The number of traffic offences committed by bicycle users went up by 17.5% from 2012 to 2013. Some said that it is due to the increase number of cyclists. Some said it is due to the attitude of bicycle users. Yet some said it is due to the lack of proper infrastructure for bicycle users. The truth probably is a mixture of all the above factors. On further enquiry, the types of violation committed by errant cyclists are typically the following:
1) Riding on pavement
2) Running red light
3) Endangering pedestrians
There were 1455 traffic violation committed by cyclists in 2013. No one was killed due to these offences.
In comparison, motorist committed 252 times more traffic violation in 2013, including the followings:
1) Speeding 260,512 (in 2013)
2) Running red light
3) Careless driving
All together there were 367,496 traffic violation committed by motorists in 2013. 159 persons were killed which included 43 pedestrians.
These information is available from the Traffic Police site: [Publications] > [Annual Traffic Statistics]
As quote from the TP site, for these violations committed by motorists:
“every traffic violation can potentially result in a fatal or injury accident and the loss of lives.”
When I’m looking through this striking comparison, it occurs to me that there are 250 times more offences committed by motoring and each of these offences has at least 10x higher potential to kill or to cause serious injuries. Shouldn’t we put 2500 times more attention and effort to reduce the bigger, more dangerous offences?
Traffic Police statistics: http://driving-in-singapore.spf.gov.sg
Channel News Asia report: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/errant-cyclists-on-the/1565814.html
I was surprised to see my Photoshopped photo appear on the Facebook page of STA. I’m even more delighted to learn that they are conducting a survey to get public views about bicycle lanes on Singapore roads.
Here is the question they posted:
Bicycle lanes in Singapore, Ya or Nay? Motorist seems to have a very negative view on cyclists on the road why is that so? Share your view with us?
3 lucky comments will be selected to win a mystery prize each. Entries close on Friday, 13/2/2015, 12 pm.
However, the most enlightening part are the views expressed by many people, and supported by the most “Likes” for example:
Woon Taiwoon: Cycling can help reduce traffic jam. If you look around you when u drive, how many cars are vacant with only drivers. Imagine when 10 percent of the car drivers convert to cycling. Thats alot of cars OUT OFF the roads.
Now I know cycling as a form of commuting might sound crazy but it is really possible. If there are bike lanes, I am very sure many will chose this eco friendly and happier alternative.
Joanna Peck: personally, I think an excellent first step would be to show on the bus lanes that bicycles are allowed there. This would take minimal effort on the part of authorities to implement.
for the future, I’d love to see a cycling lane network established in Singapore. Where people can cycle from place to place with ease instead of navigating a hodgepodge mixture of road, PCN and pavements.
Brenda Woo: Yes, we need a bicycle lane in Singapore! Whether it’s on the road or side of the road as long as it makes every road users safe while commuting. Motorists may have a negative view of cyclists on road largely because there isn’t a dedicated lane for bicycles and sometimes for the cyclists’ own safety they have to take a whole lane, esp. at turning junctions… If everyone shares the road and everyone knows what to expect, there can be mutual respect amongst all commuters.
Petia Garmadon: More bicycles less cars no jams.
Francis Chu: This particular photo is showing that under current traffic rules, bicycle is allowed on Bus Lanes: http://www.lta.gov.sg/…/road…/road-regulations.html
I think putting a bicycle sign on Bus Lane is a very good start for the following reasons:
1) Some motorists saw cyclists on bus lane and is upset that the cyclist is “breaking the law again” but in fact that’s not true.
2) Some cyclists though they are not supposed to ride on bus lane and decided to ride on the second lane, which is more dangerous and slows down the cars there.
3) Bus drivers todays are properly trained on how to share the road with cyclists.
Putting down a bicycle sign on Bus lane does not affect current rules and is an effective start to make cycling more visible as a mode of transport.
There naturally some are not too sure about having bike lanes on Singapore roads:
Keith Dot Lee: I am not cycling on the road because our road width did not cater for bicycle. Hence a danger to cycle on road. Further, the law is not in favor of the cyclist. So the ball is with LTA. Cater for it first.
