Wednesday 22 August 2012

Parliamentary Secretary for Transport to meet stakeholders regarding road safety

By Saifulbahri Ismail, Channel NewsAsia, 21 Aug 2012

Parliamentary Secretary for Transport, Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, intends to meet various stakeholders to discuss how roads can be made safer.

In his Facebook posting on Tuesday, Dr Faishal said he was saddened by the death of Mr Freddy Khoo.

Mr Khoo was cycling along Loyang Avenue with two friends over the weekend when a lorry crashed into them. He was severely injured and died in hospital.

Dr Faishal will also discuss with fellow MPs who are passionate about cycling.

One of them is Minister of State for Trade and Industry, Teo Ser Luck, who said more can be done to ensure safety of cyclists on the road. Mr Teo added it's time to take a fresh look on past measures that were proposed but rejected.

Francis Chu is the co-founder of a local cycling group LoveCyclingSg.

Mr Chu rediscovered cycling as a form of commuting eight years ago. The 52-year-old sold his car and his bicycle has been his main mode of transport since then.

He's part of the cycling community who's been urging the government to consider having a dedicated cycling lane on some roads.

They suggest that these dedicated cycling lanes could be located along the more popular cycling routes such as Neo Tiew Road.

Such lanes need only be about 1.5m wide.

Mr Chu said: "There isn't any physical construction we need to make, we just need to re-paint the lanes. In a way, all the lanes need to be re-painted from time to time because they wear off. If it's a cost issue, why not we just implement it when the lanes need to be re-painted, then we re-paint on a new position."

Motorists have mixed views about dedicated cycling lanes.

One said: "It depends on which road and how big the road is. So as long as they don't get too close to the motorists then it's still okay."

Another said: "Not viable. There're already traffic jams and then you have to cater one more lane for cycling. I think in congested area it's not feasible."

Cycling groups have also identified roads which could pose a hazard for cyclists.

They include Lentor Avenue and Upper Jurong Road which have heavy traffic.

Balestier Road is one of the danger spots highlighted by cycling groups because of the busy traffic where a left lane is sometimes occupied by vehicles parked illegally.

Motorists and cycling enthusiasts agree that all road users should be mindful of safety and be considerate.

Bike group maps out danger spots
List warning of hazards on some roads to alert cyclists to be careful
By Tham Yuen-C, The Straits Times, 21 Aug 2012

GEYLANG Road, Lentor Avenue, Keppel Road towards VivoCity, Balestier Road, Upper Jurong Road.

Cyclists beware.

These are among Singapore's most hazardous roads for cycling, according to a map created by cycling enthusiasts to warn others where they must be extra careful.

In the first eight months of this year, at least 12 cyclists have died. Since 2009, about 16 cyclists have died on the roads each year.

Hundreds more get injured in accidents.

Last Saturday morning, another fatal accident occurred when Mr Freddy Khoo, 48, who was well known in the cycling and triathlon community, collided with a lorry along Loyang Avenue.

The bank employee died of his injuries, while his two cycling companions were hurt in the crash.

Loyang Avenue is one of the 18 areas marked out in the map drawn up by cyclists from LoveCyclingSG, a social group. It is described as having "lots of high-speed lorries".

The map explains why certain roads are marked hazardous.

Geylang Road, for example, has busy traffic both day and night. Cyclists sometimes ride against traffic, and drivers can cut in and out from side streets.

"We are not asking people to avoid these places because sometimes you have no choice, but we just want to make sure that people ride on the road with their eyes open, and they know what to expect," said Mr Woon Tai Woon, 38, founder of LoveCyclingSG.

Following Mr Khoo's death, 21 cyclists have written open letters to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew, exhorting the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to consider measures such as dedicated bicycle lanes and more public education about road rules to cut down the number of fatalities.

Cycling groups say they have already been working with the authorities to try and make the roads safer for the growing number of cyclists in Singapore.

On July 2, some members of LoveCyclingSG met the LTA to appeal for greater rights and protection on the road - including calling for stiffer laws against irresponsible drivers who endanger cyclists, Mr Woon said. "There are drivers who feel that cyclists should not be on the road," said the product designer. "There should be stiffer punishment for such people."

For now, they are subject to laws against dangerous and reckless drivers.

Other suggestions include changes to road design, such as making lanes narrower so that cars are forced to go slower, and making space on public roads for dedicated bicycle lanes.

