Monday 21 December 2015

New PCN crossings make cycling, walking safer

Raised platforms force vehicles to go slower, PCN users need not step down from kerbs
By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 19 Dec 2015

The Government has taken another small step towards relegating cars to the back seat. At park connectors, it has begun building road crossings that prioritise cyclists and pedestrians over motorists.

Along a stretch of the Sims Avenue Park Connector beside Kembangan MRT station, for instance, five of these raised road crossings have been built in the past two months.

"The raised platform will require motorists to slow down as they approach the crossing, while allowing cyclists and pedestrians to cross the road without the need to step down from the pavements," said the Land Transport Authority and National Parks Board in a joint statement.

But the new paths are not zebra crossings, which cede complete right of way to pedestrians.

They have also been built along the Park Connector Network (PCN) in Tampines and Alexandra, and will likely feature in the 20km cycling network to be built in Ang Mo Kio by 2018. The PCN spans 300km of cycling and jogging paths, spread out over five loops islandwide.

These "continuous sidewalks" - so-called because they do not require cyclists to get off a kerb to cross a road - are marked with bold yellow markings and have rumble strips leading up to them.

It was one of 10 suggestions mooted in an active mobility study done by government think-tank Centre for Liveable Cities and United States-based research body Urban Land Institute last year.

The study said the crossings "prioritise the right of way for pedestrians or cyclists at minor intersections and slip lanes, allowing for greater continuity of movement".

This is not the first idea from the study to be taken on board. Other ideas adopted include narrowing road lanes to slow down traffic.

Kembangan residents say the new feature has deterred speedsters. "Sometimes, cars just turn and speed in. Now, I notice they are more cautious," said civil servant Mary Tan, 50, who brisk-walks on the park connector daily.

Domestic worker Eli Widiyawati, 28, who cycles twice weekly along the park connector to get to the nearby market, agrees. "It's very convenient - we don't have to get off the bike to cross the road now."

But some motorists feel the new crossings might create confusion. "If the idea is to give pedestrians right of way, then they should make it a zebra crossing. Now, it's a bit of a grey area," said cabby Ng Kok Chye, 49.

Still, experts said the new crossings make road junctions safer.

Mr Francis Chu, co-founder of cycling group LoveCyclingSG, said road junctions are potential conflict zones and accidents often happen because users do not have time to react to the unexpected. "In that sense, this gives all users more time to negotiate this conflict zone."

Dr Alexander Erath, a transport researcher at the Singapore-ETH Future Cities Laboratory, believes measures like this provide more direct connections for cyclists and pedestrians, adding that people spend considerable travelling time walking or waiting for public transport.

"There is huge potential to improve conditions," he said. "This is one clear policy measure that brings us in this direction."

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