Cyclists paying road tax

From ‘Cyclists should pay road tax like other road users’, 23 Jan 2017, ST Forum

(Felix Heng Teck Seng): Currently, cyclists have special treatment on the road (“Pay to gain respect on the road? I’m in“; Jan 15).

They do not need to wear helmets, pass the Highway Code, or pay registration and road tax.

Yet, they want the same respect as other road users.

Not only is there a need to get cyclists to register and pay to use the road, but also, more importantly, they should be made to learn the Highway Code and pass tests before they are allowed on the road.

It is time to deal with this hot potato issue before more cyclists get killed.

In 1892, a certain Old Izaac shared the same concern about errant bicycles which cause ‘no small amount of nuisance’ and proposed that a tax be imposed on riders, just like how folk then paid to ride on horse carts. 125 years later, bicycles remain as fashionable as ever and people still call for these to be registered and cyclists to be taxed.

Problem is, we impose all kinds of regulations and levies on motorists and drivers still fuck shit up. Unless the revenue from bicycle taxes goes into building decent bicycle lanes, taxation will only serve as an empty, tedious bureaucratic exercise, but do this and you’ll have motorists howling louder than filthy rich golfers losing their turf to railway stations. Pedestrians will also complain because sharing bike lanes at traffic junctions means they can’t cut across to the other side of the road like a boss without suffering an altercation with a cyclist with a sense of entitlement because they pay goddamn road tax.

Errant cyclists will still remain as errant cyclists, Highway Code or not. But charge them tax and the worst of the lot will behave even more like their grandfather owns the road And let’s face it, Singapore is too hot and crowded to be a ‘walking city’. Everywhere you turn you’re bound to cross paths with joggers, cyclists, babies in strollers, hoverboarders, and people still playing Pokemon Go like it’s still 2016. Regulation is just an excuse of doing one’s job while avoiding the harder task of coming up with an actual solution. If you’re going to penalise everyone for any form of public locomotion for everyone’s safety, people are just going to stay at home, do their online shopping, get fat and die.


All bicycles need to be regulated

From ‘All bicycles, not just electric ones, need to be regulated’, 26 Nov 2015, Voices, Today

(Alfred Lim): I support the suggestions in the letter “Greater regulation needed for electric bicycles, riders” (Nov 24). I would state further that every means of transport used on the roads, including regular bicycles, should be regulated. The growth in bicycle usage is unprecedented. Since the cost of motorcycle Certificates of Entitlement (COE) went up substantially, many have switched to bicycles, power-assisted or otherwise.

In land-scarce Singapore, car and motorcycle ownership is regulated in part by the COE system: There is a limit on the number allowed. Cars and motorcycles are required to be tested and insured, and are subject to ownership and usage laws. However, few regulations apply to bicycles, which were once few in number and hardly infringed on other road users’ rights. But this is no longer so. To be fair to all, the cost of bicycle usage cannot be zero or negligible.

Cyclists are not required to pass any test, which perhaps explains the unsafe behaviour seen regularly when they speed at pedestrian crossings, ignore the red light and disregard traffic laws. Being unregistered, they are rarely caught.

Bicycles require other road users to keep a safe distance; one occupies as much space on the roads as a motorcycle. They can cause accidents; hence, insurance is necessary.

Bicycles were once slow and cumbersome, but the new, lighter ones are capable of speeds nearing 50km an hour. Accidents could prove injurious to riders and other road users.

It is time to revisit the premise that we need not regulate bicycle ownership and usage. Accountability and regulation in this regard would be to the benefit and protection of all road users and pedestrians.

The call to issue licences to anyone who owns a bicycle is a case of backpedalling into the early 20th century, a time when bicycles were ‘slow and cumbersome’ and yet it was still dangerous to cycle one-handed while doffing your hat when a lady walks by.

In 1933, such measures were lauded as revenue-generating for the Government, in addition to deterring theft. Licensing did eventually come into play in 1936, with nearly 100,000 bikes being registered with the authority, and naturally, the Government took credit for  the subsequent reduction in traffic offences. I’m not sure if baby tricycles were spared, and whether it was your civic duty to report to the Police if you caught someone’s kid on an unauthorised vehicle blazing down the pavement without having to pass any sort of ‘test’ whatsoever.

