Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Green Transport @ Envirofest 2009

Chu Wa with his JZ88 foldable bike next to the Singapore Environment Council's booth at Envirofest @ HDB Hub, Toa Payoh, 23-24 May 2009.

Thanks to boonsong for the photo!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ride of Silence Singapore - impressions from a car window

The Ride of Silence Singapore was held yesterday, Wed 20th May 2009 with cyclists gathered at Merlion Park at 7pm. I was unable to join them but instead observed the half the ride route from a car window. Several of my friends from Zendogs and Cycling in Singapore were riding do I knew I could exchange impressions with them later.

For me the ride meant commemorating Kroxy, an NTU student who was senselessly killed in 2003. He was the last man of a group riding back to NTU and was tragically run over at Jalan Bahar by a drunk driver just before the group turned into the relative safety of NTU.

I never knew Alvin Boey personally but he was a promoter of cycling in Singapore like many of us. I always think of him when I ride NTU's Round Island Bike Rally and each time I pass Jalan Bahar on the way to Lm Chu Kang or Sungei Buloh. The Ride of Silence is a good way to commemorate his spirit and to me it s a reminder that cyclists and motorists need to work at sharing the road safely.

The rest of this was posted last night on my personal blog and is reproduced here for the record. You can read all the posts on Ride of Silence (Paul Barter, Yap Chi Wei and mine) by clicking the "ride of silence" label. See also other impressions by:
  • mrbrown,
  • Azam's life,
  • wang writes.

    Meanwhile congratulations to the organiser for bring this event to reality!

    My friends went down after work to Merlion Park today for the Ride of Silence Singapore. They reported a large turnout and cyclists were released in groups of about 10. We dropped in on the cyclists just as they left Merlion Park to thread through the city before heading out west to loop around Holland Village. 

    The route required them to make a few lane shifts and navigate through small, busy roads (see route). By Holland Road, the groups found the space and momentum to be tighter. The video clips below show two groups riding up the Holland Road slope before they head down through Orchard Road. Note how the first group is more disciplined about keeping to a single file. It was nice to see the groups crunch up the slope in silence with a few nods of heads to us as they cycled past.

    From the short time we spent following the groups along the first half of the route, a few things were obvious:
    • White is striking at night! An all white t-shirt or jersey as ordered ("dress in white") would have really made the group stand out. The mixed coloured jerseys that some persisted in wearing are not noticeable and quite unsuitable or night cycling.
    • Rear helmet lights were prominent and in fact, critical for congested roads where cyclists ride in close proximity to motorists. However, few cyclists had rear helmet lights. The rear seat lights are less useful in these situations as they are more noticeable from afar.
    • Many were using pretty decent front white blinking lights. Surprisingly some were actually riding without front lights.
    • The few passerby-cyclists without lights were practically invisible to traffic!
    • Quite a number of cyclists were clueless about navigating lane changes safely - their timing and hand signals left much to be desired. Wish they sign up for some practical training somewhere, the sort motorcyclists get in preparation for their Class 2B license.
    • The ride was supposed to be a slow-paced ride. But I think I'd be hard-pressed to keep up with some groups who were whizzed past!

    I'm sure there will be more on my cycling lists later tonight and tomorrow. Hope it will help the organisers next year. Meanwhile, see news from Rides of Silence around the world and tweets from cyclists gearing up or after their ride.

    Some of my photos from the ride are on Flickr; see also VR-Zone.

    "Cyclists join thousands worldwide in Ride of Silence," by Tan Yew Guan. Channel NewsAsia, 20 May 2009.

    SINGAPORE: About 200 cyclists gathered at the Merlion Park on Wednesday evening to embark on a one-hour ride through Singapore's roads. They joined thousands of others in a world wide movement.

    Called the Ride of Silence, riders went at a slow pace throughout the 19 kilometre route.

    At the same time, they maintained silence amid the roar of traffic in honour of those killed or injured in traffic accidents while cycling.

    Last year, at least 20 people died in such accidents.

    The first Ride of Silence rolled off in Dallas in the United States six years ago.

    Then, it was just a gathering of one thousand cyclists to mark the death of a fellow cyclist who was killed by a school bus mirror.

