Open Letter to Transport Minister Liu


This is a post that I am taking the liberty to include here.  It was written by Steven Choy, but since it is in a walled garden, it might not reach enough people. I would dearly want to cycle to work, but the roads are not safe enough. I have colleagues who cycle to work from the east and I am fearful for them. They’ve told me enough stories of close misses. Despite of that, I think we can make this country’s roads safe for cyclists.

My Friend is Dead

by Stephen Choy on Sunday, August 19, 2012 at 2:50pm ·

AN OPEN LETTER TO MINISTER OF TRANSPORT, MR LIU TUCK YEW

Dear Minister Lui

My friend is dead.

If, only if, I had written this letter earlier, Freddy might still be able to cycle with me in the next Ironman race.

You see, he died pursuing his hobby. On the morning of 18 August 2012, along Loyang Valley, as he made his way towards Changi Village, he was run over by a truck. I chanced upon the wreckage, not knowing that it was that of my friend’s. I immediately posted a message on FaceBook to remind all my friends to cycle safe. Within minutes, I received the tragic news that that statistic was a friend of mine. He was my buddy in our cycling group, Team Cychos.

Freddy was a good, gentle man. A good husband and a doting father to his 5 year old son. And would have been an equally good father to his unborn child too, I’m sure.

Dear Minister Lui, I am appealing to you as many before me did. I am certain you are aware of the statistics. From 2008 to 2011, there were a total of 70 cyclists killed. That is a horrifying average of 1.46 cyclists killed a month. Sadly, that is not enough to spur your ministry into action to make the roads safer for cyclists.

We are not saying that motorists are completely at fault. We recognize both cyclists and motorists have a part to play in making our roads safer for all. Cyclists must be made aware of how vulnerable they are the moment they mount their bike. Motorists must be educated that, like pedestrians, cyclists too have a right to use the roads. Only when these two groups recognized this and develop a mutual respect will we see a drop in fatalities. Hopefully.

This, however, cannot be done without the Government’s assistance. In a recent article on the dangers of cycling in Singapore, an LTA spokesperson, upon being asked about introducing a cycling lane, declared that this will only give cyclists a false sense of security. A false sense of security??? Isn’t that akin to saying we should not have window grilles at home as they would give our Foreign Domestic Workers a false sense of security when cleaning windows in highrise apartments. I was flabbergasted by this flippant and dismissive response. Isn’t that the purpose of a cycling lane? To remind cyclists to stay within the allotted 1.5m and for motorists to be aware of cyclists within this lane so that we all can be safe. So that we all can go home to our loved ones. So that we all can continue to pursue our passions. Safely.

To the spokesperson from LTA, I say shame on you. Shame on you for taking the easy way out. If NParks is able to build 300km of park connectors (by 2015), surely the LTA is capable of painting a 1.5m lane on our roads. This is merely the width of 2 carton boxes. Are cyclists not worth that. If having cycling lanes islandwide prove too daunting a task, then perhaps we can start small, start a pilot project to paint only the more popular (and dangerous) cycling routes – Neo Tew Avenue, Mandai Road, Changi Coastal Road, Upper Thompson Road, West Coast Highway. I am sure the Singapore Cycling Federation, Singapore Amateur Cycling Association, Singapore Sports Council and perhaps even cycling clubs, especially the bigger ones like Joyriders and Anzac can advise LTA on this.

From 2010 to January 2012, there were 21 work-related height fatalities of Foreign Domestic Workers. This monthly average of 0.58 was enough for the Ministry of Manpower to implement a new rule forbidding FDW to clean the outside of windows. The ministry also felt the need to double the penalties (from the current $5,000 fine and/or six months’ jail to $10,000 fine and/or 12 months’ jail) to serve as added deterrence to employers.

Minister Lui, if 21 FDW were enough to get a new legislation in place, surely Freddy and the deaths of 70 other cyclists deserve an urgent re-look at how to make our roads safer. I appeal to you not to let more people die before the rest of us are able to pursue our hobby safely.”

5 thoughts on “Open Letter to Transport Minister Liu

  1. The Government have to take the initiatives. To date ask yourselves what have they done? To sit down and wait for more people to lose their lives then do something about it. All the time the people are passive and patient. A reactive or a proactive approach. This is long overdue. Like all of you I am also a cycling enthusiats. Its high time we should organise a Protest – rally thousands of cyclist to go on the road and jammed it. So as to pressure the Government to do something. All the talks is no use because this has been an issue long ago. Just last week I see in the ST a driver can be negligent and kill on the road and get away with a find and a ban. This is taking away someone’s lives and get away. Lets wait and see……my fellow cycling friends.
    My advice to all cyclist Don’t cycle on open roads like the Changi Coastal Road or long stretches of Road where Vehicles can speed especially delivery van / Blind Vans. ( LTA approved ) Lorries or huge vehicles. Its for your own safety. Regards,

  2. Just my two cents when I read the letter.

    First off, like you and many others, I am an avid cyclist myself. I have rode on and off road in Singapore, as well as in Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, China, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Iran, France and Germany. So I have interacted with a fair share of road users all over the world, including cows and animals. You would not be surprised when I say that of all the countries where I cycled, I felt the most vulnerable on the road in Singapore. Like many others, I have also a close shave with death when I almost got knocked down by a car which did not bother to stop at a T-junction.

    But I digress. What is the fundamental reason why so many fellow cyclists die on the road each year? It is the lack of respect. A fair number of motorists in Singapore do not respect cyclists on the road. Why is that so? I myself have a class 3 and 2B license, and have drove and rode on the road. We have seen it all. We see cyclists who do not wear helmet on the road. We see cyclists who circumvent red lights(those who have done it before would know what I mean). We see cyclists without front and back lights. We see cyclists transform into pesdestrian and back to a cyclist. I am guilty of all the above. No wonder motorists do not respect us.

    Why is that so? Because a cyclist is not a “legal” road user in Singapore. We are not registered nor licensed. We do not need to pass a cycling test. We do not get demerit points for beating a red light. Everyone comes up with his or her rules or code of conduct on the road.

    To improve the safety of cyclists on the roads, we need to regulate cyclists who cycle on the roads. Every cyclist needs to be licensed if we want to cycle on the roads. We need to be regulated by the same set of traffic rules that govern current road users. This means that we are also protected by the same laws. Only then can the cycling community earn the respect of motorists, and only then can we cycle safely on the roads. Because that is where we belong too.

    But the question is, are we prepared for that?

    Regards

    1. You have a point there about being licensed. But then, if we look at most countries – perhaps the more advanced ones – there are dedicated bicycle lanes. When I was in school in Corvallis, Oregon, the bicycle was my main (and in most cases only) form of transport. There were bike lanes most every where and where there wasn’t one, you were notified and then being advised to go on the road and to be careful. Funnily, I never wore a helmet but I had lights on the front and back. I was never ever in a situation that I felt vulnerable. Then again, I never rode on the highways nor on roads that were very busy *and* did not have bike lanes.

      But, in Singapore, what we are missing is a combination of things. We don’t have bike lanes to begin with. So, motorists would then, as you note, treat us with no respect when we use “my grandfather’s road”. We have a problem in terms of space, which I fully appreciate. Perhaps we need cleverer ways to create bike lanes that will create a safe means to commute on. Whenever I see a bicyclist, on the road, I’ve always either slowed down or switched lanes to give space. I do it instinctively.

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