Don’t blame the user if the design is bad

bad road design makes users at risk

Don’t blame the user if the design is bad

Yesterday an article published in the Straits Times is very relevant to the safety issues highlighted in the picture above. Quoted partly here:

One fatal accident, many questions

(Straitstimes, 5 May, 2013)
By Han Fook Kwang Managing Editor

(Quote partly)
What was it about this (Clementi) junction that made it deadly? (three people has died at the junction in 2002, 2003 and this year)

At first glance, it looked like any busy intersection. But from where I stood, you could see that because of the way the road is angled, a bus has to make a wider turn than cars, and unless the driver turned his head all the way to the left, it is possible to miss someone beginning to step onto the junction to cross it.

Could the driver involved have missed seeing Madam Zhang and, in that split second, a life was lost? We don’t know yet what happened, so it’s best not to speculate about how it happened or who was responsible.

I am no road safety expert and I don’t normally do traffic accidents in this space, but there are two issues that have wider implications beyond that tragedy.

The first has to do with the depth of investigation and level of professionalism undertaken whenever a fatal or serious accident occurs.

It is pertinent to ask how thorough the investigations after the two previous fatalities were and if any recommendations were made to improve safety at this junction. And what did SBS do to alert its drivers about the possible blind spots there?

Some of those interviewed in news reports wondered whether, at such a busy junction, when the lights turn in the pedestrians’ favour (blinking green man), vehicles should be allowed to make the left turn.

When it involves right-turning traffic and pedestrians crossing, it’s even more tricky. The motorist has to look out for not only incoming traffic, but pedestrians as well. At some junctions, it’s an accident waiting to happen.

These issues raise the question of whether we have experts with deep knowledge and experience to spot a safety weakness not immediately obvious to the layman.

It calls for a high level of professionalism of the staff involved in the various government agencies – in this case, the Traffic Police and Land Transport Authority (LTA).

But more important is the corporate culture in which every staff member, from top management to police on motorcycles, takes ownership of road safety and feels responsible for improving it.

It requires lower-level staff to be empowered to constantly and pro-actively look out for weaknesses in the system and not just do their narrowly defined jobs. When front-line staff are not empowered, they stop giving feedback on matters beyond their own tasks, whether it’s about overcrowded trains, clogged drains or unsafe roads.
(End of quote)

Feedback from Facebook:

Adi Roman
This is exact scenario at east coast road with still road. i driving as driver A always from my house to PIE. is dangerous indeed.
Is absolutely dangerous. Driver A will see green light and a small window between two cars coming from opp direction, will try to rush in ignoring the pedestrians which are on green as well. If he slows to avoid pedestrians he may get hit from oncoming traffic. I have seen it before at Jurong East library. The solution is to have green for going straight and the pedestrians. Then red the pedestrians and allow turn right only. yes, that will create bigger jams so probably that’s why is not used.

Seedoubleyou Choonwei
Right yes, there are a few left turns that cuts across pedestrian paths that allow traffic to make it in very fast and its very very dangerous. along lavender st. Such turnings should be redesigned to slow down traffic that are turning in!
same design along Lavender st turning into Kings George! and that area has alot of elderly! alamakkkkkk

Wei Shuan
This is the most dangerous road scenario i keep reminding my kids to watch out for vehicles in front and behind them. I think that two pedestrians crossing from the opposite side are at higher risk. It is hard for the Taxi driver to notice them, especially if they dash across on their bicycle. This is why it is encouraged to slowly push the bike over when crossing at such junction.
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David Ng
Nothing is wrong with the design. I am of the opinion that we, as pedestrian, must at all time use the road responsibly – walk fast, watch out, don’t daydream, stop using earphone, and so forth. As a driver, we must exercise “Patience” – don’t race, leave home earlier to avoid rushing, stop using the phone, and so forth.

Dennis LH Cheong
The design may be fine, for many years, but many things have changed in the recent decade+. Cost and pressure of living has increased, more cars and traffic, new and mixed cultures among road users (both pedestrians and all kinds of drivers). Maybe can check the statistics over the years if it support my conjecture. Thus, maybe it is time for the UN to recommend a standard road design and/or principle, at least for all major cities.

Sharon Tang
There’s quite a lot of roads with these kind of junctions, in many cases (driver A) is not supposed to turn right from where he is until the green man turns red and the signal for him to turn right lights up as green,but in several cases i have seen drivers turning quickly to overpass drivers going straight from Driver B’s direction.

Read more

Unsafe driving behaviour due to bad junction design
Safe driving and walking behaviour guided by good design

3 thoughts on “Don’t blame the user if the design is bad

  1. Pingback: Update on “Deadly junction” design | Love cycling in Singapore

  2. Leung Yiu Fan

    Well, this is a common transport policy of taking more care on vehicles rather than pedestrians and bicycle riders in Asian cities.

    I found two interesting articles written by Michael Chugani, a news article writer, he also complained the transport policy of Hong Kong government

    ????——Sneaky tactics to foil the protest
    http://news.hkheadline.com/dailynews/headline_news_detail_columnist.asp?id=245157&section_name=wtt&kw=126

    ????——Hong Kong should have a Pedestrians Department
    http://news.hkheadline.com/dailynews/headline_news_detail_columnist.asp?id=245454&section_name=wtt&kw=126

    Today cycling is in vogue, should we have a Cycling Department to do the right thing?

  3. Casper

    I think culture has a large part to play in this. In Australia, the rules are the same as Singapore yet drivers observe them more.

    Drivers generally are not as observant in Singapore having ridden with them. The way they think about driving is different far more tunnel vision, less spatial perception. It’s also that there’s a naivety to driving in Asia that the steel shell around them means that they’re in the right in all circumstances. I think that not being exposed to the variances in speed and conditions that you get in non-city/non-freeway areas brings that home more. I think by having traffic lights everywhere and expecting less of drivers makes them less responsible and thus worse drivers.

    I know that I’m in the minority but I know the need to drive to the conditions, not just do whatever a light tells me.

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