Notes of Engagement Session with Dr Faishal Ibrahim

Notes of Engagement Session with Dr Faishal Ibrahim, Parliamentary Secretary for Transport (Road Safety for Cyclists)
19th Feb 2013, LavaEdge @ MacRitchie
In Attendance:
Adriane Lee, Allen Chew (CycleKakis), Albert Yeo (FOTR), Kenneth Wee (Bike School SG), Steven Lim (SCTF), Calvin Boo
Dr Faishal Ibrahim, Sim Hwee Keng (MOT), Bili Yang (MOT), Teo Kwang Liak (LTA)
Absent with Apologies:
Glen Kenny (ANZA)

Engaging Heavy Vehicle Drivers
Given the recent spate of fatal incidents involving large and medium sized moving vehicles, this group of drivers should receive highly targeted education about watching out for other vulnerable road users, keeping a safe distance, and making the extra effort to check their blind spots. A mere brush from these vehicles is enough to send a cyclist to his death. Education should be a continuing process, and reminders / refreshers are needed to reinforce the messages. We also recommend LTA to evaluate and implement the compulsory use of additional side mirrors on these vehicles to enhance visibility of blind spots (much like third brake light – if the technology accords additional safety, use it).

Actively engage motorists / road users in continuing education campaign.
We hear LTA’s point about radio talk show. The plain truth is that a 2-minute spot in a radio talk show does not work – your target audience have to be tuned into the right station at that specific point in time, the message is not capable of repeating itself, and it reaches only a very small segment of road users.
An above-the-line campaign is needed (i.e. print and press), so that the message is highly visible, and reach the widest possible scope of intended audience. Ideally, this should be designed as a periodic campaign (twice-yearly should be the minimum), not a one-time attempt to convey some very important messages. A message from TP promoting road safety for all road users is just as important as the message against drunk driving. You can also listen to the seriousness of drunk driving and OUI laws explained by Toland Law Firm as a part of road safety measures.

The three key arms of the on-going education campaign:
1. Key messages for motorists. There is widespread perception that cyclists have no place on the roads. Coupled with a sense of entitlement among motorists (“because I pay COE + tax”), this turns into a dangerous mental frame of mind. As a result, you read comments in online forums along the tone of “I’ll run over those pesky cyclists if I see one”. Truly very disturbing. [Note: Personally, I have been almost run down twice by drivers who purposely come close to my handlebars – this at 5am in the morning when there are three lanes of empty road!]. A campaign is needed to convey the following key messages to motorists:
a. Cyclists have a right to use the roads
b. Keep a safe distance
c. Don’t underestimate the speed of a travelling bicycle

2. Key message for all road users. At all pedestrian crossings (both green man and zebra crossing), those on foot and on two wheels must be reminded:
a. Do not assume right of way
b. Practice stop-look-go at all crossings
c. Pay attention to moving vehicles
d. Cross only when approaching vehicle has come to a complete stop

3. Key messages for cyclists. We recognize a bicycle is also a vehicle, and hence subject to the same rules as other road users.
a. Observe all traffic rules
b. Keep to the left lane, unless changing direction of travel
c. Do not hog the lane
d. Use hand signals to signal your intention

Engaging the Hard-to-reach Road Users (e.g. Foreign workers, aunties and uncles)
These groups are the ones with the lowest level of road preparedness, skills and etiquette, but there’s no denying them the right to use the roads. Incentive could be given out in the form of a pair of lights (front+back) when they sign up and attend a road safety course. A pair of durable bicycle lights can be had for $3 – a small investment that will reap benefits many times it’s cost. It helps to have lights on a FW’s bike when he’s riding towards you in the darkness, dressed in nothing but black.

