Letter by: Stephen Choy
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.