Sunday, June 26, 2011

A letter to my MP

This is a letter I wrote to Mr David Ong, the Member of Parliament for Jurong GRC which I sent today.

Mr David Ong (
Member of Parliament
Jurong GRC

Dear Mr Ong,

Re: Pavement cyclists and Pedestrian safety.

I am one of your constituents living at Blk 203 Bukit Batok.

I noticed that the Park Connector project from Bukit Batok to Jurong East is nearing its completion. The track is completed and signage has been mounted.
This will make travelling between the towns much more pleasant and perhaps safer for cyclists and pedestrians.

After mulling over the issue for some time, I would like to offer some of my personal feedback, not just specifically on the Park Connector (PCN) but on pedestrian safety and cyclists in general in Bukit Batok.

I do not own a car and neither do I cycle, so I am basically a pedestrian. Unless I take the bus or the train, I usually move about Bukit Batok on foot. The most difficult thing about walking in Bukit Batok is the danger posed by pavement cyclists. I must clarify that I am not against cyclists per se.

Unlike Tampines New Town where cycling on pavement is legal, cyclists in Bukit Batok technically still come under Rule 28 of the Road Traffic Rules (1981) where it is prohibited to ride on the pavement. 1st time offenders can be fined $20 for the traffic offense.

Officially under the Road Traffic Act (Chap 276, Sec140), bicycles are considered as vehicles and are required to be ridden on the road abiding to all the relevant traffic rules and regulations.

But in reality, the majority of cyclists in Bukit Batok ride on the pavements. Many of them do this due to their fear of being on the road with other bigger vehicles, for their own personal safety, or simply due to the fact that they are ignorant of the cycling prohibition rule.

I have seen cyclists showing utter disregard for traffic lights, pedestrian crossings, riding along shop corridors and even taking their bicycles onto escalators. Then there are those who constantly ring their bell to impose their ‘right of way’ along pavements, never mind the safety of pedestrians.
With all disregards to etiquette and rules by cyclists, pedestrians like me are most vulnerable on the pavements.

Even waiting at a bus stop poses a great danger to commuters.
The way our road pavements are designed, the path leads right through the bus stop shelter.  Many years ago, a raised floor or bollards prevented bicycles from accidentally going through a bus stop but these were removed to make it more user-friendly for the physically challenged. 
The downside to this is that it became a boon for cyclists who now have an unhindered ride straight through without consideration for commuters’ safety.

The new PCN along Bukit Batok Ave 1 is a prime example.
Even though the PCN cycling section detours behind the bus stop shelter, cyclists routinely disregard this safety path and continue to cycle through the bus stop. Some even without slowing down at all despite signs that say “Dismount and Push” which are completely ignored.
Bukit Batok Ave 1 Park Connector

The other thing that I await in trepidation is that under the Jurong GRC 5-year plan, there is a proposal to build a new Bicycle Park at the Bukit Batok MRT station south end.

From the preliminary sketch plan, you can see that the exit from the Bicycle Park leads out onto, and connects directly to, the pedestrian pavement and not to the road.  This is an implicit open invitation to cyclists to ride on the pavement itself.
It seems it was designed to benefit cyclists without considering pedestrian safety. Something is not right here.

(Copyright Jurong GRC Town Council) - Scanned picture used for example.

Can I suggest that before you launch the PCN officially, and before you build the Bicycle Park, a bit more thought be given to the safety of pedestrians?

We need a more holistic approach to the whole matter.

Besides just building the infrastructure for better connectivity, we need to educate the public, the pedestrians, the cyclists, the motorists and other road users.
Once a suitable PR or education programme is completed, we should then enforce basic rules and regulations for its proper usage.

In the area of educating the public, we can start with some sort of awareness programme in schools, in commercial places and factories within Bukit Batok.
Many of the offenders are foreign workers who may not be aware of the pavement restriction.

For motorists driving through Bukit Batok town, consider signage to warn them about giving space to cyclists (who should be educated to ride on the road instead). It’s all about courtesy to each and every road user.

I am not suggesting that enforcement of Rule 28 be heightened immediately. This will only result in more accidents for cyclists if enforcement takes place without education and thus will serve no beneficial purpose.

Unlike the way Tampines estate is trying to resolve their problem, my opinion is that we should tackle the problem at its root, i.e. teach cyclists the correct manner of safe cycling on the roads. Make Bukit Batok town a bicycle friendly estate but we should tackle the problem head-on rather than spend money on creating parallel bicycle tracks. Bicycles belong on the road, thus cyclists and motorists should be made aware of this.  In the absence of a national awareness programme, let our constituency take the lead.

We can educate motorists to give space to cyclists by putting up signage like “Look out for cyclists”, “Give 1.5m space” “Cyclists ahead”, etc.
There are some motorists who actually believe that cyclists should be off the roads. They should be educated to share the roads in a safe manner within Bukit Batok.

