Walking the streets of Singapore is no longer a walk in the park.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Walking the streets of Singapore is no longer a walk in the park.

My Reading Room

FOND memories of my visit to the Road Safety Park as a primary-school student still remain vivid in my mind. 

I had very much wanted to be a motorist driving one of the pedal cars, but ended up being a pedestrian instead, while other schoolmates assumed the roles of cyclists. 

Nevertheless, the miniaturised roads, replica road signs and petrol station mockups allowed me to live out my childhood fantasy. I dreamt of being a part of the empowered driving- and-commuting population in a decade or so. 

Now that I have arrived, usually by a combination of private car, public transport and walking, that dream of mine not only didn’t come true, it actually feels more like a nightmare these days. 

When I was a child, there weren’t as many cars on the roads and traffic was not as heavy as it is today. Over the years, our roads and pavements have become more congested, and we not only have to contend with cars but also bicycles, power- assisted bicycles (PABs) and other personal mobility devices (PMDs). 

Pavements used to be mainly for pedestrians, but are now shared with bicycles and PMDs. Motorists used to automatically give way to pedestrians at zebra crossings, but nowadays, they either fail to stop, or stop only if the pedestrians are practically already crossing. And more drivers are beating red lights.

My Reading Room

Playing traffic games is fun for schoolkids, but not fun at all for adults using real streets full of PABs and PMDs. 

Road users are also generally less considerate and courteous than before. In the past, they may give way to more vulnerable road users, but not anymore. On the other hand, the more vulnerable road users also have a stronger sense of entitlement. Many believe that they have as much right to the use of the road and they behave in ways to get that point across. 

The Road Safety Park was established to inculcate road safety awareness from a young age, but with the evolution of traffi  c patterns, along with changing driving habits, culture and etiquette, the road safety lessons that we teach our kids also have to evolve. 

We need to impress upon them the importance of being vigilant at all times, not only while crossing roads, but even when walking along footpaths. 

The false sense of safety on the pavement will be dashed with the next bicycle or PMD that comes dashing past. 

As an adult, I find Singapore’s current traffi  c situation trying. How daunting must it be for young children? 

At the age of eight, my daughter still does not alight from the car herself. We always open the door for her after we ensure that the surroundings are safe. We always hold hands, not just while crossing roads, but also while walking along pavements. 

I once had to yank her out of the way of a cyclist who was approaching from behind us along the footpath. He rang his bell only when he was an arm’s length away. When I turned around and saw the cyclist, I barely had time to react and only just managed to pull my daughter out of harm’s way in the nick of time because I was already holding her hand. 

The situation may get worse in time to come, but by then, humans may have evolved into having 360-vision, just like the 360-degree cameras that some cars are already equipped with. We could really do with that ability then, because we would probably also need to keep a lookout for flying cars and other high-tech mobility devices hovering overhead.