    Throughout world, from Hong Kong to Spain and all across the United States, cyclists in over 200 locations are taking part in similar rides.

    Organisers hope that the event will make drivers more aware of the presence of cyclists on the roads. - CNA/vm

Ride of Silence Singapore - Chi Wei's impressions

Before midnight, Yap Chi Wei wrote to Zendogs (our cycling group) to recount the events of the night. I reproduce it here with his permission:

"I estimate that just over 400 riders turned up for this ride. Everyone gathered pretty much on time and the first group of 12 riders were flagged off at 7.20pm. With so many riders, the organiser(s) ran out of outriders/volunteer ride leaders after about 20 groups. So the rest (groups 21 onwards) had to wait for the lead pack to return to recycle the ride leader! This was accepted with mild groans here and there.

Catherine and I did a Zendog [our cycling group legendary for taking food beaks] and adjourned to the nearby Coffee Bean for some pasta and puffs. With our hunger assuaged, we rejoined the remaining mass of bikers and got flagged off well after 8pm.

Our ride grouping started out well but soon fell apart although the volunteer guide tried to keep things together. Inevitably, some of the group split into smaller groups without ride leaders. Some, who had not studied the route, got separated. But we continued on, sometimes joining groups that we caught up with and at other times, falling back due to traffic lights.

Along Holland Rd near the Botanics, a group of young riders on heavy jump bikes started to stand and sprint up the hill with little regard for traffic on their right. This caused a Volvo XC90 SUV to mount a center divider trying to avoid them! I don't think these kids even knew why they were there. It was more like a fun ride for them, yelling and screaming. So much for silence.

There were also unicycles in another group, which should not have been there as they had to struggle to keep up, did not have appropriate lighting, and it was harder for them to handle the evening rush hour traffic.

Ride of silence almost became a ride of attrition.

The good thing that the majority were well behaved. Motorists seemed to be quite tolerant of the large groups of riders on the road and there were very few horns directed our way.

We peeled off somewhere near High Street to head back to her office to pack her bike into her car. I rode back on the road. Total distance for me was 43kms.

The ride leaders from Joyriders were volunteers and roped in at the last moment to assist. They did the best they could, with some riding two loops of the route. Kudos to them.

Going to bed now..."

Ride of Silence Singapore report

The Singapore Ride of Silence last night had a great turnout and was a lot of fun! There was festive atmosphere at the Merlion as everyone waited their turn to set out.

It was wonderful to feel the safety-in-numbers effect of riding in a large group.

My group had about 40 and there was little choice but to claim a whole lane (but only one!). Singapore law does not condone riding two or more abreast but it seemed the safest approach with such a group. It quickly became obvious that tempting motorists to squeeze into the lane with us was a bad idea. Fortunately, the motorists around us seemed to accept this and mostly behaved very patiently. The ride was all on multi-lane roads and the peak traffic seemed to be over so I saw no congestion resulting from the ride. I was at the front and tried friendly waves to as many passing motorists as possible with a mouthed 'thank you' and got a few thumbs up signals back.

Mr Brown has a report too and estimates 400 riders, which was about my guess too. The Joyriders were carefully counting so I guess we will hear the real number sooner or later.

Otterman (Sivasothi on this list) has a report with a couple of video clips of groups on Holland Rd.

Well done Joyriders and Benoit for organising the event and for getting so much positive press coverage.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Don't forget the positive vision: cycling as safe and convenient

Tonight's Ride of Silence in Singapore and Worldwide is an important event to raise awareness of the need to make cycling in Singapore much safer.

But as we pay our respects to those who have been killed or injured, let's not forget that we have a positive vision for cycling. Riding a bicycle can and should be safe and convenient for ordinary people, not just heroic athletes in lycra and helments.

A post today at Streetsblog asks if pro-cycling organisations are making a mistake to emphasise the danger so much. Dutch and Danish bicycle promotion efforts make bicycles seem fun, easy to use and safe (see the bike promotion poster below from the Netherlands).

Let's work towards the day when we can truthfully promote cycling in Singapore in the same way.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Ride of Silence (Singapore) - 20 May 2009

"A cyclist with a cause," by Agatha Koh Brazil [].
Today, 12 May 2009


SOON after he arrived in Singapore in 2007, Benoit Valin got a bicycle to ride to his office at Buona Vista. Just as quickly too, on a rainy October day, he was rendered a bloody mess along Portsdown Road by a motorist who turned without looking.

