Sunday, March 30, 2008

Security guards 'wheelclamp' my bicycle!

Check out the sign on the wall in the photo's background. My bicycle was mistaken for a motorcycle by the over-enthusiastic security staff of Orchard Cineleisure and 'frame-clamped' by their little red cable lock. I guess, they were afraid that I might drag race or drip some motor oil on the granite floor just outside the building ;-). So they locked my bike up.

I did appreciate the added security for my bike, though. It was only the inconvenience of calling the security department to unlock it. They, of course, came in a buddy pair (just in case the hurly-burly biker wanted a rumble!?) and pointed to the "No motorcycle parking sign". I was very amused. Shook their hands. My bike's horsepower has just been upgraded!

The facts of the story: They pointed to the motorbike wheelclamp sign and said "cannot park here." So I said, "cannot park what?" They pointed to the sign and said "bicycle." I asked what the picture was, and one of the security guards said that he will bring a very thick regulations book to prove to me that bicycles and motorcycles were in the same category of vehicles banned from parking at the side of the building. I thanked him and said I wouldn't know how to read it.

You see, the issue was that I cable-locked my bicycle on the "Cineleisure side" of the public/government fence. My tires were touching the granite floor that belongs to Cineleisure. When I said that the fence is a government fence, they said, "then lock it on the grass side." The grass side is state land allocated for the new *scape Youth Hub.

I was wondering what the real difference it would make to the building's facade, since my bike, if locked on the other side of the same part of the fence would still probably lower the status and value of the building with its presence (maybe I should get a Ferrari logo, might work better than my wornout Hercules decals! ;-) )

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Is Kembangan bicycle theft central?

All this while I had assumed Pasir Ris was bicycle theft central. A recent letter and some comments suggest it might just be Kembangan!

A letter to Today by a Kelvin Kuan sparked a couple of other lettters by Today readers, one of whom said that even bicycles in houses aren't safe! And the comments to the blog post that reproduced the letter fill in other blanks around the story. So the 2005 initiative to combat bicycle thefts has not worked. Or at least not enough.

Even bicycles costing less than $100 are game.

One possibility is that cheap bikes may be stolen for their value in the heavy steel used to make the bike. After all, drain covers started disappearing in 2005, so bicycles are fair game too. My old bike, the very heavy "Champion Du Monde," was finally claimed by rocketing steel prices. It had languished in a corner of campus, as I looked a for a new owner interested in a free but heavy bicycle. Then steel prices went up, and it disappeared satisfyingly. The lock and chain were simply a bonus!

So the "flimsy locks" that used to sufficiently secure a bicycle outside an MRT are now definitely inadequate. There might be more determined hands at work these days. The trouble is, a good lock may cost more than a very cheap bike!

So we wait eagerly for a response from LTA or the SMRT regarding surveillance at bike parks next to MRT stations. Meanwhile we wonder - in in this day and age of heightened security, shouldn't the environs of an MRT station should be monitored. Weren't they a target once?

The Minister of Home Affairs responded to this question in parliament, no less, in 2005. This will work to our advantage. Helping to catch a petty thief every now and then will keep security services on their toes and help highlight problems in surveillance procedure and equipment. You know you have heard it all before: sorry, the machines were not working, they were not turned on, the media was erased, the light was too dim, etc. Installing equipment is only the first step and no substitute for an integrated programme.

So SMRT and the police should welcome the cases - better we practise with bicycle thieves now and be able react efficiently in the face of a more significant threat.

Else, you know, we might get complacent.

Call to Urban Planners - heed demand for bicycle lanes

Letter from Patricia Chee, Bukit Timah
Today, 19 Mar 2008

"I refer to "The politics of sidewalks" (March 15-16). There seems to be growing demand for bicycle lanes in Singapore, yet urban planners do not seem to be heeding these calls.

Cycling offers several benefits. It can help ease our transportation woes and help reduce global warming and improve our health. It will also help us save money by countering the effects of rising oil prices.

Kudos to Members of Parliament Teo Ser Luck and Irene Ng for raising this issue recently in Parliament.

I think our urban planners should walk around more often. They could, for example, go to Bedok MRT station, and see for themselves, the large numbers of bicycles chained to any available guard rail and tree. They should also ride a bicycle along the East Coast Park and feel the wind blowing in their faces. This is far more enjoyable than being squeezed with other commuters in air-conditioned "comfort".