Mr Steven Choy, 47, a friend of Mr Khoo's, said that bicycle lanes need only be about 1.5m wide to keep drivers and cyclists out of each other's paths.

Cycling groups say the number of cyclists has grown. There are serious athletes who train on roads, amateurs who pedal for recreation and commuters who prefer the bicycle to buses or the MRT.

Mr Choy, who works in the advertising industry and cycles in triathlons, said it was time that dedicated lanes be assigned to this growing group.

While the Government has built more than 200km of park connectors, cyclists said they still prefer the roads because they have to share the connectors with pedestrians, which may be unsafe.

"These park connectors are used by senior citizens, people out on walks, walking their dogs, it is not safe for them because we are riding at a fast speed," said Ms Joyce Leong, 56, founder of Joyriders, one of the largest local bicycle groups with 1,300 members.

To make roads safer for cyclists, the LTA has put up signs at popular cycling routes warning motorists to be careful.

Mr Steven Lim, 45, president of the Safe Cycling Task Force that works with government agencies to promote cycling safety, said the task force has been surveying these routes and checking the effectiveness of these signs.

"After a while, some of them become like advertisements and are not very conspicuous," he said. "We are trying to see if it will be feasible to put the messages on the road instead."

Mr Lim added, however, that "hardware" changes would not be enough. Cyclists and motorists also need a mindset change to make the roads safer, he said.

"Motorists have to start getting used to the idea of sharing the roads with cyclists, but cyclists also have to help themselves and follow the rules," said Mr Lim, who cycles and drives.

Cyclists interviewed said that news of fatal accidents would not make them give up their bicycles, although they would be more careful - at least for a while.

Ms Leong said: "Of course we are more paranoid, but we just have to take greater precautions."

Where danger lurks

CYCLISTS have singled out these roads as among the most dangerous to ride in Singapore:

Geylang Road: Busy traffic, cars from side roads and cyclists going in the wrong direction.

Keppel Road towards VivoCity: Cars filter left to join Keppel Viaduct, while cyclists have to ride in the middle of the road to bypass the flyover.

Chinatown: Busy traffic, heavy vehicles.

Lentor Avenue: Cars filter into the Seletar Expressway and come out of the expressway at high speeds.

Orchard Road: Busy traffic and construction along roads.

Farrer Road-Adam Road- Lornie Road junction: Very busy during peak hours, speeding cars and gradual slope.

Robinson Road: Cars cutting out to Collyer Quay and cutting in from Cecil Street.

Queensway-Portsdown Road junction: Steep slope, vehicles turning into Queensway and turning out from Queensway.

Serangoon Road-Little India: Jaywalkers and cyclists going in the wrong direction.

Balestier Road: Busy traffic, left lane taken up by cars parked illegally.

Upper Jurong Road: Other cyclists cutting across lanes.

Yishun Avenue 1: Two left-turning lanes towards Mandai.

Ang Mo Kio Avenue 8: Two left-turning lanes.

Nicoll Highway: Cars filter left into the Kallang Paya-Lebar Expressway at high speed.

Rochor Road into Victoria Street: Two left-turning lanes.

Victoria street: Busy traffic, vehicles using bus lane to overtake.

Loyang Avenue: Speeding lorries.

Kranji Road: Speeding lorries.

Motorists say errant cyclists also to blame
Cyclists agree many among them do not follow traffic rules
By Jessica Lim, The Straits Times, 23 Aug 2012

WE ARE not the only ones guilty of bad behaviour, say motorists.

This resounding message was repeated in numerous e-mails received by The Straits Times after the death of cyclist Freddy Khoo last Saturday.

The Straits Times and its citizen journalism portal Stomp received more than 50 e-mails - some with videos and photos attached - from motorists highlighting acts by errant cyclists.

A video sent to Stomp on Tuesday showed a cyclist beating a red light in Tampines and narrowly missing a taxi before colliding with a motorcycle.

Other videos and photos showed cyclists hogging the middle lane of the road, riding against the flow of traffic or cycling three abreast - all in violation of traffic rules. Forums such as are abuzz with stories and photographs from frustrated motorists.

A Straits Times check yesterday at a junction popular with cyclists, along Tampines Avenue 3, found at least 10 instances of reckless cycling in an hour.

One cyclist was seen doing a right turn against the flow of traffic. Another rode across a traffic light crossing, despite a sign instructing riders to dismount and push.