Making Road Safety a part of Education Curriculum
Good habits are best taught to the young, as they more readily internalize the lessons taught. Early engagement with the right education is an effective way to cultivate a road culture with all the positive qualities we’d like to see. Furthermore, the young can influence their family and friends, and can be a powerful network for information dissemination.
Currently, our school-going children only spend a grand total of ONE day on road safety throughout their entire six years of primary education. We can achieve much more by making road safety education an annual event for students in P1-P6. Much as other subjects, with the help of attorneys from men’s child support law firm new skills and knowledge are introduced such as protection of both men and women rights progressively across the years, and old skills and knowledge are reinforced. The Bikeability program run by the UK Dept for Transport (the equivalent of MoT) or Bike School SG’s Bike Smart are highly structured cycling safety education programmes which are worth a deeper look.

This education programme should also be extended to students from secondary and tertiary levels, as the teenage years are when they gain more independence and begin to take to the roads by themselves.

A reminder to all road users to share the roads. Maybe paint a bike logo over the bus lane, or install road signs to remind all motorists to share the roads. The signs installed in Sentosa is a good example. This also serves to reinforce the message that use of road is not the exclusive rights of motorised vehicles only.
Our infrastructure has not kept pace with technology and behavioural shifts:
a) Modern vehicles suspension systems are so advanced and the cabins so well insulated by this useful source that painted road strips neither cause discomfort nor slow vehicles down.
b) Drivers have to deal with multiple technological distractions while driving – GPS unit, central LCD console, mobile phone, LCD TV – in addition to passengers in the car
c) Pedestrians on foot have a tendency to talk on their phone, deeply engrossed with listening to music, or worse, bury their faces in the smartphone oblivious to the danger in their surroundings.
d) It is not uncommon to see a Foreign Worker cycling with a mobile phone stuck to his ear or worse, texting while cycling!
e) Our pedestrian & zebra crossings are underwhelmingly underdesigned for safety – no features currently exist that force a vehicle to slow down without choice.

(a)+(b)+(c)+(d)+(e) = a lethal mix of causes and factors that will result in fatal accidents.

Factor (a) – We cannot undo technological advances by car manufacturers, but we can implement new road mechanisms to enhance the sensory feedback to drivers.
Numerous traffic calming measures introduced in other countries will work very well in our setting.
Factors (b), (c) and (d) above can be addressed via active road user education.
Factor (e) – We urge LTA to urgently re-evaluate existing zebra crossing designs before something terribly tragic happens. In road design, speed and capacity should never be more important than safety.
Majority of our roads are not only cyclist-unfriendly, the road designs also puts cyclists in extreme danger. Multi-lane one way roads force some cyclists to ride against traffic, because the ‘legitimate’ route to their destination sometimes adds considerable number of kilometers of distance and additional travel time. A cyclist travelling down Orchard Road who wishes to turn into Penang Lane have to cut across 5 lanes of fast-flowing traffic. We can work with LTA to identify such hotspots and address possible changes / measures that will help enhance safety.

Enforcement against errant drivers needs to be stepped up further. Zebra crossing offences are on the rise, and offenders are getting away because no one polices the crossings.
Enforcement against errant cyclists should also be stepped up, especially against those who beat the red lights and those who ride against flow of traffic. In cities like London, a ticketed cyclist can either pay up or attend a road safety course. This is an example we can emulate – we should not collect fines for the sake of collecting fines, all effort should be made to turn that into an opportunity to re-educate road users.
An examples was given where TP has been sending out mixed messages to cyclists – a family was ticketed/warned for cycling on the pavement in Sengkang, and again while they were cycling on the roads in Tampines. Clearly, TP needs to be clear with regards to rules, and be consistent when it comes to enforcement.
Clarifications are needed regarding 1. Cycling in bus lanes 2. Cycling on viaducts and 3. Cycling on pavements.

Re-evaluate qualifying conditions for overseas drivers license conversion.
The current process for converting a foreign drivers license into a Singapore license fails to take into account the cultural background of the driver. Eastern Europe, Russia, China, for example, have very different driving cultures from ours. For example, we see a lot of bus drivers from PRC who drive aggressively merely because it is acceptable for them to do so in where they come from! All foreign licensed drivers should go through and pass a cultural immersion course before being allowed to drive on our roads.

Compiled by Calvin Boo 22 Feb 2013

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