Then the motorist in the car behind honked at him to get out of the way. "She well saw that I had blood on my head and other parts of my body, but she waved her fist to threaten me," says the 31-year-old Canadian.

That wasn’t the only incident for the dedicated "bike commuter". "Commuting is the only time I can ride my bike. Unfortunately, it is also the most dangerous time of the day (to do so)." Other close calls include one in January when a driver shot across three lanes of Commonwealth Avenue and Benoit had to swerve to avoid him. In doing so, he had to "touch" the car to avoid being hit by a bus. That enraged the motorist who "chased down" the road for about a kilometre. "Then he came out of the car, fists in the air,” recalls the Ottawa native.

In February, along Bukit Timah Road, a driver shot across two lanes and narrowly avoided clipping him. "At the light, I knocked on his window to talk. He did the 'I’ve done nothing wrong, you’re on the road and you have no place here' speech," says Benoit. "That about sums it up. This happens about every week, but I don’t make a fuss about them ... only when they really have to be educated."

May 20 is when he hopes this will happen. That is when Ride of Silence Singapore - he is the organiser - will kick off at 7pm from Merlion Park at Clifford Pier. Attending riders will dress in white and ride - in silence - to honour those killed or injured while cycling on public roads. Last year, there were about 22 such deaths here, and this year, the figure already stands at six, says Benoit. It is expected to increase with the escalating popularity of cycling.

The riders here will join others worldwide in a silent slow ride on May 20 to raise the awareness of motorists and other road users as well as that of the authorities. The first ride originated in the United States city of Dallas, after endurance cyclist Larry Schwartz was killed when hit by the mirror of a passing bus. Officials from the Safe Cycling Task Force will also join in. The route (yet to be approved) will cover 19km or so.

Cycling for Benoit has been a 14-year “love story”. At 17 and at college, he needed money, so he started cycling extensively as a messenger in Ottawa. At university in Boston, he volunteered for Bikes Not Bombs, a not-for-profit organisation that recycles old bikes for third-world countries. Graduate school between 2001 and 2006 meant never staying long enough in a place to sustain a devotion to a cause. Until Singapore, where he saw "how road, and cycling safety could improve the quality of life for everyone".

That encounter in February made the bachelor decide to dedicate his spare time to cycling safety. He then had a cause, but no means to reach out. "Changing the world by yourself, when all you see is the same five people every day is very difficult," says the bioinformatics scientist for a pharmaceutical company. In April, he received an email from Canada’s National Capital Commission, advertising the Ride of Silence. "It was an epiphany. I found the means to unite people in support for a cause that affects everyone," he says.

There have been 100 responses from his Facebook group so far. Minister of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) Vivian Balakrishnan is scheduled to be present, as is Senior Parliamentary Secretary for MCYS and Ministry of Transport, Mr Teo Ser Luck.

Benoit clocks about 1,000km a month riding from his Bukit Batok home to Buona Vista. When the 200km of park connectors are completed by 2015, "Singapore will become a world-class haven for cyclists." "Unfortunately, park connectors don’t go everywhere. They cover only 60 per cent of my commute. The challenge is coping with traffic and the dangers of traffic." That means drivers of every ilk, as well as pedestrians, especially "those who zig-zag between cars at lights and pop up without warning". Cyclists who ride at night without lights and reflectors, wearing dark clothes, and those who ride against traffic and through lights are at fault, too.

Benoit is keen that helmets be worn, and made mandatory for riders under 12. "Deaths can never be reduced to zero. Drivers need to learn how to communicate their intentions clearly to cyclists (and vice versa). The rules of the road need to be clearer so they can be respected. Only then can roads be safer." Cycling safety should be incorporated into driving classes and tested during the theory test. Physical education teachers too, should teach cycling safety, he says.

"On a bicycle, safety means staying alive."

Singapore’s first such ride was in 2006, started by Jimi Loh. But the rides were never registered with the US and not publicised. Benoit and Mr Loh will work together next year. For details visit

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