In 1981, the Registry of Vehicles decided to scrap bicycle registration as they thought it was no longer sustainable to continue producing number plates and that it involved too much paperwork. The fee then was a measly $5. The very thought of applying for a licence for bicycle-riding today would turn many budding riders off, even if the fee is in the low double-digits. All this runs contrary to our vision of a cyclist-friendly nation. If roads do eventually appear to be safer following bicycle registration, it could merely mean that there are less cyclists on the streets, not because errant cyclists suddenly begin behaving more responsibly. You could register your killer pitbull with AVA, but if you don’t leash him in public there’s still the risk that it would bite someone’s face off.

Perhaps we should be thankful, for now, that the Government doesn’t already mandate bicycles to install ERP gantry readers. ‘To be fair to all’, as the writer suggests, maybe it’s not just cyclists who need to ‘pay’ for running riot on our streets. How about that oblivious jogger with earphones on, or those trolley-pushing cardboard collecting aunties? Or the uncle on a motorised wheelchair? Not every nail that sticks out needs to be hammered down.

The blunt instrument of regulation is not the answer to harmonious commuting. For cyclists, motorists and pedestrians to get around seamlessly requires creative rejigging of the current infrastructure given our space constraints. It requires smart policies coupled with enforcement, not slapping on another bureaucratic hoop that echoes the days when Mamasans rode around in trishaws.

‘Look’ signs with eyes painted on zebra crossings

From ‘Look signs get pedestrians to keep an eye out for traffic’, 2 June 2013, article by Charissa Yong, 2 June 2013, Sunday Times

If you see a pair of eyes on the road, do not be alarmed. The new road markings, which spell out the word “look”, come courtesy of the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to remind pedestrians at zebra crossings to look out for oncoming vehicles.

Yesterday, the LTA said it will be progressively adding more of the signs at pedestrian crossings, starting with five at Ang Mo Kio Street 43, Jurong West Street 52, Sin Ming Road and Bukit Merah Central – estates with many elderly residents.

The move follows positive public feedback from an initial trial last year.

Screen Shot 2013-06-02 at 4.46.17 PM

The Zebra Crossing has eyes.

Who says our stat boards don’t have a sense of humour? LTA might as well stick googly eyes on the road if they want to make a cartoon out of the serious business of safe road-crossing. This idea looks like it was inspired by Samantha Lo’s ‘My Grandfather Road‘, and with the resignation of Singa, it seems that we’ve given up on road courtesy altogether and thought it would be better to give specific commands to pedestrians otherwise they’d take oncoming traffic for granted and waltz along a zebra crossing as if they were protected by a force field, as if it were, well, their Grandfather’s Road.

Our authorities have come up with countless measures to alert motorists about not horsing around when it comes to zebra crossings. In 1984, the Public Works Department painted the word ‘ZEBRA’ in Bukit Purmei, while today we use ‘X-ing’ and zigzag markings to denote zebra crossings. We’ve built flashing beacons, speed humps, strips and drawn inverted triangles to bombard drivers with visual reminders to slow down before zebras, yet people still get knocked down. In a shocking video shot in Jan this year, a schoolboy dashing across a zebra crossing near NUH was sent FLYING after a car drove smack into him. Thankfully he didn’t appear to be seriously hurt, though such an event could have been avoided if both parties just ‘looked’ out for each other.

Cue cartoon eyes.

The fact is people shouldn’t just be ‘looking left and right’ only at zebra crossings, whether they’re strollers, drivers or cyclists. Shouldn’t one be attentive ALL THE TIME? Even if you’re crossing a green light wearing body armour?  Hesitant jaywalkers and motorcyclists mowing up and down pavements can strike anytime, really. Even as you educate pedestrians about ‘looking’ etiquette, some may take it too literally and start snapping photos around a zebra crossing instead.

Look. And Snap

Or you could take the instructions too seriously and ‘look’ longer than required, possibly resulting in you dithering about the curb and confusing motorists about your true intentions. Kids may get so attracted to the cute Disney eyes on the road that they pay more attention to the ground than what’s coming at them from the sides. Or you could also spend too much looking left and right that you may get run down from the FRONT by an uncle on a bicycle, which is almost as dangerous as a drunkard on a Segway with a battering ram in front of it.

