit, on occasion I enjoy the hustle and bustle of traffic (but never the air), the need to be on your toes and the little skills that allow you to reach NUS faster than the bus. I especially enjoyed crossing Geylang Road during our first ever National Day Fireworks Ride! A good test of skill, the maniacal look on my face can be likened to my old neighbourhood cat after she had caught her first piegon! I had just ridden through busy traffic unleashed from National Stadium and the rest of my party, sensibly I now say, pushed their bikes across the road. They were preserving themselves for the durians!

Well, if you cycle South Buona Vista Road at 3am like I did last night, you will enjoy empty roads, cold air and a downhill ride which can coax your bike, almost without peddling, right up to Buona Vista MRT Station! Simply amazing! And the chilly wind would be the closest thing to home for the avid Scandinavian cyclist!

First posted in Otterman speaks.