No Way Through

Two contrasting articles in the local rags today. One in Today complains about myriad dangerous and/or impractical pedestrian crossings, including an overhead bridge at SGH that sick people going to the hospital would rather not attempt, choosing instead to jaywalk despite their dulled reflexes.

Another article in the States Times concerns a large angsana tree that has had a traffic island built around it as it was thought worth preserving amidst the chaos of the flyover construction. For safety’s sake, signs asking drivers to slow down to 40km/h are abundant around it, but they have not been obeyed. The LTA throws in the towel, says there is “no way to get drivers to slow down”, and decides to cut down the tree. Bishan resident Ravinder Singh says “this tree sticks out like a sore thumb. Please do motorists like me a favour and cut it down”. But, as the Singapore Environment Council points out, there is a way to get drivers to slow down, and it has been employed at other dangerous spots: a speed camera. For the trivial cost of a speed camera, then, and because Singaporeans cannot stand losing the few seconds it would take to slow down to 40 km/h unless threatened by fines, we lose an old treasure. It’s happening everywhere. Anything that obstructs money-making has to go. But what do we make money for? To live in concrete boxes from which we are afraid to venture without encasing ourselves in metal boxes in order to visit other crowded concrete boxes? But it creates money, so it must be worth something. So it goes.

I’d wondered earlier why Bukit Timah hill was so much more crowded now than three years ago (about five times the volume of people, I estimate). I now suspect it’s because the number and area of green havens in Singapore is quickly decreasing. More and more people are living without so much as an empty soccer field near their homes. Where to escape to?

Indeed, it’s just one tree. But it’s also just a few seconds for drivers. A few seconds, too, could have saved many of the 190 road accidents that happened last year in Singapore. Where are you hurrying to?

Another aspect of the ST article that I got (perhaps irrationally) irked by: the defeatist attitude of the LTA. I’ve lost count of the number of times Singaporeans have insisted that there is “no way” to do some thing or other. When all they really mean is that it’s either not commonly done or it requires special effort. Guess what, putting in extra effort often pays off. And doing uncommon things often pays off, too. Apparently there was “no way” I could commute on a regular basis from Hougang to Buona Vista. There is, I am told, “no way” Critical Mass could happen in Singapore, but of course such claims from those who could participate in CM are self-fulfilling prophecies. There is no way that [insert relevant government policy here] will be changed. Indeed, there isn’t if everyone starts off by saying that.

Update: Three dissenting letters.

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