Look out for dog in basket

Of course, there are nuisance pedestrians who ignore zebra crossings entirely, rendering all the LTA’s efforts decorating our roads with warning symbols as void. Or perhaps they just didn’t notice, what with their eyes glued to their phones and all.

Look. At your phone.

The zebra crossing has infuriated both pedestrians and motorists alike for decades, with each party blaming the other when something nasty happens, like a power/class struggle over a disputed minefield between someone abusing the right to cross vs another abusing the right to drive. When all else fails though, one can always blame mishaps on malign forces. In 2009, Clementi residents blamed a ‘tomb’ for laying an evil curse on a zebra crossing that led right into its path after a boy was tragically run over by a tipper truck. The other favourite for finger-pointing is of course the traffic authority itself, for not installing enough road humps, not deploying more patrol units or not summoning motorists for zipping through zebra crossings like nothing was there. In fact, some drivers may actually take their chances and SPEED UP near a zebra crossing if they see someone slowly walking towards it.

So much for eyes – literally – on the road, when what really matters is that people are properly using those eyes on their HEADS. Sam Lo must be itching to get back to work on the streets. Imagine what you can do with those goofy eyes. Like adding a smiley face to make someone’s day perhaps, at least during their final moments on earth before a mad driver runs them over.

This is a photoshopped picture. Please don't arrest me, Police

This is a photoshopped picture. Please don’t arrest me, Police

$2,200 Brompton bikes value for money

From ‘Seeking clarity over $2200 bike purchase’, ST Forum, 8 July 2012

(Tan Buck Yam): AS A taxpayer for the past 34 years and an avid cyclist, I find it hard to comprehend how the National Parks Board’s (NParks) bulk bicycle purchase was value for money (‘Khaw okay with NParks’ purchase of $2,200 bikes’; Thursday).

I agree that NParks officers need bicycles for their field duties, which are demanding. However, to acquire foldable bicycles at $2,200 each may not reflect well on the Government’s call for prudence and austerity. I own four bicycles – a hybrid costing $420, two mountain bikes at about $200 each and a foldable 20-inch bicycle at $98. All were purchased from Carrefour supermarket.

…What were these requirements that resulted in Brompton bicycles being the cheapest and most prudent purchase? What was the process of scrutiny by senior management? Perhaps the public could be shown a comparison of a similar purchase by the police, who recently acquired bicycles for their officers to patrol neighbourhoods. What was the cost of these bicycles?

I hardly see the police on bicycles, but I doubt they would pedal more than 40km a day, at least according to NParks in their justification for luxury biking. Taking the quality of a Brompton at face value, you can purchase more than 20 Carrefour bikes as spares for the same price. According to Khaw Boon Wan, who thinks paying spending more than $50K on 26 bicycles is a good deal:

…It offers us maximum operational flexibility in terms of usage and deployment. It enables our staff to get to the field sites directly and individually rather than needing an office van to transport them and their bikes to the various sites. This is a significant factor in raising productivity all round – manpower, time, vehicle

This coming from someone who paid $8 upfront for a bypass. Khaw went on to clarify that the only reason why the Brompton was picked was that only one vendor responded to the Gebiz tender, and that it was bought at a discounted rate. Which is pretty much the typical Singaporean response to expensive stuff at a sale, buying things you don’t really need but providing self-justification that you made a wise decision on hindsight. In March last year, our National Development Minister also sang praises of Herman Miller chairs, which MOM purchased at $575 a pop, supposedly a ‘steal’. A total of 475 of such ergonomic branded chairs were bought then, and it remains to be seen how a comfortable butt and SPOILING staff has improved civil servants’ productivity. An orthopedic surgeon remarked that ‘you don’t need an expensive chair to prevent back problems’. Ironically, if your chair is TOO comfortable, you may be spared from neck, shoulder and back pains, but subject yourself to a higher risk of cardiac mortality for prolonged sitting down.