But Keith is quickly convinced by the following responses:
Dennis LH Cheong: Actually, after having some cycling in some other cities (with longer history), you should find that our (non ancient) roads have relatively wide left lane catered for buses. This features, which I didn’t know until recently, actually allowed me to have been bicycle commuting since 1996. Francis Chu: We actually measured ~ 100 road width and we found more than 70% of the roads are wide enough to cater for a 1.2-1.6 meter bike lane. Keith Dot Lee: Oh I see. Thks for sharing.
And fianlly there are a few nay sayer:
Matthew Lim: nay!!! have you seen the traffic in the bus lanes. its likely to be a road hazard. cars, cyclists and busses are not meant to share the same lane.
To find out what the responses Matthew received? check the STA page here:
The answer seems to be obvious, however, the German Chancellor Merkel gave an unexpected, yet inspiring answer:
“Cyclists do have their own interpretation of traffic rules. But we are not pushing hard for obeying the rules, but for better and more bike paths and as far as helmets go for cyclist, we focus on the voluntary usage and not bringing in laws for that.”
Bicycle as a mode of transport is not new, it exist way before the creation of “traffic rules”. Traffic rules were created after the introduction of motor cars, which imposed unprecedented risks to other road users. You may consider “traffic rules” are essentially “motorist’s rules” and must be obeyed by all motorists for the safety of other road users. However, it is not realistic, nor fair to require a human power mode of transport to follow 100% of the “motorist’s rules” even if it means it will sometimes put the cyclist in risk.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel checking a road bike
I’m not advocating cyclists to break the traffic rules. The fundamental principle should be safety. Do what is safe. Follow the traffic rules as much as possible. But, do not follow the rules blindly and put yourself in a dangerous position. Some of these “rules” are in fact perceived and not official. Here a few typical, but exceptional examples that bicycle users may “break the rules” for safety concern:
1) Riding on footpath – if the road is full of fast moving cars, it is potentially deadly for slow riders such as the uncles and aunties going to markets. In this case, I would be using the footpath instead. Anyone insist that cyclists must always be on the road I will challenge them to ride slowly along Lornie Road.
2) Not staying at the extreme left of the left most lane, but shifting to the centre of the lane – Before riding across a road junction, or approaching a slip road, it is often safer for the cyclist to shift his/her position from left of the lane towards the centre of the lane. This is for two purpose: a) signal to the driver behind that you want to go straight, not turning left. 2) prevent driver from last moment overtaking and cutting in front to turn left.
3) Move from left most lane to second or third lanes – before some junction with one or more left turning lanes, you need to position yourself out of the left turning lanes if you need to go straight.
4) Riding on the bus lane – it is actually legal to riding on Bus lane, but many drivers and cyclists are not aware of this and become confused. It should be possible to put a bicycle sign on Bus lane, and it will be more clear for every body that bicycle are supposed to be on the Bus Lanes.
5) Riding across zebra crossing or pedestrian crossing – again, there is no explicit law states that it is not allowed to cycle across a pedestrian crossing. But you need to do so in a safe manner, for your own safety and other pedestrian’s safety. Never rush across a crossing regardless you are cycling or running.
6) Not wearing helmet – there is no law in Singapore states that one must wear a helmet in order to ride a bicycle. It is a personal choice.
It is particularly interesting that, such “un-ruling” comment is coming from a German Chancellor, since Germany is well know to be a rule based society. Angela Merkel clearly understand that it is not useful to force the traffic rules, which are primarily created to control motorists for the safety of others, onto the group of cyclists, which does not imposed the same level of risk to other users. Instead she put focus to improve the infrastructure such as bike paths so that everyone will be more safe regardless of the rules.
Quickly post this excellent work of Jonathan Hiew, who tirelessly pieces together the different cycling routes in Singapore, includes Park Connector, LTA and town council cycling routes, on road routes and unobvious routes submitted by cyclists, with notes too!
However, is 700km bicycle network enough to make Singapore a real bicycle friendly city? What does it takes to make Singapore a truly bicycle friendly city?