The cycling community and several MPs have been lobbying for increased road safety after the death of Mr Khoo. The 48-year-old bank employee was hit by a lorry along Loyang Avenue.

Since then, more than 20 people - mostly avid cyclists - have written to the Government calling for the implementation of measures like dedicated bicycle lanes.

On Tuesday, the Government announced that it would be asking cyclists, drivers and pedestrians for their views on road safety. The consultation could lead to pilot projects and new policies.

Motorist Francis Cheng, 57, has written several letters to the Traffic Police and the Ministry of Transport on the issue of errant cyclists.

"I am really angry. I have seen so many cyclists disobey traffic rules, yet cyclists are always the angels and motorists are the culprits," said the Tampines resident. "We are not against cyclists but they must obey the rules. Motorists are the poor scapegoats."

Housewife Dorothy Choo, 48, who sent several pictures to The Straits Times, recounted an incident in Lim Chu Kang when three cyclists hogged the middle lane of the road.

"I wanted to overtake but was afraid that if I sped up I might hit them," said the Sembawang resident, who ended up driving slowly behind them for some time. "We are made of metal, they are made of flesh. They need to be more careful."

Lorry driver Christopher Ang, 55, said that cyclists need to slow down around lorries, which take a longer time to stop due to their sheer size.

He said: "Cyclists near the shipyard area cycle in all directions. When I see a cyclist I just slow down immediately and let them go first. I know I won't be able to stop in time... Depending on where they are coming from, we sometimes also can't see them."

Cyclists The Straits Times spoke to agreed that many among them do not follow traffic rules. But not all cyclists should be tarred with the same brush.

They pointed out that there is the rider who takes her grandchild to school or rides a short way to the grocery store, the one who commutes to work daily, those who cycle recreationally and some who ride racing bicycles.

Mr Woon Taiwoon, co-founder of social group lovecyclingsg, said: "There should be more enforcement of traffic rules. If cyclists want equal rights as motorists, they should also follow rules. There is a wide spectrum of riders in Singapore.

"Some road riders cycle in a group and beat traffic lights. They cannot stop because they will go too fast and people behind them will crash into them if they do.

"Then you have the foreign workers on bicycles who are used to cycling in their homelands, where rules may be different. They often ride against the flow of traffic, with bicycles in really bad condition." He added that lovecyclingsg's members ride single file and bunch up only in danger areas.

In the first six months of this year, more than 700 summonses were issued to cyclists for various traffic violations. This figure includes those issued for motorised bicycles.

Rules guiding bicycles under the Road Traffic Act
- It is illegal for riders to carry a pillion passenger unless the bicycle provides a designated seat for one. 
- Riders must give signals. If they want to proceed to the right, for instance, they should hold out their right arm horizontally, with the palm of the hand facing the front. 
- Only up to two cyclists are allowed to ride abreast at any time. 
- If three or more cyclists are riding in a group, they must ride in pairs or in a single file. 
- Every bicycle should be ridden close to the left-hand edge of the roadway in a manner that does not obstruct vehicles moving at a faster speed. 
- Bicycles should have a white light attached to the front and a red light or red reflector attached to the rear during hours of darkness. 
- A cyclist is not allowed to ride on the right side of another vehicle (which is not a bicycle), unless the cyclist is attempting to overtake the vehicle.

Road safety group calls for shared responsibility
By Jessica Lim, The Straits Times, 23 Aug 2012

THERE has been yet another call to increase road safety, this time from the Singapore Road Safety Council (SRSC).

The self-funded charity, set up in 2009 by the Ministry of Home Affairs to run safety programmes for road users, issued a plea to the public yesterday.

SRSC chairman Bernard Tay said that the council was "very saddened and distressed" by the accident on Loyang Avenue.

"Regardless of the limitations and constraints of the existing road infrastructure in Singapore, all road users must take charge of their own safety and lives," he said, adding that all road users had to share responsibility for collective safety.

Mr Tay urged cyclists to "be fanatical" about their own safety: "Please accept the fact that you are vulnerable on the road and will always come out worse in any incident with a motorised vehicle."

He then urged drivers to be "on the highest alert" on the road. "You must immediately reduce your speed when you see cyclists and other vulnerable road users, and ensure you maintain a safe distance at all times."

The traffic police also advised cyclists to wear light-coloured clothing to ensure they are more visible to motorists.

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