Some major cities are already pushing bicycles as an alternative means of transport. Paris, Barcelona, Geneva, Stockholm, Oslo and Vienna offer bicycles for rent as they try to reduce the number of cars in big cities, improve air quality and provide a fun alternative to trains.

In Paris and Barcelona thousands have bought low-cost annual passes to rent bicycles from hundreds of stations located throughout the cities. Organisers of the 2012 London Olympics are considering a ban on the use of cars at all the Games' major venues, meaning spectators would have to walk, cycle or use public transport.

Singapore should consider these creative approaches to solving traffic congestion instead of tweaking ERPs and COEs."

Monday, March 17, 2008

Bicycle parking bay needs camera surveillance

I think the bicycle parking bay needs camera surveillance!

Today, 17 Mar 2008
Reader has lost 3 bicycles after parking them at Kembangan MRT station
Letter from Kelvin Kuan

"I live in the area around Telok Kurau and on most mornings, I ride my bicycle to the Kembangan MRT station to catch a train.

The first time I did that was about six months ago when I parked my $200 bike in the bicycle parking bay. When I came back later that day, it was missing. I made a police report but knew it was as good as gone - I told myself it was my fault for leaving an expensive bike there.

Then, I was given two bicycles by a friend - they were not in good condition but were still serviceable. I decided to use them to get to the station.

On one occasion, I had to park the two bikes together as I had forgotten to ride one home the previous night. I used two locks and chains, but when I got back the next day, both bikes were gone.

My most recent bicycle was in a sorry state. It was old, and its frame was rusting. Due to the recent weather conditions, I had to leave it at the station for three consecutive days as I was unable to ride home in the heavy rain. Guess what? The bicycle, together with its chain and lock, was stolen!

I am really frustrated because I cannot do anything about these thefts. The station manager at Kembangan said that the bicycle stand is not under their purview, and I know the police will definitely not go looking for an old bicycle. Some friends have said that their bikes have gone missing too, after they parked them at the station. Can the relevant authorities please comment on this ?"

Today, 20 Mar 2008
Letter from Kwa Hwee Keng
Thief climbed over wooden fence to steal bicycle from porch

I sympathise with Kelvin Kuan "Where have all my bikes gone?" (March 17). I live near Kembangan MRT station, in the Siglap area.

Recently, my son's bicycle was also stolen. The thief climbed over the wooden fence of my house in the wee hours and stole the bicycle, which had been left on the porch. This, despite the fact that my porch is not visible from the road.

As Kelvin Kuan's bicycles were stolen despite their sorry state, I wonder if the demand for scrap metal has prompted these thefts.

Letter from Hoo Choon Lye

I refer to "Where have all my bikes gone?" (March 17) and fully empathise with Kelvin Kuan's plight.

My son lost two bicycles in less than a month. They were stolen from the bicycle park at Admiralty MRT station and a void deck at Woodlands Crescent. When I made a police report, the investigating officer told me that such cases are widespread. Having read about the thefts at Kembangan, it seems to me that such thefts are now rampant.

The public must be confident that it is safe for them to park their bicycles at designated bicycle parks. Thefts that occur erodes this confidence.

See also the comments below.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Articles about the pavement-sharing trial in Tampines

The blog, "Irresponsible motorists in Singapore" is discussing the issue of pavement sharing between cyclists and pedestrians as a result of the Tampines trial.

Under the title "Keep Cyclists Out Of The Pedestrian Footpath," the author, Stomponli, discusses the law in Part 1 and lists the articles in Part 2. A part 3 is promised. Update: Part 3, his reasons.

You can keep tabs on the blog's cycling posts through the "cyclists" label.

Friday, March 14, 2008

More alert signs along popular cycling routes


Manager, Media Relations
Land Transport Authority
Today, 15 Mar 2008.

"WE REFER to the letter "Dan-ger posed by many cyclists" (March 7). We share the wri-ter's concern for the safety of motorists and cyclists on the road. Given Singapore's land constraints, it is not practical to provide segregated lanes for motorists and cyclists.

To facilitate safety for motorists and cyclists, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) will:

- Install appropriate signs to alert motorists of the presence of cyclists along frequently used cycling routes such as those in the West Coast and Thomson areas, from mid-2008 onwards.

- Work with other agencies to leverage on NParks' nationwide Park Connectors Network to provide suitable connections where feasible to enable cyclists to get to public transport interchanges more easily.