Let’s define a bicycle friendly city as a city where you can safely and conveniently use a bicycle to go where you need to go. 400km of the 700km NCP cycling routes are Park Connectors (PCN) which are predominantly for recreational purposes. The remaining 300km are Intra-town cycling routes which are more useful for connecting major transport nodes, town centers and amenities such as food centers and markets.
Today we have over 3000km of local access roads in Singapore connecting all the places where people need to go.
300km intra-town cycling routes vs 3000km normal roads.
This means by 2030, in average, you have a 10% chance (300km/3000km) to get to where you need to go if you are using the NCP bicycle route. If in 9 out of 10 cases I am not able to use my car to get to where I need to go, I probably won’t drive. Similarly 10% access is not friendly enough for bicycle users. So what does it takes to make Singapore a truly bicycle friendly city?
The solution is in fact obvious to many regular bicycle users all over Singapore: as shown here, they use roads as well as pavements and PCNs. The only problem is that it is not safe enough and it does not give confidence to others who would like to try using a bicycle. So what can we do?
I’d suggest to dream big, yet act pragmatic and look for “low-hanging fruit” solutions.
To Dream Big:
A) Bicycles, as a transport mode, should take up at least a 30% share**.
B) Bicycles should be able to access 90%+ of places people need to go.
C) The entire bicycle network must be safe enough for your 10-year-old kid to cycle independently.
It may seems these are impossible dreams but let’s see what are the “low-hanging fruit” that is available:
Take the Low-hanging-fruit solutions:
1) Lift the ban for cycling on pavements. This will immediately add 3000km of off-road cycleable routes to the network, since most roads in Singapore come with pavements. Simultaneously, introduce a “strict liability law” — in case of any accident between a cyclist and a pedestrian, the cyclist is always liable. Increase the fine to make sure that all cyclists take very good care of pedestrians when sharing pavements.
These two ideas will unlock the existing potential of Singapore with minimum effort. But it is an intermediate solution because it is not ideal to have cyclists mix with pedestrians in most situations. Therefore we should improve the on-road cycling routes with the following:
With a pragmatic approach, we should be able to unlock the potential of (off-road) cycling as a mode of transport within a few years, and continuously improve the efficiency and safety of the (on road) cycling network at the same time.
**A mode share of 30% share for bicycles will help to increase 33% capacity of public transport as well as 16.5% of road capacity in Singapore. This will be able to justify at least 10% of LTA’s investments to improve bicycle infrastructure. How is that possible? To make it simple, let’s say today transport mode share is 70% on public transport, 30% use cars and taxis. 25% from public transport and 5% from cars shifted to create the 30% of bicycle mode share. This means bicycle will help to relief 25/75, or one third of the loading from public transport, and at the same time 5/30, or 1/6 of loading on cars. What kind of budget will be required to make such improvement possible, even if space is not an issue? Therefore it is a no brainer to spend billions of budget to improve bicycle infrastructure. It will benefits all road users.
The Singapore National Cycling Plan get a substantial endorsement from PM Lee Hsiang Loong. At the launch of the “Clean and Green Singapore 2015″ on November 8th, 2014. PM Lee was surprised by the spontaneous applause when he mentioned “Bicycle!” as an alternative mode of transport he want to encourage. He cited his experience of cycling in Copenhagen and offer Ang Mo Kio as a “test bed” for innovative bicycle infrastructure to make cycling a choice mode of everyday transport. This will be a significant milestone of the National Cycling Plan which targets to complete 700km bicycle paths by 2030.
The role of cycling as part of a bigger picture of Sustainable Singapore vision 2015 is becoming more clear now, as described in the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint 2015:
Cycling and walking will become popular forms of getting around in our neighbourhoods and regions. ….. With a “car-lite” Singapore, we can reduce our carbon footprint, as well as enjoy fresher air, a cleaner environment and a healthier lifestyle.