I think the same applies to NParks officers, doing whatever they do on their rounds. You don’t need an expensive ‘Bomb-ton’ bicycle to chase down wild boars. In fact, knowing that you’re sitting on a $2200 luxury good means you’re less likely to hurtle headlong into a forest to perform your huntsman duties in fear of damaging standard issue equipment and writing statements.  Interestingly, I also stumbled upon this Youtube UOB ad and 8 days feature while trying to find out how much a Brompton is selling here (according to a forum fan, you can get it for less than 2K for some models). These feature sometime eco-warrior Howard Shaw, recently charged for sex with an underaged prostitute, riding a BROMPTON. Second thoughts, NParks?

Note how UOB uses the slogan ‘The Sustainable Energy of Howard Shaw’. I think we all know what ‘energy’ they’re referring to now. 8 days also once labelled Shaw as our generation’s CAPTAIN PLANET, which explains his affinity for kids then.

Howard Shaw, Singapore’s Captain Planet, rides a Brompton.

Cyclist punched in the face by jogger

From ‘And then there is jogger rage’, 6 June 2011, Voices, Today online

(Edwin James Fawcett): …Last month, while I was cycling home from work along the Bedok canal on the designated cycle path, a jogger came straight at me.

Rather than cross onto the pedestrian section to avoid him, I stayed as far right as I could. I waved at the jogger to move across and there was no response. Eventually I had to stop, and as I was about to politely mention that he was in the cycle lane, he punched me in the face.

Now as you can imagine I was a little upset about this, so I dismounted and politely chastised him. He then ran off shouting racial abuse at me.

Having lived in Holland for many years, cycling is second nature to me. It is a little annoying seeing the very bad attitudes of pedestrians towards cyclists. Riding at the East Coast Park for example is a nightmare, with people blatantly walking on the cycle paths without a care in the world.

If Mr Fawcett’s account is genuine, then either he’s the most good natured cyclist in Singapore or his reaction to being assaulted by a mad jogger (a LITTLE upset) is a case of severe understatement. How could anyone even be ‘politely chastising’ his attacker after being sucker-punched? Most people would be reeling in shock at the bizarre nature of the incident, with a few chasing the jogger on their bikes to get even, as comical as that looks.  It’s usually the other way round in the urban food chain, the pedestrian gets knocked down by the jogger, the jogger is knocked down by the cyclist, the cyclist by the car, car rams into a tree, and so on. This cyclist face-punching  appears to be a rare case of a ‘run-and-hit-and-run” jogger.

This just proves how inadequate jogging is as a sport in sating our innate bloodlust, that the pumping adrenaline merely primes the jogger to unleash a fist of fury at anyone in their way, bulldozing through cyclists, pedestrians or even old people on a stroll if they have to. Such street violence is uncalled for, though it’s an expression of how stifled some people are without an outlet for male aggression, that when video game shoot-em-ups don’t help, sometimes a little pub brawl and alley scuffling  without the police clamping down on the fun is all we need to release our pent up cravings for a little rough and tumble. Causing vicious hurt to cyclists isn’t the only crime that joggers can commit on the go, sometimes they’re serial molesters too ( See below, 9 May 1979, ST). Cyclists are as much of a nuisance themselves, if not dispersing happy families on pavements they’re knocking old people into a coma. It seems that with the surge of automobiles, we seem to have forgotten how dangerous bicycles could be. In the 1930s, it was even a crime to collide into police constables while you’re on a bike (P C Knocked down, 16 March 1932).

Your grandfather’s pavement is it

From A new road bully 10 Mar 2010 ST Forum

I had a head-on collision with a cyclist along the pavement between Kallang and Lavender MRT stations and suffered cuts to my hands. Instead of pulling over to find out if I was all right, the cyclist scolded me, spewing vulgarities.

The authorities should reconsider the introduction of bicycle registration for riders. They could also produce a series of road safety videos and fliers to teach cyclists that riding on footpaths is an offence.

There’s a cycling path beneath a MRT station nearby which cyclists never use because 1. It’s winding and there’s a perfectly straight footpath next to it and 2. Pedestrians like to use it on a hot day despite its windiness for the shade. Even with designated lanes, Singaporeans will choose to ignore and dawdle, roller-blade, skateboard or jog wherever they want. So maybe the problem is not with cyclists but maybe just a general lack of  space for everyone.