We should educate cyclists to ride safely on the roads, keep left, observe traffic rules, use safety gear, etc. I know of many cyclists who are completely ignorant of the fact that pavements are off limits. This is partially due to the very lax enforcement by the authorities, which seem to have a live and let live attitude instead. But we are sending the wrong message with this attitude.

We should educate pedestrians too. Even to give way to recalcitrant cyclists, as there will always be those who will ride on pavement for their own selfish safety as against riding on the road. Though it’s wrong, they prefer to accept the risks without considering the danger to others.

I remember when I took my driving tests decades ago; the emphasis was always “Pedestrian First”.  Their safety is of utmost priority, even when they may be in the wrong like jaywalking or crossing against their favour. Flesh against metal is a no win situation.

I appreciate your time in reading my rather long feedback.  For everyone’s safety, I believe that sustained and persistent education, coupled with the proper facilities you have built, will result in a safer environment for all in Bukit Batok.

I remain,

Yours faithfully,

James Tann

I attached a sample video of a safe cycling programme.


  1. Initially I had some difficulties in sending the email to my MP at his email. My email was getting rejected by the email server.

    Your message cannot be delivered to the following recipients:
    Recipient address:
    Reason: Remote SMTP server has rejected address
    Diagnostic code: smtp;550 #5.1.0 Address rejected

    So I tried sending via the Jurong Town Council and today I received replies from both the TC and the MP. (copied and pasted below)

    Dear James,

    Thank you for your feedback.

    I do understand your concerns with regards to cyclists on pavements, pedestrain crossing and at bus stops. You are right that we need to better educate the cyclists, motorists and pedestrian to improve the situation. I will see how we can better do this to heighten road safety awareness amongst our residents in Bukit Batok.

    On the bicycle shed, we will look inot your suggestion.

    Thnaks again for your feedback.

    David Ong

    From: Chan Wee Lee-BB Town Council
    Date: Tue, 28 Jun 2011 10:42:02 +0800
    Cc: enquiry ,
    Subject: Re: Fw: For Mr David Ong, MP, Jurong GRC

    Dear James,

    We have notified Mr David Ong over your difficulty in sending emails directly to him. He has informed us that he will get his administrator to check the account.

    Meanwhile, I took the liberty of reading your email to Mr Ong and noted your last concern with regards to the bicycle shed at Bukit Batok MRT Station shown at the Jurong TC 5 yr plan Master Concept Plan.

    The proposed design was extracted from the remaking of the Jurong heartlands plans which caters to an anticipated need of having more bicycle parking areas with better connectivity for transports hub in Jurong.

    The designs shown are conceptual in nature and are not representative of Bukit Batok only and it will require fine tunning.


    Chan Wee Lee

    -----enquiry/JRTC/SGTC wrote: -----

    To: Chan Wee Lee/JRTC/SGTC@JRGDOM
    From: enquiry/JRTC/SGTC
    Date: 06/27/2011 12:17PM
    Subject: Fw: For Mr David Ong, MP, Jurong GRC

    PM Chan

    Pls see email below on Pavement Cyclists and Pedestrian Safety which the resident wants to be redirected to Mr David Ong.


    -----Forwarded by enquiry/JRTC/SGTC on 06/27/2011 12:14PM -----

  2. Pure whitewash. Typical govspeak

  3. Hi AG.
    You took the words right out of my mouth. My MP is just a month into his new job so I guess he gotta get one of the standard answers out of the Men in White book.

  4. Dear James,

    The key issue with regards to cycling, pavements and pedestrians is a fundamental contradiction in the way in which urban spaces should (or can) be shared. Unfortunately Singapore is an environment largely shaped by the demands of the motor vehicle; you end up with particularly harsh landscapes and roads that encourage speed and fast driving instead of a dense urban grain in which people are encouraged to walk and linger. Part of this is due to the weather. Yes, cyclists should be on the roads, but given the way in which the LTA currently design road layouts you can understand why many prefer to stick to pavements. The Park Connector Network is a particularly shambolic example of poor bicycle infrastructure design - as far as I'm concerned either you aim for the 'gold standard' with Dutch or Danish infrastructure including separated on road cycle lanes and separated light phases at traffic lights or don't bother at all. I take issue with the rather wrong-headed belief that 'education' is necessary; if the policy objective is 'more cycling and walking' the key issue is reducing perceived and actual danger. No amount of training will save a cyclist or pedestrian from a 8 tonne lorry driven badly - responsibility should follow a hierarchy of power with motor vehicles having automatic liability for any injury to pedestrians and cyclists as it currently stands in much of Continental Europe. At the end of the day someone will need to decide whether there is a place for cycling in Singapore as an everyday mode of transport and commit the necessary funding and political support to make it happen.

    As for David Ong, having worked for him many moons ago in the Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng CCC he is most certainly not a Man in White - he's a very effective grassroots leader with a critical mind and does put a lot of attention into dealing with his constituents. We can't expect our elected representatives to effect change instantaneously; but from what I gather from your correspondence with the Town Council someone is most definitely listening.