Here are some concrete actions mentioned in the blueprint:
• Introduce innovative features and creative designs to towns to provide a better cycling and walking environment, starting with Ang Mo Kio
• Develop a comprehensive cycling network spanning more than 700 km by 2030, with supporting infrastructure and a code of conduct to promote safe cycling within and across towns
• Create more car-free spaces in housing estates and the city, such as the Civic District, where roads are temporarily or permanently closed for public activities
Looking back, it was less than one year since LCSG ride with Minister Khaw last year (link). During that ride he told me that he consider bicycling as an important mode of transport for a livable future Singapore. Under his ministry, URA, NPark and HDB are all working to make cycling an easier choice for the common*.
We must now go beyond cycling for recreation. We want it to be a viable transport option for short trips to the supermarket, coffee shop, hawker centre or the nearest MRT station. To do so, we must make such trips safe and pleasant.
But how can we make the bicycle trips safe and pleasant?
Perhaps Ms Irene Ng, MP of Tampines, the first Cycling Town in Singapore, has some solid ideas. She made a 20 minutes long speech yesterday in the Parliament to call for a National Integrated Cycling Strategy and Policy Framework.
The question now is how to move from good intentions to coordinated policy, and from policy to practice. The answer lies in a national integrated cycling strategy and policy framework which has specific, measurable targets, fosters cooperation between government agencies, and supported by adequate and sustained funding.
There are many good observation of the current problems and constructive ideas of how to move forward. Follow this link to the entire speech.
*Note: NPark pioneered the concept of PCN, or Park Connector Network. Today there are over 200km PCN, which is the backbone of a comprehensive leisure cycling network all over Singapore.
URA, or Urban Redevelopment Authority, lay down the Master Plan in 2013 defining a more sustainable approach towards a “car-less”, “bike-more” future. URA has been chairing the National Cycling Plan Steering Committee too. HDB, the Housing Development Board, build flats for 70% of the population. It’s traffic calming design of estates are mostly friendly for cyclists and pedestrians.
I’ve heard about Car Free Day but never experience it in person. Thanks to the invitation from URA, I had the opportunity to participate in the 10th edition of KL Car Free Day last Saturday. I went with a team of URA, LTA, SLA, SDCF and Mr. Peter Ong, the Head of Civil Service, to study how the KL Car Free Day is organized. It was an eye opener for me.
************************************ How was it like cycling on KL Car Free Day?
Cycling on the car free four lanes road through the CBD area felt like a dream. I saw many happy faces from young to old, including cyclists, skateboarders, in-line skaters and joggers. It felt like a big celebration in the city. According to Datuk Naim Mohammad, the Chairman of Cycling Implementation Committee, the monthly Car Free Day (7-9am) typically attracts 10,000 participants. Despite the initial skepticism, the complaints from motorist has dropped and more stake holders are finding ways to sponsor and capitalize on this popular event.
************************************ What are the benefits of Car Free Day?
Quote from the KL Car Free Day:
“The KL Car Free Morning was initiated as part of a goal to reduce carbon emissions in the city by 40 per cent by 2020. The project is the result of the Transport, Planning and Leisure Departments of DBKL working with the Royal Malaysian Police Force to achieve a coordinated whole-of-government outcome. KL Mayor, Ahmad Phesal Talib, and Chairman of the Cycling Implementation Committee, Datuk Naim Mohammad, act as the figure heads of the initiative.”
Apart from reducing carbon emission, Car Free Day provides the opportunity for citizen to experience the transformation of public space from car-dominant to car-free. In many cities, such events help to inspire people to consider more use of green mobility such as bicycle for joy, health and efficiency. In Singapore, the CBD area is mostly quiet with little traffic during the early Sunday morning. A Car Free event during this time can be a great way to optimize the usefulness of limited space in Singapore and provide a wonderful opportunity for everyone to experience the city in a completely different way.
************************************ The next question is how?
Below are some tips after talking to the organizer and seeing the event unfolded:
1) Closing off the entire road is safer and easier than closing only one or two lanes.
2) Road blocks and road marshals at strategic positions such as the entrances of the closed segments of the roads.
3) Safety: Traffic police on motorcycle to clear the roads before and after the event. Safety riders are deployed along the way. Ambulance and first aid team standing by in case of any accident.
4) Participants gathered at the starting point to wait for the flag off. It was a natural one-way flow and that’s safer than bi-directional traffic.
