This evening while my wife and I were walking to the hawker for dinner, we were almost run down by a bicyclist. We had stopped at the cross walk in front of Loyang Secondary School in Pasir Ris and waited for the pedestrian light to change to green. When it did, we glanced quickly right to insure that the cars were braking and then stepped out to start crossing the road.
Without a warning, an incredibly fast moving bicyclist on the roadway sped through the red light and narrowly avoided running into us. As he passed us, he made an angry grunting noise, as if we were the ones who were in the wrong for stepping into the crosswalk.
Do bicyclists in Singapore realize that if they’re using the roadways they’re subject to the same road rules that vehicles are? If there’s a red light, they have to stop. Plain and simple. They can’t speed through and expect everyone to make way for them.
I shouted angrily after the man, telling him just that. Of course, he didn’t stop. Instead, he continued his dangerous behavior and swerved quickly onto the pedestrian sidewalk at another intersection a little further down the road, haphazardly weaving past other pedestrians.
Singapore is a country with low crime, and as such there isn’t a very visible, active police force. Unfortunately, it seems as though bicyclists are taking full advantage of this fact to do whatever they want without fear of repercussions.
If the man had struck me and my wife it would’ve caused serious injury, like in the case where a bicyclist struck and killed a man, and I have no doubt he would’ve sped off just the same, leaving me to foot the hospital bills. If he didn’t care about the laws to begin with, why would he stop to accept the repercussions of his actions?
Singapore’s police need to take a more active role in enforcing safety regulations. Simply issuing these laws isn’t enough. This is an ongoing issue that isn’t improving. I wrote about this last month as well in a post called “Bicyclists vs Pedestrians, Battle For The Pavement“. There need to be police officers along the roads, preferably in plain clothes, monitoring behavior and issuing citations. Otherwise, who will ensure the safety of pedestrians?
The above quote is taken from a July 2008 post on the popular mrbrown.com blog. Since then, cycling on the pavement seems to have been extended to Pasir Ris, where I live now, though I’m not completely sure how it works. You see, there are separate riding paths for bicycles in some areas of Pasir Ris that are clearly marked by bicycle symbols painted on the pavement. These paths are very easy to distinguish from regular sidewalks. However, cyclists seem to be trying to monopolize all sidewalks in Pasir Ris.
The reason I pulled that quote from his blog is because of his great advice.
Let me repeat it: “Practice Zero Impact pavement riding.”
Over the past few months I’ve noticed a trend in how cyclists use the pavement that’s annoying and often dangerous. Cyclists will often zip by you, going so fast that were something to happen, there would be no way for them to stop in time to prevent a serious accident. Despite the relative lightweight structure of a bicycle, it can cause serious harm to a pedestrian. A cyclist should take care to maintain a safe speed and watch out for pedestrians who may not be paying attention.
That leads me to my next point. Bicycles need to have bells on them and those bells need to be used.
Do not expect pedestrians to realize you’re there, especially if you’re approaching them from behind. Even if you’re approaching pedestrians from the opposite direction, you need to ring your bell. Bikes move fast, and a pedestrian may not have noticed you the last time they looked up to orient themselves.
Most of all, be courteous. Understand that you’re the newbies on the pavement. Keep in mind that sidewalks were made for pedestrians and because of concern for the safety of cyclists, the government is allowing you to share that sidewalk with them. Even if you’re on a dedicated bike path you have to keep it real. People are by nature going to take the easiest path and if that includes walking on the cycling path, they’ll do it. That doesn’t mean you should run them over and nearly clip them as you go by. You should still show courtesy and ring your bell to alert them to your presence. Who do you think will take the blame if you hit them and cause them injury?
The past few months I’ve been experiencing more and more instances of cyclists nearly running me or my wife over, or seeing it nearly happen to other people. I’ve seen cyclists swerve and nearly crash because they weren’t watching where they were going and almost hit someone. It really pisses me off because if a bicyclist slams into my leg with their pedal and breaks my shin, chances are they’ll get up and cycle away quickly to avoid having to pay what will be an excessively high medical bill. Where does that leave me, the pedestrian, who was simply walking on the pavement as I should have been? What will I do? Write to the forum? I certainly can’t pay a hospital bill with ideals or popular public opinion. I can’t say it wasn’t my fault and get a free fix.