Meanwhile, the LTA continues to work closely with the Traffic Police to educate cyclists to observe traffic rules when using roads. Road safety is a shared responsibility.

Everyone has to play their part to be responsible and to keep a lookout for other road users like cyclists, pedestrians and other motorists. By being considerate to the needs of other road users, we can ensure a safe journey for all."

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Loyang Avenue's intersection - be safe not sorry

"LETHAL WEAPONS ON THE ROAD," letter from Steve K Ngo. Today, 13 Mar 2008. This Loyang resident sees irresponsible lorry drivers daily.

I refer to the report "Driver killed in five-vehicle pile-up" (March 12). My condolences go to the family of the deceased. It is a tragedy if an accident is due to the blatant recklessness of another person.

I have been living in the Loyang Avenue area for seven years and take regular evening walks there.

This stretch of road is infested with irresponsible truck and lorry drivers who speed.

Stand on the side of the road for 10 minutes and you will see what I mean. All it takes for an accident to happen is for a speeding truck to veer out of control and head for the pavement, which is about 2m away.

We need to enforce strict laws in the right areas and this is one of them. The lethal, moving "weapon" that weighs several tonnes can cause serious trouble on the road.

Also, these truck and lorry drivers are no angels - they are notorious for flashing their middle fingers and tailgating motorists to "drive home" their point.

It was interesting to read this - I have found Loyang Avenue to be the scene of some aggressive heavy vehicle driving myself. I have ridden through on numerous occasions this past decade and have been particularly careful on that stretch on my way to Changi. I actually crashed once in the 90's when a falling headlight (it was a huge one attached to my basket) jammed my front wheel. I got tossed over the handlebars on a fast downhill stretch and I glad for my mental preparation. I managed to flip over and land, leaning iin with one foot on the pavement. First thing I did was to head further in across the drain to safety and sit down with my isotonic drink to cool down. Retrieving my bike, strewn on the side of that road could wait. My heavy steel bike, called Champion Du Monde, survived that crash easily but I had some recovery to do!

Cyclists no longer need ride that road - NParks has provided safe passage as part of the Eastern Coastal Park Connector Network (ECPCN), so cyclists ride to Changi safely while the heavy vehicles whizz by on the road. It is especially satisfying because you can see what you previously had to contend with from the safety of the PCN. With the industrial parks nearby, there are lots of cyclists heading to work in safety now. Quite the life-saver!

However the pedestrian crossing across the mouth of Loyang Lane forms a potentially hazardous intersection, due to the aggressive driving characteristic of Loyang Avenue. it is a downhill stretch for both driver and cyclist.

When Lekowala, Ladybug and I first tried out the PCN, as usual, we watched out for such turning vehicles. This despite our colourful clothes and flashing front and rear lights - a vehicle turning into Loyang Lane is coming sideways into us so could miss the lights. Since they turn fast, its unnerving for pedestrians and cyclists! So we usually wait until a vehicle turns up and stops; and its easier when there are lots of us.

On more than one occasion, we had to wave off an aggressive truck driver screeching into that intersection. Some drivers have tried to accelerate past us before we cross - despite the prominent green man at the pedestrian crossing.

So I worried about park cyclists out of Pasir Ris venturing to Changi on this new PCN. Some may expect the right of way when the green man turns on. Luckily there aren't many of those yet; it seems to be the "cycle to work" and more experienced road cyclists who are the main users right now. The connection out of Pasir Ris has an uphill stretch so that might deter the weak cyclists. I have seen the less discerning element on the flat stretch from Changi to East Coast Park. They have overshot intersections on that route!

After the first few rides on the coastal stretch of the ECPCN, I submitted feedback to NParks. It included the suggestion to paint a large "STOP" sign on the PCN track leading to the Loyang Lane intersection to alert cyclists, since they tend to the track in front of them. The other suggestion was for LTA to provide a black - yellow or orange - black sign at eye level of motorbike riders and lorry drivers with an "Alert: Cyclists/Pedestrian crossing".

NParks is looking into this and the other points raised in the feedback and highlighted from other blogs. The other thing to do would be an increased presence of traffic police and slowing that road down.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

NTU Bike Rally, 1st June 2008

This event by NTU Sports Club is easily the best round island cycling event in Singapore. The 128km event is non-competitive and provides multiple rest points against a backdrop of safety measures for fit but new riders to cope with distance. This year there are two start points to include a new shorter distance. Sign up here!