5) Getting support from business and the shops/hotels in the affected area helps to make the event more sustainable.
– The Car Free Day event can become an attraction for hotel guests. The hotel just need to provide a few bicycles, minimum investment.
– Consider alternative way for hotel guests to access transport to airport
************************************ Can we have Singapore’s own Car Free Day any time soon?
I certainly hope so! Judging from the happy faces of the Singapore team it seems the idea of a Car Free Day in Singapore may come sooner than later. Photos below includes staff from URA, LTA, SLA, SCDF and Head of Civil Service.
Do you think Car Free day is a good idea for Singapore? Where would you like to see it happen?
Singapore study team meeting with Datuk Naim Mohammad, the Chairman of Cycling Implementation Committee, KL Malaysia.
Peter Ong, Head of Civil Service, Ng Lang, CEO of URA, Lim Eng Hwee, Chief Planner of URA
Dr. Chin Kian Keong, LTA, Tan Tee Nee, LTA and URA team (Andrew, Nicholas, Eugene)
Francis Chu, LoveCyclingSG, Lucy Lim, SLA and Swee Leong CHUA, Yeow Kiat YAM, Boon Hui SER from SCDF
Will you let your 10 years old kid to cycle one 1 km to school? …. Why not?
Most parents will tell you that although the bicycle path is safe, they worry their children may be killed when crossing the roads.
1. Bicycle network is not safe, if the crossings at the roads are not safe
What if there is a bicycle path, off the road, connecting home and school?
“That will be much better.” a friend once told me. “Free from the danger of cars, I will seriously consider to let my son to cycle to school. After all cycling is a healthy way to move around, providing much needed physical exercise in today’s computer age. I think it will also helps him to become more independent and I won’t be so stressed during the morning rush hours.”
However, it is not realistic to assume the bicycle network can always be kept “off the road”. As the network grows into towns, it is inevitable that the bicycle network will have to intersect with the road system at some intersections. If the road crossings are not safe, the cycling path is broken at each road crossing. The entire network becomes a bunch of isolated off-road paths.
Therefore the objective of road crossing design along a bicycle path is to make it easy and safe to cross the road, to connect and reassure parents that it is safe for their kids to cycle across the road independently.
Cycling as a lifestyle choice will be a major step for Singapore to move towards a more green, clean and livable city. URA, together with key government agents such as LTA and NPark, are extending current 230 km of bicycle network (mostly Park Connectors) to more than 700 km by 2030. We can be duplicating existing (safety) problems if the new (off-road) cycling path is built with existing intersection design. Therefore now is a good time to consider how to improve the safety for all road users at intersections and road crossing.
Why existing traffic intersection is not safe enough?
Let’s take a fresh look at traffic intersection today. The diagram (2) below illustrate a typical intersection design, based on a traffic junction at Tampines Street 44-45 and Avenue 9. As a cyclist, or pedestrian, if you need to cross Street 44 from bottom to top, you will encounter 2 high risk “conflicting points” where fast moving cars may be coming from your behind.
2. example of existing design of traffic intersection- Cyclists need to keep their eye wide open and keep checking left and right, and behind(!), when crossing such intersection. -Click on the image to enlarge
The first “conflicting point” is right at the beginning of your journey, left turning car from Avenue 9 may run over you from behind (right). To be aware of the danger and prepare to take evasion action you have to check behind while moving forward onto the road. This is not natural, and very difficult to do while on a bicycle. If the turning vehicle is a large lorry, you likely to be at their blind spot. You can be rear wheeled without the driver even notice.
The second “conflicting point” is the entire stretch before the centre road divider, the driver at the diagonal side of the intersection is watching carefully at the on coming cars (not at you!), waiting for a window of opportunity to make a right turn. The pedestrian crossing is the first location that is not on the path of coming cars. That driver are likely to dash into your path for their own safety, they need to escape the flow of on coming traffic. Under such stressful condition, some drivers forget to check cyclists and pedestrians before they make the quick turn. If you are crossing Street 44 from top to bottom, the situation is even worst, because this car is now turning into you from behind, making it impossible for you to check and be prepare.
