Biker Bites : Those new speed cameras are a necessary pain

This past week, two speeding-related things happened in Singapore – a 19-year-old P-plate driver killed himself while riding at high speed through Bedok and the Traffic Police announced their next-generation speed cameras.

The timing could not have been more coincidental, and while I hate speed cameras like anyone else, I cannot help but agree they are a necessary pain.

Singapore’s infamously bad drivers and riders are to be blamed for their collective threat to safety, and their actions penalize the minority of us who actually treasure our lives and that of others. That’s why we have to put up with measures that treat us like children, because otherwise, how will uncultured people behave better?

That Bedok motorcycle incident

Straits Times, May 16 2016.
Straits Times, May 16 2016.

When I first read the story that there was this bike that crashed and flipped onto two pedestrians at Bedok, I was aghast. It’s enough to injure or yourself on your bike, but what did the rider do to harm other pedestrians?

It wasn’t long before the HD in-car video of the accident appeared on social media to show what actually happened:

There is plenty of online debate about who is to blame. Is it the car driver who did a steep left turn into the side road? Or was it the biker who was going at high speed?

In the eyes of the law, both were to blame for sure. But as someone who drives and rides, I am more upset with the rider’s recklessness. His speeding made a bad situation so much worse.

Some of you bikers may come and accuse me: “How can you side with the driver? He is more at fault for doing that turn. How can you not defend your own kind?”

Should I?

Elsewhere on this blog, I constantly state that we riders are 100% responsible for our own lives because we are so exposed and vulnerable on two wheels.

We owe it to our families to make it back home in one piece. We do everything we can to avoid bad drivers, and we should never be a menace on the roads.

And young P-plate riders are most at risk because they neither know the full dangers of the road nor do they understand the constraints and foolishness of car drivers. I have seen so many of such P-platers I have lost count.

I do not feel any sympathy for the car driver either, because his impatience has cost a life and now he has to deal with the consequences.

But remember this point most young bikers fail to understand – even with the driver’s wrong decision, he could not have possibly seen the bike coming when he checked his mirrors. The bike was going just too fast.

And small Class 2B bikes often have lousy brakes that cannot deal with short braking distances at high speed.

No matter the type of vehicle we use, we cannot speed in a busy area, and we always have to keep a lookout for fast-moving vehicles in our rear mirrors.

My heart does go out to the two pedestrians who got hit by the flying bike. Imagine the nightmare of having a 150kg motorcycle flying into your walkway and onto you. How many bones will it break?

Often, when I stand as a pedestrian or jogger at red light crossings, I will wonder when a car or truck will come hurtling towards me and I take a few steps back away from the road kerb. Now I’ll add motorcycles to the list.

Those new traffic cameras

So the Traffic Police trotted out their new speed guns and there was a big groan across the island.

Today newspaper, 19th May 2016

The one-man operated camera is a big jump in technology from the older 2004 units – day and night capture, video capability, longer battery life and so on. It’s like the TP folks just upgraded from feature phones to smartphones.

Here are the 44 spots which they’ll be deployed:

My thoughts are mixed.

Ok, I’m not crazy about going fast but like many commuting drivers, it is frustrating to have to go at 70kmh on newer, wider roads.

It is even more frustrating for drivers to get distracted peering at overhead bridges or the road dividers all the time just to see if there is any LTA or TP officer hiding in the shadows (they like to do that).

The TP should know that this actually reduces our attention on the roads, and I’m much happier to take note of permanent structures like the bright orange speed cameras, which keep everyone in check on the PIE and SLE.

Technology-wise, the cars and bikes of today are far more efficient and powerful than those of the 1980s, and they grip the ground so much better with technologies like traction control and ABS.

On one hand, I believe the speed limits can be raised by 10kmh (70kmh on 3-lane roads and 100kmh on expressways) and you would not experience any increase in accidents. But we wouldn’t know till we have actual data, by then it would be too late to U-turn on speed limits given all the road signs that have to be changed.

On the other hand, I see accidents like the one above at Bedok and I have no choice but to agree Singaporeans need to be reined in. So many of them simply have no self-control or understanding that you will not achieve anything with speeding.

The statistics from the TP point to many more cameras being installed though. While the modern speed cameras have reduced instances of speedsters being caught where they are deployed, overall speeding incidents are actually rising.

From Today’s article:

The number of speedsters caught on these digital speed cameras dropped by 70.96 per cent last year within nine months of their installation.

However, the number of injuries involving speeding vehicles have risen by 3 per cent last year to 8,021, up from 7,809 cases in 2014. Fatal speeding accidents rose to 48 last year, from 43 in 2014.

I love my Ducati Monster 1200S very much but I also know there will come the time when I will need to downgrade to a much less powerful bike (400cc or less) which is more accepting of low speed commuting.

After all, it’s all eyes on us from now on.

The dismal future for SG bikers

Even if we do not have to deal with speedsters and hide-and-seek cameras, it is getting to be more of a chore to drive or ride in Singapore.

While common sense and logic tell us that motorcycling should be a cheaper form of private transport, both the authorities and private property landlords want to make life miserable for us with high COEs and no-motorcycle parking.

Just look at this recent atrocious example that my friend Jonathan spotted at Robinson Tower. I know building management often gets fed up with illegal parking by small bikes but this is too much when you charge $2.14 per half hour for motorcycle parking in the Central Business District.

The motorcycle parking at Robinson Point is now $2.14 per 30min block. What drove the building management to enact such a mean rule?

But like all things in life – if we cannot change others, we can only change ourselves.

Increasingly, I look forward to the day I can move out of Singapore.

2 Replies to “Biker Bites : Those new speed cameras are a necessary pain”

  1. Necessary pain indeed.
    I think they should increase the time that offenders have to be taken off the road whenever they create accidents. Less vehicles with irresponsible drivers equals less incidents. Direct correlation.
    As for speeding… I had a certain revelation while taking crowded escalators in Singapore and driving in Bali. There will always be people speeding pass you. All just to save a few minutes. I’ll be like, “Oh yeah, you saved 10 minutes or whatever time. What are you going to do with that time?”

  2. There is likely to be a correlation between speeding and traffic accidents, but we should never conflate that with causation. Reckless driving causes accidents, and speeding is but one manifestation of recklessness.

    Speed is relative issue. Driving at speeds above the posted limit constitutes speeding; driving at a speed inappropriate for the traffic conditions, even within limits, also constitutes speeding (or hogging as the case may be).

    The former is a sin only when the posted limits are sensible – most motorists can be fined just exiting their carparks.

    Curbing the latter requires effort and manpower, something which our authorities are loathe to expend. I would like to see statistics regarding our Traffic Police force. Cars are mutiplying like cockroaches but are our guys in blue keeping up? Or do expect technology to be the silver bullet?

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