Complicating this matter even further is the fact that motorized, electric bicycles are becoming more and more popular in Singapore. These cyclists typically travel at greater speeds than a person on a regularly pedaled bike would and, because what they’re riding is considered a bicycle, they’re not obligated to use the roadways. This poses a big risk to pedestrians.
Also, in this same category of potential disaster, why are motorcycles regularly driving down sidewalks in Pasir Ris? Ya, seriously. I’ve seen motorcycles make turns up the ramped curbs at pedestrian crossings and then use the sidewalks as a shortcut to get to their HDB parking area. The problem is even more serious in front of the hawker and food court area located at block 443, Pasir Ris Dr 6.
Motorcyclists regularly drive onto the sidewalk, shooing pedestrians out of the way as if they were the ones in the wrong place, so that they can then block pedestrian traffic on the sidewalk by using it as a motorcycle parking lot.
Speaking of block 443, over the past few days there has been construction in that area. I was really happy with it… at first. I thought they were finally going to do something about the congestion on that sidewalk between the pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists. I thought they were going to widen the sidewalk. There’s certainly plenty of space for it, given the 7 feet deep bushes on one side and the grassy area on the other. Instead, someone, in their infinite wisdom, decided to put a heavy, high curb along the edge of the sidewalk which makes the usable space even smaller and creates an even higher risk for physical injury. I’m sure they meant well. Perhaps they thought that putting the curb there would discourage cyclists and motorcyclists from using that area, but that’s definitely not going to be the case. This is a rather central area that sees a lot of bicycle traffic and this food court is a big gathering area for watching football (soccer) games and drinking at night.
Something needs to be done to regulate the use of sidewalks. Motorcyclists shouldn’t be riding on them at all, and if cyclists are going to continue to be allowed to use them, there should be a better level of policing going on by plain clothes officers lounging in highly trafficked areas, like along Drive 1 in Pasir Ris.
I shouldn’t have to worry about my physical safety every time I use the sidewalk, constantly looking over my shoulder to keep an eye out for reckless cyclists.
About a year ago when I first moved here I saw some advertisements about an initiative that the Tampines Town Council was starting that would allow bicyclists to share the sidewalk with pedestrians.
To the point of being a cliche, it’s common knowledge that in Asia, bicycles are used as a major form of transportation, regardless of income level, since it’s fast, convenient, doesn’t require gas, and you can get to places on your bicycle that you can’t get to in your car. For example, you could ride up to the convenience store and park right outside it, rather than try to find a parking lot and walk to the convenience store. Singapore is designed in a way that it looks like Atlanta, but has roads and parking areas like a big city. Often you’ll find areas with no parking lots, meaning you have to drive quite a ways from your intended destination to find a parking garage and then walk the rest of the way. In my mind that defeats the purpose.
The legalization of riding bicycles on sidewalks has been widely adopted in Singapore, so the test run must have met with positive results. I think it’s a fantastic idea. When I was younger and lived in New York City for a while, my mom told me that it was actually illegal to ride bicycles on the sidewalk there. I was shocked then and I’m still shocked now. I can’t imagine riding a bicycle in the city streets in New York. The traffic isn’t as bad here, but still, who wants to share a lane with a double-decker bus or a semi-truck?
To further improve the city for bicycle use, many areas have had bike paths built alongside the sidewalks. This makes it possible for cyclists to travel faster, since they have a dedicated lane just for them. It also makes pedestrians feel safer, since they don’t have to constantly peer over their shoulder for oncoming bicycles. Bicycles are supposed to all have bells on them, and riders are supposed to use them to alert pedestrians that they’re coming but it doesn’t always happen.
So, here’s where the problem comes in. The city has legalized the use of bicycles on sidewalks, and even made special paths for them, but people don’t seem to want to use them. What I mean is, even though there’s a bike path that parallels the sidewalk, riders often use the pedestrian sidewalk anyways. To make it worse they often don’t use their bells and then get angry when pedestrians don’t move out of their way. On one occasion a rider almost hit my wife with a bicycle, in the area seen in the picture above. I chewed him out and told him he had no right to be on the pedestrian sidewalk anyways, and asked him if he was blind, since the bicycle path is clearly right next to the sidewalk and is marked with big yellow bicycle symbols. On the other hand, I often see pedestrians walking on the bicycle paths. I also see cyclists still riding in the streets, disrupting traffic.
It seems like it would be obvious to people that they should use the appropriate areas for walking and riding, but it just doesn’t happen that way. Is it a case of “I’m always right” or simply laziness?