The entire crossing is 18 meters. There are two high-risk conflicting points. It can take between upto 60 seconds, depends on age and mobility.
Alternative intersection design (Dutch)
Luckily we don’t have to re-invent the wheel from scratch, problem we face today is not new, we can learn from the Dutch who are more advanced in integrating bicycle as a key transport modes. Over the last 40 years, the Dutch has developed, and systematically refined their traffic intersection design such that it is not only safe for cyclists and pedestrian to use, it is also safer and more efficient for motorists too. With the help of my friend Maurits (who gave a presentation of Dutch bike infrastructure to LoveCyclingSG members and at URA in Februray, 2014) I managed to obtain the design template of a typical Dutch solution to traffic intersection – a special roundabout design that eliminate the dangerous “conflicting points”. I will start with the “ideal solution” in this post, and later follow up with some “in-between” solutions possible.
The ideal solution: Dutch roundabout
The diagram (3) below make use of the same space as in diagram (2) and following the dimension based in the Dutch design specification. No additional space is needed.
Dutch style roundabout – a safe intersection design. —-Click on the image to enlarge
Let take a look at how this roundabout work in real world (Video):
First thing you’ll notice is the entire crossing distance is shorten to 1/3 of the original, 6.5 meters instead of 18 meters. That means cyclists and pedestrians will be able to clear the crossing in 1/3 of the time. This assure motorist and make them more likely to wait because they don’t need to wait for long. More importantly, previous first two dangerous “conflicting points” are eliminated. It is now easy for both motorist and non-motorist to watch out for each other because they are facing each other. Thirdly, right turning drivers (at the diagonal opposite site of the intersection) now have a safe space to pause and wait, they are not stressed to dash onto the pedestrian crossing for their own safety.
There is no need for cyclist to “dismount and push” as such crossing. Clear line of sight between motorists and other road users give both parties enough time to react to sudden, unexpected events.
Compares to current intersections in Singapore, this design is a lot safer and more intuitive, there is no need to use traffic signal lights to regulate the flow. This special roundabout is a “continuous traffic flow processor” that produce the optimal balance of car and human flow. Some people may think that the (car) traffic capacity is reduced because more cars are able to clear the current intersection during the the GREEN light phase. But they forget that they have to wait for the RED light phase and sometime it is waiting for nothing. Some others may doubt if Singapore drivers are able to handle such special design. Fortunately Singapore drivers are already responding positively to similar roundabout. If you drive to NTU, there is a small roundabout (missing the facilities for cycling) near the ADM Building. I was told that there use to be a lot of accident at that intersection because it is on a slope. After changing to this roundabout design the accidents rate has been reduced significantly.
Facts sheet: Dutch roundabout
In the Netherlands: over the last 30 years, traffic intersection has been systematically replaced by roundabout. By 2010, there were 3900 roundabout in the Netherlands.
Capacity: 25,000 cars/day. Waiting time is usually shorten for motorists.
Casualties: reduced by 70% (light and serious injuries)
CO2: reduced by 21%
This special Dutch roundabout design may not be applicable to all road intersection, yet the design thinking behind can always apply to any crossing:
1) Prepare motorist before they reach the pedestrian/bicycle crossing. (optimal approaching speed = 30km/hr)
2) Give time and safe space for drivers to response to cyclists and pedestrians
2) Make it easy and obvious for cyclist and pedestrian to notice where the car is approaching (“fail safe” approach)
Although the example is in Tampines, but this idea can be prototyped and tested easily in any existing location with similar space.
I will be sharing this Dutch style roundabout design with LTA and relevant agents. feel free to post your comments here so that I can take your view into consideration when talking to the government agents.
2014-04-09 Chu Wa, Francis
Update: 2014-04-29 more information about roundabouts
(USA) Myth Buster comparing 4-legs intersection VS roundabout. Roundabout is 20% more efficient than a 4 legs intersection.
(USA) Roundabout causes more accidents? (This is an example of poorly designed roundabout, with too many signs distracting the drivers)
(USA) Roundabout is safer and more efficient (this is not yet the best design, car entering the roundabout tangentially make it unnatural to reduce speed)
I visited Tokyo recently, took the opportunity to cycle there. Riding through Tokyo city centre feels quite different compared to Singapore. It feels safe! The same exercise could be deadly, especially for a traveller who is not familiar with the driving culture in Singapore. I’m not suggesting Singapore drivers are maniac, in fact, given the chance, many are very polite and courteous. However sometime they have to endanger others in order to be safe. The design of the road greatly affected their choice of action.
Bicycle users in Tokyo includes all walks of life. Male & female, young & elderly, mothers and kids, workers and office ladies.
Despite there are many cars and I have to share the roads, I feel drivers in Tokyo are more careful when they need to overtake cyclists. They give cyclists plenty of room or they will slow down and overtake carefully. The number of people on bicycle is much more than I expected. All walks of life, including office workers, students, old people and even mothers with their kids (one front, one back) on bicycles. There is something in Japan that makes cycling easy and safe. I was reflecting my experience in the Netherlands many years back, it was quite different from the Dutch cycling experience, although both are safe. One of my good friend LCH suggested:
- Dutch cycling is a culture of the mind i.e. a result of rational thinking (typical Dutch) that lead to investments in cycle-infrastructure
- Japan cycling is a probably more of the heart, respect for each other as part of total society inherent in the deep rooted Japanese value system.
There is no doubt that, respecting each others is a core value system in Japan. I can understand how it contributed to road safety. However, is this “culture of respect” the only factor for the safety I experienced when riding in Tokyo?
40 km speed limit is very common in Tokyo. Smaller road are often limit to 30 or 20 km per hour.
Apart from riding a bicycle, I had the opportunity to sit in a car, next to the driver, my friend Tsuneki San, who drove me to his office during a morning peak hour. He said that most of the roads in Tokyo are limited to driving speed of 40 km. Only a few main roads are 50 km. Expressways are 80 km. When I cycled through the heart of Tokyo, I passed through many smaller streets with 30 km and 20 km clearly marked on the road. It suddenly daunt on me that, Tokyo, despite being one of the biggest city in the world, is fairly free from loud traffic noise. The overall slower speed must be the key reason for the relatively quiet and calm atmosphere.
Safe junction design in Tokyo prepares drivers to slow down, and provides safe space to “PAUSE and WAIT”.
I also noticed that Tsuneki San slowed down whenever he drove passed a junction. This greatly enhanced his ability to stop in case of any emergency. Likewise, pedestrians and cyclists who approach the junction can see our car clearly. I noticed a number of visual element may contribute to the “calming effect” around the traffic junctions.
(1) Dotted lines define the lanes changed to solid lines, about 30 meters before a junction. This helps to prepare the driver to slow down.
(2) Sometimes the lanes narrow down a bit in order to add a right turning lane. Driving within narrower lanes require more care and has to be slower.
(3) The zebra crossing is visually bold and striking. The “STOP” line is about a car’s length away from the actual zebra crossing.
Lane marking changed to solid lines, preparing the drivers to slow down before they reach the junction.
The overall visual effect is that you intuitively feel the need to slow down and drive more carefully before approaching a junction and pedestrian crossing.
Like many bicycle users, I cycle on the roads as well as pavements. When I need to cycle or walk across the roads, It is easy to judge if it is safe or not. In Singapore, I’ll have to constantly check my back while crossing the road because turning cars may intrude into the pedestrian crossing from behind. This is due to the fact that, in Singapore, the crossing is drawn at the turning radius. There is no buffer space for the driver to “pause” before entering into the “conflicting zone”- the Ped-crossing. Tokyo drivers always stops if there is someone riding or walking on the ped-crossing. Right turning cars does not intrude into the pedestrian crossing, they have a “buffer space” to pause and wait. Driver in Singapore don’t have such space, they have to enter into the pedestrian crossing in order to avoid being crashed by on coming traffic.
It seems what makes cycling safe in Tokyo is not only the culture, design of the road and infrastructure must also play a part to support and sustain safe road user behaviour. At this point I wonder how would a Tokyo driver behave in Singapore? or vise versa?